LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Department of Theatre & Dance lifts up students' voices — and issues of importance to them — through a variety of original works that speak to this moment in time. Adhering to KU's pandemic policies in this unusual year, all performances of the University Theatre and University Dance Company will be presented online through 2020.
"The pandemic doesn't change the basic truth about us artists: We want to perform, we need to perform, and we will perform however we can," said Henry Bial, professor of theatre and department chair. "We're leaning into the digital this year to provide students with opportunities to share their work. I'm so proud of all of them. They are meeting this moment with open minds and open hearts."
UDC Fall Concert Series, Oct. 9-10, Oct. 30-31 and Dec. 3. The University Dance Company will present a series of site-specific and screen dances. Faculty choreographers and their all-student casts will present the UDC Fall Concert Series. The first concert in the series will bring back two works originally slated for UDC's repertory last spring. Jerel Hilding, associate professor emeritus, will return to set his ballet, "Gitanas," a Spanish-influenced work inspired by his own experiences dancing with the Joffrey Ballet. Fans and colleagues of Hilding will enjoy his choreography through livestreaming access from the Crafton-Preyer Theatre stage. James Moreno, associate professor of dance, will present "Nine Traquero Tales," a modern contemporary work about the Mexican immigrants who built the railroad in Kansas, filmed at Lawrence's Amtrak station and shown in screen dance format. Upcoming performances Oct. 30-31 will include choreography by Patrick Suzeau, professor of dance; Michelle Heffner Hayes, professor of dance, and Maya Tillman Rayton, lecturer in dance. The Dec. 3 performance will include choreography by Waeli Wang, visiting assistant professor of dance, and Moreno.
Digital Theatre Festival, Oct. 23-25. Seven student-led teams are exploring the possibilities of online performance with newly developed short pieces that will be streamed. Many students are devising theatre week by week, organically grown from the ground up under faculty mentorship. Among the topics: gender fashion choices, a commentary on consumption/homage to KU's canceled production of "Urinetown" and a devised work combining movement and singing for social justice. The festival debuts Oct. 23 and will replay Oct. 24-25.
Looking ahead to Spring 2021, audiences can expect more works that reach across disciplines and involve devised theatre relevant to this moment in time, including "Musings of Fire."
"Musings of Fire," Performance Dates TBA. KU's collaboration with Island Shakespeare Festival will give select students professional credit with an established Shakespeare festival in Washington state while still in school. A new work, using Shakespeare's text and reflecting on theatre in the digital age and social justice issues, "Musings of Fire" is currently being devised and will record in February for a digital, world premiere in the spring via the internet. The theatre production will be directed by Santiago Sosa, KU visiting assistant professor.
"We will definitely miss having a live audience this semester," Bial said. "But the techniques and partnerships we forge now will help us push the boundaries of the art form, foster an even stronger theatre and dance program, and better prepare our students to enter the rapidly changing performing arts industry."
"Our department's performance divisions are two ways the public gets an opportunity to witness the growth of KU students. We are proud we can offer the community accessible theatre and showcase stories that spark dialogue about difficult subjects," said Katherine Pryor, director of KU Theatre. "As you explore KU's University Theatre, you'll discover we offer benefits unlike other local arts organizations, including having a front-row seat to seeing Jayhawks grow."
Performance dates are subject to change, with updates posted at kutheatre.com/performances. Productions are free, but donations to the UDC or the University Theatre production programs, through KU Endowment, will be accepted through a link on their respective websites.
"Producing theatre and dance online, with no ticket fees to boot, lets us share our art with a larger and more far-flung audience than ever before," Bial said.
The University Theatre and University Dance Company are production wings of the University of Kansas' Department of Theatre & Dance, offering eight public productions throughout the academic year. The University Theatre and University Dance Company productions are funded, in part, by Student Senate fees, and the theatre's season is supported by Truity Credit Union.
The Department of Theatre & Dance is one of three departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the School of the Arts offers fresh possibilities for collaboration between the arts and humanities, sciences, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies.