Laugh, Learn, Grow

Laugh, Learn, Grow

UA Theatre announces high-flying season


At the University of Arkansas Department of Theatre’s award ceremony and season-ending celebration on May 4, students and faculty officially brought the academic year to a close — even as they previewed the shows to come for 2019-20. In theater, the stage is never dark for long. Chairman Michael Riha says the busy department will continue to grow and evolve, including expanding to the Nadine Baum Studios performance space for some shows and classes next year. It will also bring in a brand new slate of MFA acting, playwriting and design students.

Riha says knowing what the department will look like the following year is always paramount to faculty conversations about next year’s show choices.

“The first thing that we always talk about is, ‘How are we going to select a season that serves the greatest number of our students?’” he says. “That’s always the first thing.”

In fact, it’s so important that the department is holding off announcing two of the shows — the MFA-directed projects that will be mounted toward the end of the fall semester — until it gets a better idea of what will fit best with the new class of graduate students. Those shows will be performed at Nadine Baum and will be free to the public.

“If you’ve never been to see a University Theatre show before, now is your chance to see one for free,” Riha says.

Meanwhile, the shows that are on the 2019-20 UA Theatre season promise a heady mix of wacky comedy, relevant drama, a little bit of music and a whole lot of heart.

“Boeing Boeing”

By Marc Camoletti

Oct. 4-13

Set in the 1960s, the fast-paced plot of this French farce tells the story of bachelor Bernard, who is juggling three stewardesses at a time when new Boeing jets start making air travel — and his three girlfriends’ imminent arrival to town — speedier. The New York Times said that the play is “propelled by the same spirit that animated Commedia dell’Arte and the silent films of Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd.”


By Moliere

Oct. 18-27

While “Boeing Boeing” will be a show designated for undergraduate students, Moliere’s 1664 comic story of the hypocrite Tartuffe — all outward piety, all inward greed and lechery — will feature the work of the MFA class. “It’s important that the MFA company form a bond between themselves as a group, and I think the undergraduates should put something together that is completely theirs,” notes Riha.

“In the Book Of”

By John Walch

Feb. 14-23

This script by the head of the MFA program in playwriting uses The Book of Ruth as a launchpad for an intense examination of immigration in the current political climate. Riha says having a playwright on hand during the production of his script is beneficial for the department. “It also helps our students studying under John to really see how a piece is crafted, how it’s put together and how to be able to speak candidly about those choices. This is his baby, and now others will be taking it and conceptualizing it through the eyes of others. I think that’s important for the students to experience firsthand.”

“Heathers: The Musical”

March 6-15

The jet-black comedy “Heathers” became a cult movie favorite in 1988, and, in 2014, Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe translated the dark magic that made the movie so popular to the stage. “When we did ‘American Idiot’ [in 2016], it featured a lot of undergraduates, and it created such a wonderful bond,” says Riha. “That’s part of our thought process: ‘What can we do that helps bring our students together as a community of artists who are working toward the same thing?’”

ArkType New Play Festival

April 10-19

The ambitious project that the department debuted last year was so popular, it will likely become a season staple, says Riha.

“After revamping our curriculum within our performance concentration, playwriting is being required for the first time, and it’s blowing up. Students are showing great interest in developing 10-minute plays, one-acts and full-length plays. Also, this is really how you start your career — you have to invent your own work. You can’t wait for someone else to do it. We’re trying to develop that entrepreneurial sense — it’s not just about talent, it’s about how do you make this happen?”



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Categories: Theater