Posts tagged ‘School of Theatre’

“The Last Day” Is Here

I had a chance a couple of weeks ago to drop in on an early rehearsal for The Last Day, a new musical commissioned by the School of Theatre and written by Mike Reid and Sarah Schlesinger. If one of those names looks familiar, it’s most likely Reid ’69, the former Nittany Lion football All-American and NFL standout who has enjoyed a long career as a singer, songwriter and composer.

The show, directed by John Simpkins, head of the musical theatre program, tells the story of “a young man tormented by a secret he has never shared. As he ends his junior year of musical theatre university training, he is dropped from the program as his secret overtakes him. Over the course of one night, his peers attempt to show him the value of his life and they all discover much they never realized about themselves.”

The cast is made up entirely of undergrads from the musical theatre department, one of the most selective of its kind in the country—point being, there’s a lot of talent on hand. And good thing—as Reid told WPSU this week, “What I hope the show reveals is, in the midst of crisis, how groups of people can come together and feel more a sense of authentic community … When you have something like that, you have people operating from a very high emotional level, it really opens the door for lots of music.”

Having spent some time with Reid since he’s been on campus the past few weeks, I can vouch for the thoughtfulness that infuses his work. The show opens tonight at the Penn State Downtown Theatre and runs through Saturday, June 15, and again June 19-22. You can find tickets here.

Ryan Jones, editor

June 12, 2019 at 1:57 pm Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Oct. 4, 2013

From news to features, your daily dose of everything Penn State.

The place to be: The Penn State Centre Stage production of No Place To Be Somebody opens tonight at the Pavilion Theatre at University Park. For longtime Penn State theatre professor Charles Dumas, it’s something of a swan song.


Dumas (left) as “Sweets,” faces off with “Johnny,” played by Herb Newsome ’02g. Photo by Tina Hay

Dumas is retiring in December, and No Place to be Somebody marks his final Penn State show as a director. He also plays a vital supporting role in the production, which is set in seedy, racially conflicted late ’60s New York City. The play won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, making Charles Gordone the first African-American playwright to receive the honor. Based on the preview I attended, it’s tense, heavy stuff, especially challenging for audience members too young to appreciate the tone of race relations in late ’60s America. But it’s tight and well-acted, and I imagine Dumas is quite happy with the idea of challenging his audience.

No Place to be Somebody runs tonight through Oct. 10.

Big-screen hero: Speaking of premieres: Murph: The Protector, a feature-length documentary on the life of Michael Murphy ’98, debuts tonight at the State Theatre in downtown State College. Members of the Penn State ROTC (more…)

October 4, 2013 at 10:06 am 1 comment

Romeo & Juliet On Our Lawn

DSC_6898 sm Capulet ball

Unlike our senior editor Lori Shontz ’91, I am not a Shakespeare geek. In fact, I think I probably had never in my life seen a Shakespearean play performed until this week. But when the School of Theatre brought a production of Romeo & Juliet to the lawn right outside our offices in the Hintz Family Alumni Center, I definitely wanted to check it out.

So I went to opening night on Tuesday—and I went back to see the second performance the next night. I might well have considered going to the closing performance Thursday, except that we got the now-famous Earliest Snowstorm in State College History and the finale was canceled.

DSC_7097 sm Romeo + Juliet

Undergraduate students Gilbert L. Bailey II and Leah Mueller played the lead roles in the production.

Romeo & Juliet was, in a word, terrific. The cast—made up entirely of undergrad and grad students—was first-rate, and the costuming and set design were pretty cool too. This was the School of Theatre’s first-ever outdoor production at University Park, and you can see from the photos that this was no small-scale effort—they went all out. We’ve been watching for the past couple of weeks as the crew re-landscaped the area directly below our magazine offices, constructed a stage, installed bushes and trellises, rigged up lights and sound, and stashed costumes and props in various rooms on our first floor.

I’m serious when I say I had never seen Romeo & Juliet. Going into the first performance, here’s everything I knew about the play: Boy and girl come from feuding families, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl can’t be together because their families don’t get along, boy and girl kill themselves over it.

DSC_6893 sm R & J & audience

At the masquerade ball hosted by Lord and Lady Capulet, Romeo and Juliet meet and fall in love.

So, on the first night, I had a little trouble figuring out who was who and exactly what was taking place at any given moment. (This is not the fault of the cast or crew—instead you can blame whoever at my high school said I could take a double-math track and skip literature.)

But I certainly got the gist of the story, and I was blown away by the authenticity and passion of the performances. I was even more impressed when I read the program later and learned that the leads were played by undergrads: Romeo was played by Gilbert L. Bailey II, a senior in the musical theatre program, and the role of Juliet was played by Leah Muller, a sophomore music education major. (A sophomore. And not even a theatre major!)

DSC_7003 sm Tybalt

Tybalt (MFA acting student Nathan James) challenges Romeo to a duel.

Another one who stood out for me was Derek Biddle, a senior musical theatre major, who played the role of Lord Capulet—Juliet’s father—with great intensity.

When he tells his daughter he has arranged for her to marry Count Paris, and she resists—since, after all, she has already secretly married Romeo—Lord Capulet’s fury at her lack of respect is so authentic. He bellows at her, he slaps her, she cowers. It’s enough to give you shivers.

And, of course, I loved the famous “balcony scene,” which was adapted in this case to show Juliet in an alumni center window (Lori Shontz’s office window, actually), talking romantically with Romeo as he clung to the trellis next to the window.

DSC_7166 sm death scene

Juliet discovers that Romeo has taken his own life.

It was fun to see the production two nights in a row—I got even more out of it the second time. Now I can tell you all about the street brawl, the masquerade ball at the Capulet home, the duel in which Benvolio is killed, the duel after that in which Tybalt is killed, all that stuff. But you probably knew all that anyway. Unlike me, you probably studied Shakespeare at one time or another.

Despite temperatures in the 40s, the show attracted an audience of about 1,400 over the two nights of its run; the alumni center lawn was just packed with people sitting in folding chairs and on blankets. And, if you missed it, you can watch it on the Web—thanks to a partnership with the World Campus and the College of Information Sciences and Technology.

Tina Hay, editor

October 17, 2009 at 9:06 am 2 comments

Romeo and Juliet in 45-Degree Weather

DSC_6782 sm death scene

I went to last night’s University Resident Theatre Company production of Romeo & Juliet, held on the Hintz Family Alumni Center lawn, right outside our offices. Hoo boy, was it cold—45 degrees, according to the weather app on my iPhone, though it felt even colder than that. But what a great show, and what a fun place to have it.

Check out a Collegian story about the show here.

They’ll be doing it again tonight and tomorrow night at 6:30. Admission is free. I highly recommend it (but definitely bundle up). And if you can’t make it, check out the webcast.

Tina Hay, editor

October 14, 2009 at 8:04 am Leave a comment

We’re Getting Used to This Romeo & Juliet Thing

DSC_0087 sm Romeo & Juliet

Lately our building has been overrun with students and others from the School of Theatre who are getting ready for next week’s outdoor production of Romeo & Juliet, which will take place right outside the Hintz Family Alumni Center.

All kinds of people have been tromping through Ryan and Lori’s offices, dangling cables out the windows, and banging and sawing on the stage they’re constructing below. Downstairs you can barely walk without running into a huge equipment case—or one of the stagehands.

We often talk about how important it is for those of us on the alumni magazine staff to get out of our offices and see what’s going on around campus. So in spite of the noise and clutter, we actually kind of appreciate the fact that a campus event is going on right under our noses.

Late yesterday afternoon I stuck a camera out our bathroom window and took the photo above, just to give you an idea of how much work they’ve put into the project. Click on it to see it bigger.

By the way, there are two giant ladder-like trellises like the grey one you see on the left-hand side; I’m not sure whether actual actors will actually climb up and down those during the course of the production. (One of the ladders is anchored by rope to the handicapped railing in our bathroom—it seems like an accident just waiting to happen.)

We’re all looking forward to seeing the actual performance, which takes place next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (Oct. 13, 14, and 15) at 6:30 p.m. on the alumni center lawn. It’s free and no tickets are required. More info here.

Tina Hay, editor

P.S. You can get snippets of Penn State-related news even more often by following me on Twitter.

October 9, 2009 at 11:29 am Leave a comment

Free Shakespeare Outside Our Office

William ShakespeareI’ll say this straight up: I am a huge fan of William Shakespeare.

My senior year of high school, all I wanted for Christmas was a leather-bound edition of his complete works, and Santa came through in fine fashion. My love of Shakespeare even survived an uncomfortable experience in ENGL 444, when I was inexplicably chosen by the professor to come to the podium and explain Twelfth Night to the class. That would have been bad enough even without the extenuating circumstances: I had woken up late and arrived in class unshowered. And wearing glasses left over from fourth grade.

All of this to say how thrilled I am that the School of Theatre is putting on a free performance of Romeo and Juliet — right outside my window! The performance will be on the lawn of the Hintz Family Alumni Center during the week of Homecoming, Oct. 13, 14, and 15. (That’s Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.) Curtain is at 6:30 p.m., so I’ll be able to grab a primo viewing seat immediately upon leaving the office. (And I will, I promise, be clean and wearing my contact lenses.)

If you aren’t as well situated as I am, you can still enjoy the show. The College of Information Sciences and Technology is helping to facilitate a live webcast. And the University Resident Theatre Company will perform a slightly shorter version of the play that can be used in classes, along with a working script and other background information. You can also follow along on their rehearsal website, which has cool practice notes, including this staff favorite from Sept. 8: “Travis asked if we could further discuss the securing of our weapons.”

Here’s hoping that follow-up discussion went well.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

September 28, 2009 at 6:10 pm 7 comments

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