U Theatre Set to Shine in 2019-20 Season


By Palak Jayswal, Arts Editor


The beginning of a new school year is like a breath of fresh air across campus, with associations and departments holding different events for student and professors alike to usher in the new year. Despite all the campus construction going on this fall, the semester is well under way for Utes. One particular department at the University of Utah is undergoing some real changes of its own. The Department of Theatre is currently in the process of transferring to a newly renovated building, a project which was meant to be completed before the semester began but has taken longer than expected. While the department may temporarily be in a frenzy-like state to accommodate with the conditions, the shine of their 2019-20 season won’t be dulled. 

The Season and Its Selection

With the production lineup being announced at the end of the Spring 2019 semester, there has been much to look forward to. This year’s theater season will consist of the following six shows

“Dracula”  directed by Denny Berry (Sept. 13-22)

“Macbeth” directed by Wendy Franz (Sept. 27-Oct. 6)

“The Odyssey” directed by Alexandra Harbold (Nov. 8-17)

“She Kills Monsters” directed by Jamie Rocha Allan (Jan. 16-19)

“Floyd Collins” directed by Denny Berry (Feb. 14-March 1)

“Tartuffe” directed by Robert Scott Smith (March 27-April 5)

The selection of the shows is made by a Season Selection committee within the department. Robert Scott Smith, assistant professor and director of “Tartuffe,” said, “Part of the committee’s mission is to provide a season that reflects the needs of our entire department. We look at the overall season and make sure our season has two musicals, a Shakespeare, a contemporary, a wild card and then a play that has heightened language.” 

The process, like the productions, aren’t only reserved for the committee and professors. In fact, student input is valued in choosing the shows. Josiane Dubois, marketing and communications coordinator for the Department of Theatre said, “We have a Canvas page where we notify all enrolled theatre majors to contribute season suggestions through our online survey.” This survey asks a number of questions regarding the proposed production — such as the time frame, relevance to current issues, its likelihood to push student abilities, the budget and if it pushes boundaries of the program as it’s currently structured.  

After the survey results are considered, Dubois said, “Then, over a period of several weeks, the Department Executive Committee wrestles all the suggestions into a proposed season, under the capable direction of the Department Chair. We take into account a myriad of factors — cast size, production-support requirements, relevance of the plays’ themes, issues, meanings, audience appeal, etc. We make sure that there is a variety of genres in our season that follow the requirements of our ATP and MTP curriculums.”

Professors also take care of making recommendations to the committee. Smith said, “I have been a big fan of this play [“Tartuffe”] since I was a student, specifically its physical comedy and sociopolitical commentary on the world. I was also excited by this particular adaptation, which places the action in the current year. [It’s] a restoration comedy updated to reflect our current climate.”

While each of the shows will have its own unique spin depending on the director, their approach and numerous other factors theatre department displays in every one of their productions. This heart can be attributed to many sources, but ultimately, it comes from the guidance of the professors and directors of the productions, such as head of the Musical Theatre Program and Assistant Professor Denny Berry, who will be directing the season opener “Dracula” and “Floyd Collins” later on in the season. 

U Makes Timeless Productions Unique 

With Halloween just around the corner, the selection of “Dracula” to open the season particularly resonates. The decision was not an easy one to make, but, Berry said, “I had a great meeting with Frank Wildhorn, who was so generous with us and very supportive of us doing his work. I thought this particular piece would be great for the strength of the current class of very talented students we have, and I had some really fun ideas about telling the story.” 

Choosing productions like “Dracula” and “Macbeth” — which are more widespread and famous — always guarantee an interested crowd, but more importantly, careful eyes to see how the production is similar and different compared with other performances across the world of theater. The factors which make the  performances unique lie within the U itself. Berry said, “Our students, the concept, the space for which we are creating the storytelling and all of the collaborators working on the presentation of the show, I think this will be something the audience has never seen before.” 

Make Sure U Take the Initiative 

The vision of the Department of Theatre is simple: it “seeks to be a place where students and faculty learn, grow, explore, discover and innovate. It is a community of artists and scholars committed to transformative education, and academic and creative endeavors.” The upcoming season not only promises to deliver on this mission for those in the department, but for those who choose to attend the performances as well. Berry and Smith alike both encourage students from all paths of academia to come see a show this year. With the ArtsPass Program, it’s easy as one-two-three to do so. 

The ArtsPass allows U students to attend arts events on campus such as screenings, performances, concerts and exhibitions at free or discounted prices. With a valid uID, students can receive a free ticket to theatre department productions, barring certain special events. 

A common misconception among those who aren’t familiar with the arts happenings on campus is that everything costs money to get into. The opportunities to consume art for free are endless. 

The initiative is all yours. 

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In an earlier version of this article, Josiane Dubois’ name was spelled incorrectly. We regret the error.