The HWS Theatre Department has fully transitioned into the new McDonald Theatre in the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts and opened the 2016 season with the inaugural performance of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” on Thursday evening. Performances will also run on Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. and on Saturday, Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
“We’re excited to have this first opportunity to say thank you through our artistry to all of the people that made the new Center happen,” says Assistant Professor of Theatre Chris Hatch, who is directing “Twelfth Night.”
Set in the Kingdom of Illyria, “Twelfth Night” tells the story of Viola, who is swept onto the Illyrian shore and finds herself alone in a strange land. Disguised as a young man named Cesario, Viola finds herself working for Duke Orsino, charged as his emissary of love in his efforts to woo Olivia, a wealthy countess. Relationships become tangled and hilarity ensues as Viola/Cesario finds herself as more than just the messenger.
“I knew I wanted the first performance to be a play that was fun, delightful and good for all audiences,” Hatch says. “I wanted people’s first experiences in the theatre to be really entertaining, and ‘Twelfth Night’ is one of Shakespeare’s best comedies.”
Hatch says this particular play allowed him to use a large cast, which includes actors ranging from first-year students to graduate students and even one HWS staff member. Arriving on campus a week prior to the start of the spring semester, the cast will spend five weeks preparing for the performances. Throughout their training Hatch and the cast are collaborating with theatre professionals in the region, such as Eastman School of Music designer Bekah Carey, who is returning as the production’s costume designer, as well as fight choreographer Steve Vaughan from Buffalo, N.Y.
Friday’s performance will also feature a Frame/Works event, a program designed to draw connections between scholarly examination and artistic practice. Stephen Wisker, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Buffalo, will give a pre-show lecture offering the audience insight into the script and storyline. Following the performance, audience members are invited to participate in a post-show discussion with members of the cast and creative team. Taken together, the pre-show lecture and post-show discussion “frame” a “work” of theatrical art.
Later in the semester, the theatre season will continue with a production of, “Duchess,” a modern adaption of John Webster’s “The Duchess of Malfi.” Playwright Johnny Drago has created the new play specifically for HWS Theatre. Associate Professor of Theatre Heather May will direct the production, which will run on April 14, 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. in McDonald Theatre.
Tickets for all productions will be available for purchase in the College Store and Area Records in the weeks leading up to the performances. There will be a limited number of tickets free for students 30 minutes prior to each performance. All other tickets are $5. For more information contact Hatch at: email@example.com.
McDonald Theatre is named for noted film and stage actor Christopher P. McDonald ’77, L.H.D. ’13, who was among the Gearan Center’s top supporters.