By Keith Martin
Following the success of its newly-created virtual stage and a fall slate of unique production opportunities for its talented students, the Appalachian State University Department of Theatre and Dance is announcing a half-dozen additional events for the 2021 spring semester.
The slate of productions includes two that are being presented in collaboration with the Office of Arts and Cultural Programs, the world premiere of a new work written and directed by faculty member Dr. Ray Miller, and a children’s play produced by the award-winning Appalachian Young People’s Theatre. Additional offerings showcase the work of student directors and the first production of an unpublished play by groundbreaking Black playwright Chisa Hutchinson. The performances are scheduled between February and May 2021 with ticket information available on the department’s website.
“I’ve never been prouder of our students, faculty, and staff as they proved their resilience during the pandemic,” said Michael Helms, Theatre and Dance department chair and professor. “By delivering a virtual season for our audiences using a variety of online platforms – including Zoom, YouTube, and our campus radio station – with an assortment of real-time performances and pre-recorded events, they demonstrated the enormous talent and resourcefulness of our department.”
Helms previously noted that the performing arts lend themselves to collaborations that combine the collective wisdom, talents, and resources of each partner into a consolidated effort. “By offering these events online, we are able to provide our students with opportunities to perform while maintaining safe social distancing during COVID-19 and expand our audience to anyone who would like to ‘travel’ to Boone to experience one of our virtual performances,” Helms said. He is particularly pleased with department events featured by the Office of Arts and Cultural Programs on the Schaeffer Center Presents series.
“We are honored to partner with our Theatre and Dance colleagues in presenting two events this spring that are part of our virtual series,” said Denise Ringler, Director of Arts Engagement. ‘An Evening with Anna Deveare Smith’ will be moderated by our good friend Dr. Paulette Marty, Professor of Theatre Arts, and ‘The Best of the Appalachian Dance Ensemble’ offers an opportunity to showcase the prodigious talent of our faculty choreographers and accomplished dance students. This collaboration continues a long-standing and much-appreciated partnership with the department, based on a shared commitment to artistic excellence.”
“The department looks forward to a time when we can all return to a shared stage,” said Helms, “but we are proud of the safe space we have created to move forward this spring using the lessons we learned last fall.”
Here are the Spring 2021 productions:
Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021 at 8 p.m. via livestream
We live in a winner-take-all society. And yet, part of our potential as humans is our potential for compassion and our resilience in the face of adversity. While doing research for her play Let Me Down Easy, award-winning playwright/actor/educator Anna Deavere Smith interviewed people in the U.S. and abroad who demonstrated grace in the face of dramatic challenges. This storytelling speech celebrates the resilience of the human spirit, the power of empathy, the strength of imagination, and hope. This event is free but advance registration is required at theschaefercenter.org. All registrants will receive a private link to access the event both the day before and one hour prior to the performance.
This is Not the Play by Chisa Hutchinson
Directed by Dr. Gina Grandi
Wednesday, Feb. 24 through Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021
A Black playwright tries to wrangle a story from her two reluctant white characters and distrust abounds. Stereotypes, prejudice, and perceptions of race and gender are at the fore of This is Not the Play: a play about creating a play. Originally commissioned by Mad Dog Theater Company in NYC, Appalachian has the privilege of being amongst the first to produce this as yet unpublished play by groundbreaking playwright Chisa Hutchinson. She’s won a number of awards for both playwriting and screenwriting, including the John Golden Award for Playwriting, the NY Innovative Theater Award, the Lilly Award, the Helen Merrill Award, the Lanford Wilson Award, and the GLAAD Award.
Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 8 p.m. This virtual best-of showcase from Appalachian State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance features works from at least seven faculty choreographers, including Laurie Atkins, Emily Daughtridge, Regina Gulick, Cara Hagan, Ray Miller, Brad Parquette, and Sherone Price. All curated works were produced between 2006-19 and highlight genres of modern, ballet, tap and African-themed dance. The selected works feature not only beautiful dancing and well-crafted choreography, but also lighting design by Mike Helms and John Marty, and costume design by Sue Williams. This event is free but advance registration is required at theschaefercenter.org. All registrants will receive a private link to access the event both the day before and one hour prior to the performance.
With Two Wings by Anne Negri
Directed by Teresa Lee
Friday, April 9 through Sunday, April 11, 2021
Now in its 49th season, the Appalachian Young People’s Theatre offers this award-winning play as a live streaming event, while keeping options open for possible limited live performances. Appropriate for audiences of all ages, With Two Wings is set in a fantasy world where people have wings. A young boy named Lyf lives an isolated existence with his differently-abled parents in the safe nest of their home deep in the woods. Although loving, Lyf’s parents have strict rules he must follow, especially rule number one: never, ever try to fly. When a precocious, inquisitive girl from the outside world bursts into the backyard, she and Lyf become fast friends. Her bullying twin brother challenges Lyf to answer questions about his life and his mysterious parents. This coming-of-age story puts a unique twist on the Greek myth of Icarus and Daedalus and is directed by Teresa Lee.
Kent State, Then and Again by Dr. Ray Miller
Directed by the Playwright
Wednesday, April 21 through Sunday, April 25, 2021
A new play that chronicles the four days that led up to the shooting of students by the Ohio National Guard on the Kent State University campus in May 1970. This event left four students dead, thirteen others wounded and a nation in disbelief. There is no one story about this tragic event. There are many. Consequently, this play looks at this time in American history from the point of view of the students, the townspeople, the administrators, the national guard and the journalists who lived it as well as a narrator looking back on this tragic moment in light of the events that inform our lives today. While it is a sobering play, it is also informed with romance, friendship, laughter, poetry and a free spirited “live for today” sensibility. The production is directed by the playwright, who was a student at Kent State University in 1970 and based his play on first-hand experiences and observations.
The 2021 Ten-Minute Play Festival
Saturday, May 1, 2021
Theatre students in the Directing Techniques course are producing over a dozen new ten-minute plays from playwrights across the country. Recordings of the plays will be available for public viewing starting May 1, but advance registration is required via the Department of Theatre and Dance website. All registrants will receive a private link to access the event both the day before and one hour prior to the performance.
About the Department of Theatre and Dance
The Department of Theatre and Dance is one of seven departments housed in Appalachian’s College of Fine and Applied Arts. Its mission is to facilitate transformative experiences for students and the public, which cultivate compassionate, creative and collaborative communities through theatre and dance. The department also offers coursework for integrated learning through the arts to the general university student population. Its dynamic co-curricular production program provides exemplary theatre and dance experiences to departmental students, the university community and the region.