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Art, Beauty and Truth Explored in ‘The Countess’ Feb. 25-March 1 Presented by ASU Theatre and Dance

Feb. 17, 2015. Appalachian State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance presents the costume drama “The Countess” in the intimate Valborg Theatre Feb. 25-29 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee performance March 1 at 2 p.m.  Dr. Paulette Marty, a theatre faculty professor who specializes in theatre history, dramatic literature, dramaturgy, and cross-disciplinary topics, directs the production.

Ticket prices start at just $9 for Appalachian students and $16 for adults. For more information visit http://theatre.appstate.edu, or call the box office at 828-262-4046, or the toll-free number 800-841-ARTS (2787).  There will be a talkback conversation with the director, cast and production team immediately following the opening night performance on Wednesday, Feb. 25.

the_countess“The Countess,” written by Gregory Murphy, explores the nature of art, beauty and truth.  Based on actual events, the play follows the story of Effie Ruskin and her husband, famed British art critic John Ruskin, as well as famed Pre-Raphaelite artist John Millais, on an 1853 holiday in Scotland. As the stormy Highland weather forces the company inside a cramped cabin, hidden tensions and hypocrisies are exposed, leaving Effie with a difficult choice to make.

A quote from John Ruskin serves as inspiration for the production: “The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see.”

“While preparing ‘The Countess,’” said Dr. Marty, “our production team and cast spent months researching the historical figures portrayed in the play in order to try and see these Victorian people as clearly as possible. We tried to understand what brought them happiness and pain, how their neuroses and priorities developed, what motivated their actions, and who they were at their best and their worst. Through this research, we grew to deeply empathize with these complex people who lived so long ago and committed ourselves to depicting them with clarity and compassion.”

In her director’s note, Marty said that, “Creating a play about historical persons is a tricky business. Characters are simpler than real people and when playwrights try to mold a complex human being who lived a whole lifetime into a character who will live for only two hours on a stage, they often reduce them to simple figures with unambiguous motives and singular minds. Sometimes such simple, straightforward characters are exactly what a play needs to entertain the audience or express an idea; but the richest, most intriguing characters in historical plays are the ones who are complex and defy easy labels, like good or bad or right or wrong.

“Like you or I, these complex characters have multiple motives and goals—often not rational, sometimes contradictory, always stemming from their deepest fears, insecurities and desires. Fortunately, these are the kinds of characters that playwright Gregory Murphy has created at the center of ‘The Countess.’”

Marty is joined on the production’s creative team by two theatre faculty colleagues, costume designer Sue Williams and set designer Mike Helms, who is also creating projections for the show.  The lighting is by design and technical theatre major Wyatt Nyman, with seniors Luke White and Katie Kahut serving as dramaturg and stage manager, respectively.  Graduating seniors Jake Dailey, Preston Perrin and Molly Winstead portray the three leading roles.

Valborg Theatre is located on the north side of Chapell Wilson Hall on Howard Street. The door faces the back of the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts on King Street. Parking is available after 5 p.m. on campus in faculty/staff lots and after 5:30 p.m. in the College Street parking deck near Belk Library and Information Commons.