Monday, February 8, 2016

A Lesson for all Generations: "The Piano Lesson"

As Boy Willie pushes forward with his plans, family alliances are challenged and passionate voices are raised loud enough to wake the dead. 
 

 The Piano Lesson , winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, takes audiences back in time to 1930s Pittsburgh. Boy Willie has come up from Mississippi with a truck full of watermelons and a head full of plans. He unexpectedly charges into the home of his Uncle Doaker, sister Berniece and niece Maretha, demanding attention and a drink. Boy Willie attempts to persuade his sister to sell the family piano in order to purchase land back home, where their family were once slaves. Berniece is forced to take a stand to protect the antique piano that depicts the family’s struggle out of slavery through its ornate carvings. 

Meet the cast of The Piano Lesson! Watch this video to get an insider's look at what goes on during rehearsals, the chemistry between cast members and what the show means to them. 

Click here to learn more about the playwright, August Wilson! This blog post takes you through the famous Pittsburgh Cycle, some of his biggest influences as a playwright and some of the direct inspirations for his play
The Piano Lesson!

Written by August Wilson and directed by Lee Stille, The Piano Lesson is a haunting poetic drama that will be performed in the Sponberg Theatre on February 10, 11, 12, 13 at 7pm, and February 13 & 14 at 2pm. Recommended for ages 13+

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

August Wilson's Recipe for Success

“Well, actually, I didn’t start out with a grand idea. I wrote a play called Jitney! set in ’77 and a play called Fullerton Street that I set in ’41. Then I wrote Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which I set in ’27, and it was after I did that I said, ‘I’ve written three plays in three different decades, so why don’t I just continue to do that?’”

 Eastern Michigan University Theatre is gearing up for its next Mainstage production, "The Piano Lesson" by August Wilson. For those of you who don't know, August Wilson is an American playwright most famous for his Pittsburgh Cycle. Wilson was born on April 27, 1945 under the name Frederick August Kittel Jr. in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His Pittsburgh Cycle is a series of ten plays, nine of which are set in Pittsburgh, that chronicle the African American experience throughout each decade of the 20th century. It seems only fitting that he would write a series of plays that majorly focus on life in the city that he grew up in. "The Piano Lesson" fits into the cycle by depicting the African American experience during the 1930s. 

Wilson claimed to have been heavily influenced by the 'four B's.' These 'four B's' included: the blues, Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, playwright Amiri Baraka and artist Romare Bearden. In a 1999 interview with The Paris Review Wilson discussed their influence on his work by saying, "From Borges, those wonderful gaucho stories from which I learned that you can be specific as to a time and place and culture and still have the work resonate with the universal themes of love, honor, duty, betrayal, etc. From Amiri Baraka, I learned that all art is political, although I don’t write political plays. From Romare Bearden I learned that the fullness and richness of everyday life can be rendered without compromise or sentimentality." The image to the right is a collage by Romare Bearden entitled The Piano Lesson and it helped inspire Wilson's play of the same name. 

"The Piano Lesson" was written in 1986. It premiered at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in 1987 and appeared on Broadway in 1990 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. In 1990 the play was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play and won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. August Wilson has been noted not for writing to a particular audience, but instead writing about the Black experience in America “And contained within that experience, because it is a human experience,” he said, “are all universalities.”

See August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson" come to life at Eastern Michigan University! You can see this powerful show Feb. 10-13 at 7pm and Feb. 13 & 14 at 2pm. 

 

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Friday, May 22, 2015

#MonstersAreComing

"I wish I had a monster that would eat all my peas, then I wouldn't have to. I wish a monster would come and eat this house." –Evan, Scene I


Written by Jonathan Graham
Directed by Patricia Zimmer

 

 Tired of being forced to eat the peas he hates, Evan wishes for a monster to come and eat his family, especially his younger sister Sue who LOVES peas. Eight-year old Evan soon discovers that sometimes even the most wild and unlikely of wishes come true. Evan and Sue join forces to keep Pea, their newly arrived monster, hidden from their technology-addicted parents. Monsters are awfully hard to hide, though, and Mommy & Daddy soon discover the big green, pancake stealing, addition to their household. Will Pea eat up Mommy & Daddy now that he's been discovered? Will he be sent back to Monster World? Is he meant to stay and be a part of the family?

 

 Join us for The Boy Who Loved Monsters and the Girl Who Loved Peas opening THIS FRIDAY, to find out what happens in this hilarious and heartfelt comedy for the whole family.



In partnership with the EMU Autism Collaborative Center, we will offer "Lights Up, Sound Down" performances with accommodations for families with special needs on Sunday, May 31 & June 7 at 2pm. 

Performances Are:
May 29 & 30 and June 5 & 6 at 7p.m.
Lights Up, Sound Down performances: May 31 & June 7 at 7p.m. 

 
 Meet Jake Dailey and Colleen Cartwright!!! They are playing Evan and Pea in the show!Watch this video to find out more about the show! #MonstersAreComing
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Student in the Spotlight: Monique Tokar

  This week's Student in the Spotlight is...
      Monique Tokar!

  
Monique Tokar is a senior at EMU majoring in Theatre Arts and minoring in Comprehensive Communications, Media, Theatre Arts! Monique has worked on props crew for last year's productions of The Shape of Things and To Kill A Mockingbird. She was also props crew-head for Sylvia. Monique was in the cast for last semester's touring Theatre for the Young show The Velveteen Rabbit and she directed A Play for Claryn in this year's Student Written Student Directed One-Act Festival. When asked what his favorite show to work on was she said, "To Kill A Mockingbird was my favorite. I just really liked our props team. We were a lot of fun. We had such a hard time with everything that happened with that show, but seeing it all come out so good in the end was great!"
   Monique's dream show to work on is Funny Girl, "It's my favorite movie. I grew up watching it with my mom and it was her favorite too. It's something special between my mom and I. Also, I love comedy and that's what I want to go into." she said.
   Her favorite memory of EMU Theatre is, "Seeing my show (A Play for Claryn) go up and just being so proud of my cast. We had a rocky start, but I remember watching it at the end and being so proud."
    After graduation, "Next year I hope to move to Chicago and take classes at Second City. I want to do something with theatre and comedy. I'm hoping to get an MFA too, but let's just see how I balance it all first. That's a lot!" she said with a laugh.



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Student in the Spotlight: Jason VanMill

  This week's Student in the Spotlight is...
      Jason VanMill!

    Jason VanMill is a fourth year student at EMU majoring in Entertainment Design and Technology and Communications/Media/Theatre Arts! Jason has worked as an assistant stage manager for White as Snow Red as Blood: The Story of Snow White, Urinetown, Wedding Band: A Love Hate Story in Black and White, and Tintypes. He also stage managed The Shape of Things last year and is currently stage managing our upcoming production of Legally Blonde! When asked what his favorite show to work on was he said, "I liked them all for different reasons. They've taught me different things. My favorite would have to be Snow White. It was my first time as an assistant stage manager and Jenny Koppera is fantastic. It was a great way to introduce me into stage management."
   Jason's dream show to work on is Ragtime, "I think the music is beautiful; I love how layered it is. Now matter how many times I see or listen to it it always moves me to tears," he said.

    His favorite memory of EMU Theatre is, "All the people I've met along the way and all of the different things you take away from them. It's (EMU) a great environment. Everyone is really supportive of each other."
    After graduation Jason said, "I would love to get an internship and eventually stage manage in the real world. I would really like to do more directing too."









Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Student in the Spotlight: Anthony Petrucci

     This week's Student in the Spotlight is...
      Anthony Petrucci!
    Anthony Petrucci is a first year MA candidate at EMU studying Interpretation and Performance Studies! Anthony has performed in Guys and Dolls, Urinetown, in his undergad and this year he has worked on Dr. Faustus and Androcles and the Lion. Dr. Faustus is his favorite show he has worked on at Eastern! Anthony's dream show to work on is The Addams Family, "It was one of my favorite shows growing up.  I loved watching the movies and cartoons. It's something that I've loved since I was a little kid," he said. (Notice his hairless scalp? He's actually gearing up to play Uncle Fester in a local production of Addams Family!)
Anthony is also our full-time graduate assistant in our scene shop! Part of his responsibilities include being the lab technician for all the shows that take place in our lab theatre including our upcoming Student Written Student Directed One Act Festival!!!
    His favorite memory of EMU Theatre is, "When Jahmeel Powers and I got to accept our Notscar (now called Fauxneys) for 'Partners in Crime'."
    After graduation he plans to, "Get accepted into an MFA program and find a job teaching theatre at a University."







Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Student in the Spotlight: Joey Kulza

     This week's Student in the Spotlight is...
      Joey Kulza!

    Joey Kulza is a senior at EMU majoring in Theatre Arts! Joey has performed in Fiddler on the Roof, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, To Kill A Mockingbird, and was most recently seen as Stanley in The Birthday Party!! The Birthday Party is his favorite show he has worked on at Eastern! Joey has always wanted to work on A Streetcar Named Desire, "I really like the role of Stanley," he said. (We're sensing a theme between Joey and characters named Stanley. Hmm...)

    Joey is also on props crew for our upcoming production of Legally Blonde!  
    His favorite memory of EMU Theatre is, "Bagels, fresh Bagels!" (If you saw our production of Fiddler on the Roof, then you will know exactly what he's talking about)
    After graduation he plans on, "Pursuing an acting career in Chicago."