Announcing the 2018-19 Season

Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Announcing the 2018-19 Season

We are pleased to announce the faculty directors for the Theater Studies 18/19 season will be Ellen Hemphill for Fall 2018 and Jody McAuliffe for Spring 2019.  The fall mainstage show will be the Irish memory play Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel, and the spring production will be a new work from Ukranian playwright Natal’ya Vorozhbit entitled Bad Roads.  Both directors are open to non-traditional casting; all students at Duke are welcome and encouraged to participate.  As usual, the productions will be taught as THEATRST 350 (ALP, CCI, R), so course credit is available for cast and crew members.

Here’s what the directors have to say about their choices:

Dancing at Lughnasa (Cast: 5 women, 3 men)

Ellen:  Dancing at Lughnasa is a two-act play by Irish dramatist Brian Friel. It is set during the summer of 1936 in the fictional Irish town of Ballybeg. This play is the story of a family of 5 sisters, their brother Jack (a priest recently returned from Africa), Michael (the child of one of the sisters, also the narrator), and Gerry, the always-absent father of Michael.

This is a memory play from Michael’s view point. Music and dancing carry the theme of this seemingly simple story, and reveal the inner lives, the passions and obsessions of the sisters. The dancing also offers hints of pagan rituals that are juxtaposed against the strict Catholic tradition of the household and the town itself.  I chose this play because I want to explore the conflicts between the fantasy of what is remembered versus the reality of what happened, and between the need to stay safe/in the past versus the need to change. I’m especially intrigued with the efforts of the women to find escape in the face of difficult circumstances.

We will have a dialect coach for this play and also the chance to work with live musicians and Irish music and dance. Visual and sound design will also be a big part of the production to create the atmosphere of “seen and unseen” worlds.

Bad Roads  (Cast: 4 women, 3 men )

Jody: Bad Roads is a new play by documentary playwright Natal’ya Vorozhbit, the leading Ukrainian playwright of her generation.  It was recently produced at the Royal Court Theater in London, where she’s worked since 2004.  This is a powerful play that explores what it’s like to be a woman in wartime, specifically in Ukraine, and the collateral damage suffered by women in war.  The story it tells is important.  Love and heartbreak, sex and terror in violent and sometimes bitterly comic vignettes from the front.  I found the play fresh and insightful and the mix of tones surprising and exciting. She is a masterful playwright whose work is “complex and compelling,” "masterly and woundingly memorable.” I am hoping to bring the playwright here to participate in the process.

Scripts are available in Page 109 or can be requested by emailing  We’d like to give the theater community an opportunity to respond to these choices.  Any responses should be addressed to Jeff Storer at, and he will share the feedback with the director.

Stay tuned for audition dates and crew call!