Duke theater professor pulls the curtain on 31-year-old Durham theater

Duke professor Jeff Storer in directing class

This week’s final five performances of Manbites Dog Theater’s final show, directed by Professor Jeff Storer, mark the closing of a Triangle landmark in the theater community.  Wakey, Wakey  an existential tragicomedy by Will Eno, is a fitting tribute to this event which will transform the local cultural scene in ways that remain to be seen.  As artistic director of the theater, along with his life partner, managing director Ed Hunt, Storer has stayed true to his mission of introducing regional premieres that have challenged and entertained audiences in the area for the past three decades.  Although one might guess the two would take a well-deserved rest, as reported in The News & Observer here, with the funds generated by the sale of their building, "Manbites Dog management plans to 'give that equity back to its community,' providing financial support to local theater companies and artists through a new agency fund at Triangle Community Foundation."

This couple has proudly maintained Manbites Dog’s productions at the level of professional theater by paying cast and crew even while working on a shoestring budget. While the local theater community will be strongly impacted by losing the venue, it will also change the opportunites available to the Duke community.  Storer and Hunt provided a haven where many Duke theater students have gotten their professional debuts, and Duke faculty members Jay O'Berski, Jody McAuliffe, Torry Bend , Neal Bell and Jules Odendahl-James have been closely involved over the years.  The creativity has flowed both ways: designers from Manbites have often contributed to productions at Duke. Wakey, Wakey features longtime Manbites collaborator director/designer/actor Derrick Ivey in the lead role, and Ivey will design set and costumes for Duke's fall mainstage show, for example.  And as his character says in the play, "it's important to honor the people whose shoulders we stood upon and fell asleep against."  Storer, who has chaired the Theater Studies department for the past three years, describes this final production simply, "It's about saying good-by." There are performances June 6-10 before the doors close one last time.

For more on this historic occasion, please see this week's Duke Chronicle story: http://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2018/06/180604-kuesel-manbites-dog


photo of Jeff Storer teaching his directing class by Megan Mendenhall