Theater Studies Marks 2019/20 Season with New Play Selection Process

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Theater Studies Department is proud to announce our 2019/20 mainstage season, inaugurating a new play selection process featuring student input. A committee of faculty and students have determined the scripts for next year’s THEATRST 350 mainstage shows to be As You Like It by William Shakespeare and Fefu and Her Friends by María Irene Fornés. See Information on Auditions & Crew Calls for these productions.

THEATRST 350 (ALP, CCI, R) gives Duke undergraduates the opportunity to work intensively with professional directors, designers, and coaches on a single script over the whole semester. Research, script analysis, character work and read-throughs lead into a six-week rehearsal process culminating in eight performances. Cast positions are assigned through open auditions and students interested in design, tech or management positions for the show can enroll in THEATRST 350.2.  Both classes are a learning process and students at any level of experience are encouraged to participate. 

The fall production of the delightfully comic As You Like It will be the first Shakespearean play produced by the department since 2007.  Professor Jules Odendahl-James will direct and is already assembling a professional team that includes designers, a composer, and a fight coach to work with the students.  “Dr. OJ”, whose MFA in Directing from UT-Austin complements her PhD in Performance Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill, is in high demand as a director all over the Triangle, and most recently directed Vinegar Tom for the department.  Professor Torry Bend, chair of Theater Studies, will be coordinating THEATRST 350.2 for students interested in assistant designer, production management, or run crew positions. Auditions will be held the first week of classes in August with the show opening in Sheafer Lab Theater November 7, 2019.

The spring production of Fefu and Her Friends honors the legacy of María Irene Fornés, the Cuban-born playwright whose death five months ago robbed contemporary drama of one of its most original voices. Theater Studies welcomes back Professor Jeff Storer from his year-long sabbatical to direct Fornés’ bittersweet and whimsical script. Storer, the founder and artistic director of Durham’s Manbites Dog Theater, is a former Theater Studies chair and the director of Duke’s productions of Ragtime and The Laramie Project. Storer describes this script as “not afraid to be funny and elegant and gritty—in the same scene! Fornés shifts our understanding of the very place in which the play is produced by challenging the relationship between space, players and audience.” This immersive experience is taking place in Reynolds Theater April 2-12, 2020.  Auditions are scheduled for October 2019 before registration for Spring 2020.

The play selection committee – Professor Neal Bell, Onastasia Ebright (T’19), Professor Darren Gobert, Professor Jody McAuliffe, Valerie Muensterman (T’20), and Maria Zurita Ontiveros (T’21) – asked for suggestions from all faculty and students while reviewing a list of events, guest artists, and special curricular plans for 2019-2020. Winnowed down from the over 70 plays suggested, this season represents the first in a four-year program of shows that will, collectively, showcase devised work, new plays and drama from a range of historical periods, genres, national traditions and performance styles, while also reflecting the diversity of the playwriting community and of Duke’s student body.