Upcoming Mainstage season features Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, dance, student films

WCU student actors present a scene from “In the Soundless Awe,” part of the School of Stage and Screen’s 2016-17 Mainstage season.

The 2017-18 Mainstage season of Western Carolina University’s School of Stage and Screen features Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, beloved theatrical classics and new works along with two dance showcase events and the school’s renowned end-of-the-year film festival.

“This is our most ambitious and thrilling season yet,” said Jayme McGhan, director of the School of Stage and Screen.

The season opens with Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches,” a fantastical drama set in the 1980s during the AIDS crisis. “Angels in America” will be directed by Dustin Whitehead, assistant professor of theatre at WCU, with guest costume design by Rien Schlecht, a New York City-based designer. The production will run Wednesday, Sept. 20, through Saturday, Sept. 23, with shows at 7:30 p.m. in Hoey Auditorium.

“The School of Stage and Screen is thrilled to produce this important work, especially given Tony Kushner’s visit to campus in the spring of 2018,” McGhan said. Kushner will be interviewed at WCU on Thursday, April 5, through a collaboration of the annual Spring Literary Festival and the Performance Series of WCU’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center.

Next up on the theatre schedule is “God Save Gertrude,” an offbeat punk rock riff on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” written by Deborah Stein. Ashlee Wasmund, WCU assistant professor of dance, will direct. “God Save Gertrude” will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, through Saturday, Oct. 7, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8, with all shows in the studio theatre of the Bardo Arts Center.

The season’s first offering in the Niggli New Works Reading Series, a program intended to help develop new works for the American stage, will be London-based playwright Ross Howard’s “The Amazing Always,” a comedy about a failing book club. Howard’s work will be presented as a free staged reading at 7:30 p.m. on both Friday, Oct. 27, and Saturday, Oct. 28, in Niggli Theatre.

Stephen Sondheim’s beloved musical, “Company,” the hilarious story of a habitually single man who is forced to confront his bachelorhood over the course of one evening, is up next, McGhan said. The show will be directed by guest artist Sarah Norris, a New York City-based director and artistic director of New Light Theater Project. Bryan McAdams, visiting assistant professor of musical theatre at WCU, will serve as musical director, and D.J. Williams, a senior in the School of Stage and Screen, will oversee choreography. “Company” will run at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, through Saturday, Nov. 18, with a 3 p.m. show on Sunday, Nov. 19, in Hoey Auditorium.

The last production of the fall semester will be a Fall Dance Showcase, a collaborative effort featuring the best dance pieces from dance classes, as well as student- and faculty-choreographed works. The showcase will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, in Hoey Auditorium.

Archibald Macleish’s Pulitzer Prize-winning verse play “J.B.” will open the spring semester. Set in a circus tent, “J.B.” is the story of the Biblical Job, with God and the devil doing battle for one man’s soul. “Filled with beautiful language, circus imagery, acrobatics and aerials, this production is sure to enthrall,” McGhan said. “J.B.” will be directed by Claire Eye, assistant professor of theatre, and will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, through Saturday, Feb. 10, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11, with all shows in Hoey Auditorium.

The second offering of the Niggli New Works Reading Series is “Cheer Wars,” a musical by Karlan Judd and Gordon Leary that is “a hysterical look at the murderous ambitions of cheerleaders and their parents,” McGhan said. “Cheer Wars” will be presented as a staged reading at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23, and Saturday, Feb. 24, in Hoey Auditorium.

“Really Really,” a timely and edgy drama dealing with sexual assault on a university campus and written by Paul Downs Colaizzo, is up next. Guest artist Colin Wasmund will direct the production, which will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22, through Saturday, March 24, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 25, at the Bardo Arts Center studio theatre.

Terrence Mann, WCU’s Phillips Distinguished Professor of Musical Theatre and a three-time Tony Award nominee, will direct “Spring Awakening,” the final stage offering of the Mainstage season. “‘Spring Awakening’ is the sensational Tony-Award winning story of 19th-century German teenagers discovering the tumult of sexuality in a heavily repressed society,” McGhan said. Bryan McAdams, WCU visiting assistant professor of musical theatre, will serve as music director, with Wasmund overseeing the choreography. The play will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 12, through Saturday, April 14, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 15, at the Bardo Arts Center.

The Spring Dance Showcase, featuring dance pieces from spring classes and student- and faculty- choreographed works, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 20, at Hoey Auditorium.

Closing out the 2017-18 Mainstage season will be the Controlled Chaos Film Festival, a red-carpet event where the best films created throughout the year by students from the Film and Television Production Program are showcased.

“This is a particularly special year for Controlled Chaos, as our students are literally tripling the number of films they’re making and using a more elegant production process,” McGhan said. The festival will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 4, in the Bardo Arts Center.

Tickets for the Mainstage season or single show tickets may be purchased at bardoartscenter.wcu.edu or by calling 828-227-2479.