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4DThe Daily Tar HeelMonday, August
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By JEFF GROVE v
AssSsUuit Arts Editor
Editor's note: This is the first article of a two-part
series. Part one focuses on theatre in Chapel Hill; part
two will look at theatre elsewhere in the Triangle.
What is the general mental impression you conjure
up when someone mentions "the theatre" no, not
the kind where you see movies, but the real thing,
spelled with the funny ending? For many incoming
freshmen, it may be their school's spring production
of Oklahoma!, altered to accommodate an all-girl cast
with the music arranged for the school's jazz band in
the orchestra pit. For returning Carolina students, a,
likely image is a scene from one of the many Broad
way shows brought to campus by the Carolina Union.
The Broadway on Tour series is, for most people,
the "big event" of the theatre year in town, if for no
other reasons than its visibility and its rarity. This year,
thejCarolina Union has contracted to have four shows
appear on the stage of Memorial Hall: the musicals
. Barhum md Tintypes, as well as the "straight" plays
Amadeus and 'Master Harold', . . and the boys.
; Barman is a circus musical about P.T. Barnum, the
master showman of the 19th century. While not ab
solutely based on fact, Barnum does remain faithful
to the character of its subject.
Tintypes is more a musical revue than a typical book
musical. Rather than telling a story with songs, the
play simply presents a small cast singing songs of the
early years of the century with little regard for any
thing in the way of organization except the general
mood created by the songs. ; : v
Amadeus, like Barnum, treats a factual character in
the light of popular legend. When Mozart was busy
composing in Vienna, his main competition was the
court composer Antonio Salieri. Amadeus takes this
rivalry and adds the now-disproved theory that
Mozart's mysterious, early death was the result of
poisoning by Salieri. The story, told in flashback from
Salieri's deathbed as a confession, provides the frame
work for a powerful study of the psychological effects
To close the season, Athol Fugard's indictment of
South Africa's apartheid policy, 'Master
Harold'. . . and the boys, puts in an appearance. This
thout-provoking play raises the point, by implica
tion, that everyone is racist to some degree because of
the nature of society.
This is the fifth year that the Union Activities Board
has scheduled the Broadway on Tour series in an at
tempt to supplement and complement the offerings of
local theatre groups. Broadway on Tour presents the
latest plays from New York and'London, while most
area companies stage either established plays or new
plays which will eventually go on to New York.
Some former ticket-holders have expressed concern
because they have received no notification of the
season's offerings. The fact is that the season has only
recently been put together, and as yet there is still no
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The cast of 'Tintypes' performs a musical number
the play is one of the Broadway shows scheduled to visit Chapel Hill
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date set for the performances of 'Master Harold'
. . . and the boys. This is due mostly to the physical
workings of putting the season together.
Companies there are three or four main ones
contract to buy the rights to take, a current Broadway
show on tour, and make all the arrangements for
casting, set building, and travel. But this year, most of
the plays which were touring and available to the
Union were holdovers from last year Annie and
Children of a Lesser God among them. Barnum and
Tintypes were available early on. When the tour of
Amadeus was formed, most cities with series similar to
the Union's had already contracted all their shows for
this year, so the Activities Board was able to book a
show that otherwise might njt have played in Chapel
Hill. As for 'Master Harold'. . , and the boys, there is
still the possibility that Chapel Hill will not see the
usual "bus and truck" tour, but rather a higher
caliber national company, which would go on to play
the Kennedy Center in Washington.
Evita had been considered as a possibility for this
year's season, but the production proved unworkable,
taking 19 hours to set up in a theatre. If a simplified
setting can be developed, Evita may still come to town
next year. Other possibilities for future seasons include
Woman of the Year, Sophisticated Ladies, and Forty
Second Street. Don't hold the Union to those shows,
however. Booking a touring play is a chancy business,
and availabilities are constantly changing.
But one need not wait for Broadway on Tour's
quartet of stops in town to see high-quality profes
sional theatre. Working out of the UNC department
of dramatic art, and using a number of the depart
ment's students and faculty, the Playmakers Reper
tory Company looks forward to an especially varied
season this year, with plans to make theatre more ac
cessible to students.
PRC's artistic director, David Rotenberg, will direct
the company's season opener, Life on the Mississippi.
. Life will be theTirst full-fledged musical produced by
PRC since its beginnings six years ago. Based on Mark
Twain's autobiographical account of his years as a
river boat pilot on the Mississippi River, the show
was written by native North Carolinians and will
feature a popular local band, the Red Clay Ramblers..
The remainder of the season includes productions
of A Moon for the Misbegotten, The Greeks (a two
part cycle adapted from several Greek tragedies by the
Royal Shakespeare Company), and Pygmalion.
At PRC, students seeking to become actors can
learn the craft from seasoned practitioners. Under the
guidance of the faculty, students participate in
. operating the technical side of the plays presented.
Graduate students in the drama department often take
part onstage. Exceptionally gifted undergraduates oc
casionally find their way to the stage, too. All of the
. creative staff and most of the actors are, however,
; professional. .
A special student discount policy goes into effect
this season at PRC. For $15, a student may purchase a
pass which entitles the holder to five admissions. These
may be used whenever seats are available, and a stu
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dent is not limited to seeing each of the five plays one
time. You could opt to see on the Mississippi five
times, or to see one play three times and another twice
; the possible combinations are, obviously, quite ex
tensive.; PRC began in the fall of 1976, expanding on the
long and illustrious history of the Carolina
Playmakers. Dr. Arthur Housman, then chairman of
, the department of dramatic art, decided to turn the
Playmakers into a professional group for the benefit
of the department's students. Working with Tom
Haas, a drama professor who became the company's
first artistic director, Housman established a company
which would perform six plays annually. The major
failing of PRC as originally structured was its stifling
repertory the same plays that could be found in
most college theatres, community theatres, and dinner
Since current artistic director Rotenberg took ova
last year, wiser choices of repertory and wider use of
students in all phases of production have streamlined
the company. Whereas Haas wound up with two or
three failures every season, last year's series of plays
found only one production that did not meet with
critical and popular success.
. This year's PRC season has been cut to five plays.
This allows the department of dramatic art, which
shares its production facilities with PRC, to add one
play to its season of all-student shows. The department
plans to present The Three Sisters, Anton Chekhov's
examination of a family whose world is destroyed as
they stand by without acting to stop it; Star-Crossed
Lovers, a pop musical rooted in material from
Shakespeare's sonnets and plays; and The Caucasian
Chalk Circle, Bertolt Brecht's play dealing with the
struggle between two women for custody of the child
one bore and the other raised. ,
Drama students and other local performers also put
on a number of plays in the department's Laboratory
Theatre, a studio production group which allows for a
wide variety of experimentation. This year's produc
tion schedule in the Lab, as it is known, has yet to be
announced. Last year's season featured everything
from classic full-length works by Sutton Vane and
G.B. Shaw to one-act plays by Tennessee Williams
and Sam Shepherd. : -
Off-campus, theatre is booming at the Art School in
Carr Mill Mall. The Gallery Theatre began in 1976 and
presents four to five plays annually. Because contrac
tual arrangements are not yet complete, only two plays
have been announced to date: Tribute, a father-son
, reconciliation story, and A Christmas Without Santa
Claus, a children's musical. The Gallery Theatre
operates under conditions similar to those of UNCs
Lab Theatre, but with a greater technical capacity.
In Chapel Hill alone, hardly a week will go by this
year in which some group will not be producing a play.
And most of this theatre will be, you can bet, of good
to excellent quality. But fear not. For the times when
nothing is happening in town, there is enough going
on in Durham and Raleigh to keep the avid theatre
goer happy and occupied.
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