Prepare for Shakespeare-inspired drama, music, dance and hilarity. Willamette University Theatre’s 2016–17 season features seven diverse productions inspired by the Bard’s canon.
The season — an homage to Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of his death — appropriately begins with Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” The absurdist and inventive comedy runs Sept. 29–Oct. 15 and reveals the untold story of Hamlet’s doomed friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who get offed offstage in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”
“For ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,’ we have a fight coordinator. It’s action packed, and it’s comedic,” Andrew Toney, Willamette’s theatre manager, says. “It’s a dark but not heavy drama that deals with existentialism.”
If you’re not sure about existentialism, don’t worry. At several performances, there will be preshow presentations by experts to enhance the viewing experience, such as a philosophy professor putting existentialism in context. The specifics of these presentations are pending. Check the theatre department’s website for updates.
The season’s second production is a concert featuring the Willamette University Symphony Orchestra on Nov. 6. “Overture: Music Inspired by Shakespeare” will include selections from Bernstein’s “West Side Story” and Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer night’s Dream,” as well as works by Verdi, Nicolai, Mozart and Prokofiev.
Toney says the idea for a Shakespeare-inspired concert came from Héctor Agüero, assistant professor of music, who will conduct.
“Any time we can collaborate successfully, it’s good for everyone,” Toney says.
The season’s third offering is a dance concert titled “Perception/Reality.” The event will explore how Shakespeare tests our perceptions of reality using themes of good and evil, guilt, sin, loyalty, politics and ambition. If you’re new to Willamette, don’t wait to get tickets. The dance concert sells out quickly.
The semester will close Dec. 2–3 with the one-woman show “Shakespeare’s Will” featuring guest artist Tannis Kowalchuk in the role of the Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway.
“Lear’s Daughters,” written by members of the Women’s Theatre Group, runs Feb.16–25. The play chronicles the childhood of King Lear’s daughters and explores how their innocence turned to tragic cynicism.
The annual spring opera coproduced with the music department is Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas.” The show runs March 9–12 and replaces American composer Joel Feigin’s operatic adaptation of “Twelfth Night” that was originally scheduled.
The season closes April 13–29 with Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth” directed by Jonathan Cole. Considered one of Shakespeare’s best works, “Macbeth” chronicles the meteoric rise and tragic fall of the Macbeths. It’s also Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy and a great introduction to the Bard’s canon for those who haven’t seen one of his plays.
If you’re a student on a budget, there’s a flex pass. For $20, students can see four shows of their choosing, except for “Shakespeare’s Will.” Tickets for this special performance are $15 for all patrons.
Season tickets are $50 and include all six shows except “Shakespeare’s Will.” However, season-ticket holders can purchase two tickets for the price of one for this production.
“We want students to subscribe and to treat them like subscribers,” Toney says. “Part of this is pedagogical — inculcating in them the idea of subscribing as a way to support the arts. It’s also a good deal.”
Without the flex pass or season tickets, admission to all shows is $8 for students and seniors. Admission for adults is $12 for evening shows, $10 for matinees and $8 for previews.
Toney seeks volunteer ushers. In exchange for their work, they see the shows free of charge.