Willamette University Theatre finds a new twist on old classics

by University Communications,

  • A woman with blonde hair and dark eye makeup stands holding pages ripped from a yellow pad, she's surrounded by eight men and women in black a few are holding coffee cups
    Willamette students rehearse for the play “Dead City.”
  • Character wearing wooden mask with hands outstretched in a Y before a blue and red backdrop
    “Servant of Two Masters”

The 2018-19 season presents theatre, dancing and music.

A commedia delle’arte classic and a new translation of Henrik Ibsen’s seminal work “Public Enemy” join other adaptations of classic texts by Willamette University Theatre this season

Professor of Theatre Bobby Brewer-Wallin says this year’s theme focuses on finding new ways to tell older stories. 

“We always strive to identify plays that will provide a range of opportunities for students and challenge audiences to see the work in new and meaningful ways,” he says. “Some of the titles may be new to audiences this year, and our goal is to inspire conversation about the work.”

In “Dead City,” a New York woman hears her life being narrated over public radio in a play described by the theatre department as “a hyper-theatrical riff on the novel Ulysses by James Joyce.” The play runs Sept. 27–Oct. 13 and contains adult themes.

During “Letters from Home,” playwright and performer Kalean Ung tells audiences about growing up biracial in Southern California while exploring her relatives’ struggles in Cambodia. In “The Servant of Two Masters,” a man takes on two jobs to survive in the commedia delle-arte performance. 

Brewer-Wallin says audiences should expect the latter play to be “a hugely funny work, a broad comedy that includes a very specific style of mask" that also happens to be directed and adapted by Kevin Otos ’92. 

The theatre department made a commitment to produce the play several years ago as a way to bring Otos, whose expertise is commedia dell’arte, back to campus, says Brewer-Wallin. 

At the end of fall semester, the alumnus will lead students in a mask workshop and will cast his play based on that experience. He also returns in January to begin a five-week residency. 

Music performances will also highlight the new theatre season. 

A concert by new chamber orchestra Willamette Pro Musica, comprised of faculty members and students, served as an introduction to the university community and kicked off the theatre season Sept. 9. In “Future Voices,” choreographed works by faculty, guest artists, alumni and students will interpret the passage of time as well as future doubts and aspiration, while the Willamette Jazz Collective will perform with guests Little One, a group with unconventional instrumentation. 


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