Russian Play ‘The Cherry Orchard’ to Highlight Ethington Theatre Series for 2012-13

April 09, 2012 / by / 0 Comment

By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau 

A familiar Shakespeare piece, a Christmas production and a rollicking musical: Ethington Theatre audiences have come to expect all three, and all will be part of the 2012-13 season at GCU. 

However, serious theatergoers will want to keep a weekend open in mid-February for Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard,” which has stood the test of time as a classic of the stage. 

“It would be on a lot of lists of the best five plays ever written,” says Dean Claude Pensis of the College of Fine Arts and Production in announcing the new season this week. 

Assistant Dean Bill Symington (left), Instructor Michael Kary and Dean Claude Pensis decided on the new Ethington Theatre Series from an initial list of more than 40 works.

“The Cherry Orchard” premiered in 1904, shortly before the Russian playwright’s death. Pensis, who will direct the Ethington production, says two translations are under consideration in an effort to “find the one with the right feel.” 

Either way, audiences should expect to see something special. 

“It’s more on the serious side than anything we’ve done,” Pensis says. “It will be a stretch for the actors.” 

Pensis says the new series began as a list of more than 40 productions in a meeting that also involved Assistant Dean Bill Symington and Instructor Michael Kary. 

“The three of us started tossing out ideas of things we thought could and would build on what we’ve done so far,” Pensis says. “It’s not just one season we’re thinking about when we do this.” 

GCU will have more than 100 theatre majors in the fall, numbers that continue to raise the bar for Ethington productions. Edgy versions of “Dracula” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” during the current season showed just how far the theatre program has come since it was brought back to campus in mid-2010. 

“It’s like coaching,” Pensis says. “We have standards and we expect them to be met. … I’m pleased with where we are, but we have a lot of work to do. The goal is to prepare these students to go out and succeed. With every chance they are given, they up their game.” 

Here’s how the 2012-13 season sets up: 

• “Much Ado About Nothing,” by William Shakespeare, Aug. 31-Sept. 2 and Sept. 7-9, directed by Pensis: The comedy about two pairs of lovers, originally set on the island of Sicily, will be given an Old West interpretation. “It will be a fun way to start out the year,” Pensis says.

 • “Beauty and the Beast,” by Vittorio Giannini, and “Comedy on the Bridge,” by Bohuslav Martinu, Oct. 12-14 and 19-21, directed by Kary: The two one-act operas are similar to what was presented with “Amahl and the Night Visitors” last December. “They’re light and family-friendly,” Kary says. “’Beauty and the Beast’ is a fairly accessible classic tale, and ‘Comedy on the Bridge’ is a farce about two countries connected by a bridge.” 

• “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens, Nov. 23-25 and Nov. 30-Dec. 2, directed by Pensis: The holiday favorite will feature an onstage turn by Kary as Ebenezer Scrooge, which alone should be worth seeing. “We feel like we’re filling a bit of a gap with this,” says Symington, who oversees the staging of Ethington’s shows. “It’s not done so much anymore in Phoenix. People know it so well that they take it for granted, but it’s difficult to do.” 

• “The Cherry Orchard,” by Anton Chekhov, Feb. 15-17 and 22-24, directed by Pensis: The play is about the fall of the Russian aristocracy, and there are elements of melodrama, tragedy and comedy. “It’s eccentric in a lot of ways,” Pensis says. Expect GCU’s very best acting talent to have roles in this one.

 • “H.M.S. Pinafore,” by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, April 12-14 and 19-21, directed by Kary: The 1878 musical, which takes place aboard a British ship, was the first international sensation for the team of Gilbert and Sullivan, who also wrote “The Pirates of Penzance” (the smash opener of the 2010-11 Ethington season, in which Kary played the Major-General).

For season-ticket information for the Ethington Theatre Series, call 639.8880 or email 

Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or

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