Lots of variety in Ethington’s 2016-17 season
By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Ethington Theatre’s 2016-17 season promises to be a smorgasbord of inspirational entertainment from the suspenseful whodunit that opens the season Sept. 2 to the wildly popular musical that closes it.
“We wanted it to be enjoyable,” said Claude Pensis, dean of Grand Canyon University’s College of Fine Arts and Production and lighting designer. “There’s something new, something old. … We like to have a good combination of serious and comedy.”
If the productions are anything like the ones from the 2015-16 season, GCU staff, faculty and students are advised to get tickets early.
You won’t want to miss the places the shows will take you — settings in England; Washington, D.C.; New England; Italy; and the streets of New York.
You’ll want to experience the rousing singing and dancing numbers, riveting twists of fate and scenes that will make you laugh and perhaps weep.
And so, without further adieu — drumroll, please! — here is the season:
Sept. 2-11: “The Mousetrap,” written by Agatha Christie, is the longest-running play in history, Pensis said. It premiered at Theatre Royal in Nottingham in 1952 and is still showing in London today.
Michael Kary will direct this thrilling murder mystery, which has enough turns to keep audience members at the edge of their seats and some fabulous lines penned by one of the grand dames of fiction.
Oct. 14-23: “Of Thee I Sing,” both a musical extravaganza and political satire with a score by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, will be directed by Pensis.
The hilarious romp, which will run one month before the 2016 Presidential Election, lampoons the presidential election process. It features a candidate named “Wintergreen” who runs on a platform of “romance” and whose running mate’s name no one can remember.
The timing of the show, Pensis said, “is extremely deliberate.”
Nov. 18-27: “Our Town,” Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about the characters of a New England town “is about Americana as America can get,” Pensis said. Kary will direct this heartwarming sentimental journey.
“It is turn of the century, it is very bucolic,” Pensis said. “There are all sorts of universal truths explored and discussed in the play.”
Feb. 10-19: “Two Gentlemen of Verona” is thought by some scholars to be one of the first plays by William Shakespeare. GCU alumnus Scott Campbell will return to direct this season’s annual nod to The Bard of Avon.
“It is a play about friendship, conflict between friends, love and the silly behavior of people in love,” Pensis said. “It’s a fun play. It’s an early work and gives us insight into Shakespeare’s development as a playwright.”
March 31-April 9: “West Side Story,” one of the most memorable romantic musicals ever staged, was written by Arthur Laurents and is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
With lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Leonard Bernstein, this Broadway smash has some of the most beloved songs, such as “Something’s Coming,” “Jet Song” and “Maria.” Pensis will direct this cautionary tale.
“When artists work together each using their own unique talents and skills, whether it be in costuming, hair and makeup, sound, lighting, scenic design, properties, acting, direction or any other, they apply them, in the case of theater, to the playwrights work, and each of the works we do is unique, from Shakespeare, to George and Ira Gershwin, to Agatha Christie,” said William Symington, COFAP’s assistant dean and faculty scenic director.
“In this way students are challenged and stretched in a way that helps them learn to express themselves in wide variety of genres, thereby expanding their artistic ‘vocabulary’ We have an incredible season ahead for 2016-17, full of beautiful language.”
Pensis had this to say about this year’s season: “Get your tickets early. Tickets do sell out. We would love for everyone to be able see them all.”
If you’ve never made it to the dance concerts at Ethington, you’d be amazed at the grace, athleticism and beauty of the student dancers, how their raw energy combined with choreographed fluidity creates a living art form like no other. It’s no wonder GCU’s dance program, under Susannah Keita, COFAP dance director, grows every year.
The concert dates are:
Dec. 9-10: Winter Dance Concert, which this year is named “Impermanence,” Keita said. It reflects the ephemeral nature not just of dance, but of moments in our lives. What are those moments? They are subject to the interpretation of the choreographers.
April 21-22: Spring Dance Concert, “Ballet to Broadway,” is expected to make a big splash as it also brings vernacular American dance to the forefront with a blend of modern, jazz and ballet. “What is uniquely American is very special to me,” Keita said. “It’s something we intend to represent onstage with this concert.”
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or @firstname.lastname@example.org.