Cloak Theatre

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Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” comes to Cloak Theatre

The power of words for good and ill are explored in the Lawrence University Theatre Arts Department’s production of one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies.

Kip Hathaway plays Benedick and Olivia Gregorich portrays Beatrice in Lawrence’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Four performances of “Much Ado About Nothing” will be staged in Cloak Theatre Feb. 18-20 with an 8 p.m. show each night and an additional 3 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Feb. 20. Tickets, at $15 for adults, $8 for students/seniors, are available through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

Written around 1598, within a few years of “As You Like It” and “Twelfth Night,” the play’s most well known story features  Beatrice and Benedick, bantering foes who are tricked into falling in love with each other by their well-meaning friends.

It chronicles the almost fairytale world of reunion, celebration, barbarous wit and mischief when Benedick and his fellow officers return from a successful battle and turn their attentions to pleasanter, more domestic matters. That witty world comes crashing down into a still comic, but gentler and more complex reality, where words cause real pain and communicate real love.

According to director Kristin Hammargren, the production is set in Regency England (1811-1820) in order to provide an appropriate context.

“Regency England is a time period that gives us the class distinctions, structured polite society, appreciation for conversation and even the military element (the Napoleonic Wars) that this play needs,” said Hammargren, a 2008 graduate of Lawrence, now a professional actor and teaching artist who is spending Term II at her alma mater as a visiting instructor of theatre arts.

Kristen Hammergard_newsblog
Director Kristen Hammergard

In her writing about the production she notes the production she envisioned is just as important for the coherence of the play as it is for the benefit of the student actors.

“Here you see an environment crafted for the imagination and play of young theatre artists,” Hammargren wrote. “History gives us a setting and a mood, Shakespeare gives us the story and poetry and the students give it all life.”

Olivia Gregorich, a junior from Greenwood, plays Beatrice while Kip Hathaway, a junior from Nimrod, Minn., plays Benedick. Senior Aiden Campbell, from Fort Collins, Colo., is cast as Claudio while freshman Ming Montgomery, from Minneapolis, Minn., plays Hero.

After graduating from Lawrence, Hammargren earned a master of fine arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has worked with several Shakespeare festivals, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks and Door Shakespeare in Wisconsin. She created an original one-woman show entitled “Discovering Austen,” which she performs regularly throughout the Midwest.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Machiavelli’s “The Mandrake” Gets Contemporary Adaptation in Theatre Arts Production

Nicolo Machiavelli’s 16th-century devious comedy “The Mandrake” gets a 20th-century adaptation in four performances of Lawrence University’s theatre production. The play will be staged March 3-5 at 8 p.m. with an additional 3 p.m. matinee on March 5 in Cloak Theatre of the Music-Drama Center.

Tickets, at $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and students, are available through the Lawrence University Box Office, 920-832-6749.

The adaptation, written by Timothy X. Troy, professor of theatre arts and J. Thomas and Julie Esch Hurvis Professor of Theatre and Drama, sets the play in 1962 in Florence, Italy. The fast-paced conspiracy follows Callimaco, a young man smitten with the beautiful, virtuous and, unfortunately for him, already-married Lucrezia. Nicia, Lucrezia’s husband, is an educated, but-not-overly-bright tightwad who desperately wants children. Six years into his marriage, though, he has yet to produce any offspring. The story cleverly unfolds in a twisting and twisted pattern.

Among Troy’s tweaks to the original story is having Callimaco return to Italy from America, rather than Paris. The change provided director Kathy Privatt numerous possibilities for interesting music choices.

“We’ve compiled a playlist that includes American hits from the late 50’s-early 60’s and Italian pop songs from the same period, including some directly influenced by the U.S., and Elvis in particular,” said Privatt, associate professor of theatre arts and James G. and Ethel M. Barber Professor of Theatre and Drama.

An original story by Machiavelli, rather than an adaptation of a Greek or Roman source as was common at the time, Privatt says “The Mandrake” still has the ability to surprise us today.

“Choosing to direct this adaptation of Machiavelli’s work was easy,” said Privatt. “Tim’s adaptation stays true to the events in the original script, keeping the events in Florence but giving it a bit more contemporary time frame. That change gives us more ways to connect to the ideas in the play as well as reminding us that history does repeat itself.

“Best of all, with its fast-paced fun, this play requires our actors to be at the top of their game where the stakes are greatest and so are the rewards.”

Senior Nate Peterson portrays the love-struck Callimaco. Junior Aubrey Neuman plays the smart, young Lucrezia, while freshman Eric Smedsrud is cast as her homebody husband Nicia. Senior Kyle Brauer portrays Ligurio, the scheming mastermind behind the plan that drives the play.

Theatre Dept. Brings Psychological Thriller “Murder in Green Meadows” to Cloak Theatre

The twists and turns of contemporary playwright Douglas Post’s psychological thriller “Murder in Green Meadows” will be recreated in three performances by the Lawrence University theatre department. The play will be staged Friday, May 28 at 10:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 29 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. in Cloak Theatre of the Music-Drama Center.

Tickets, at $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students, are available through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749. The production contains adult themes and language.

Set in the serene suburban town of Green Meadows, the fast-paced plot thrusts deceit, adultery and murder into the average American home as it explores the seemingly idyllic relationship between new neighbors Joan and Thomas Devereaux and Carolyn and Jeff Symons. Their perfect households unravel, however, as secrets from the Devereaux’s past are uncovered and Joan pursues an affair with Jeff. Manipulative deceptions, threats and duplicity of character combine to keep the audience in suspense until the very end.

Originally written as a broadcast for Chicago’s WMAQ-TV, Post turned the story into a full-length theatre production. The television broadcast earned six Emmy Award nominations.

Professor of Theatre Arts Timothy X. Troy, who is directing the production, calls it “an especially well-crafted modern melodrama, which is a form we don’t often explore in our productions. A good melodrama works on an audience’s expectations about what makes theatre lively and exciting.”

Lawrence juniors Katie Cravens and Kyle Brauer portray Joan and Thomas Devereaux, while juniors Nate Peterson and Erika Thiede are cast as Mr. and Mrs. Symons.

Troy produced the show in collaboration with student Yexue Li, who developed the set and costume design as her senior project in theatre arts.

New Student Musical “Hope/Who’s Waldo” Premieres in Cloak Theatre

Lawrence University Musical Production, in conjunction with the Lawrence Theatre Arts department, presents “Hope/Who’s Waldo,” two one-act musicals presented within a single show.

The musical will be performed Friday, April 16 at 8 p.m. and Saturday April 17 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. in Lawrence’s Cloak Theatre in the Music-Drama Center, 420 E. College Ave., Appleton. Tickets, at $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and students, are available at the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

The new work written by senior Nikko Benson with stage direction by junior Andi Rudd, explores opposite ends of the musical theatre spectrum.

“Hope,” the first half of the show, follows the struggles of a group of refugees as they attempt to escape a genocidal government. Removed from any specific historical or cultural context, the story explores the darkness of the human experience, calling into question the purpose of hope itself.

“Who’s Waldo,” is a contrastingly lighthearted story about the title character. An amnesiac, Waldo embarks on a journey of self-discovery as he travels the world of classic literature, meeting other characters along the way.

As the second half of the musical, “Who’s Waldo” raises the question of comedy’s role and placement in a production. The story wants the audience to wonder whether comedy exists to help us forget tragedy or to give us the hope we need in order to face it.

British Comedy “The Storm or ‘The Howler'” Performed in Lawrence University’s Cloak Theatre

British playwright Peter Oswald’s “The Storm or ‘The Howler,'” an appalling mistranslation of Plautus’ Roman comedy “The Rope,” will be performed Feb. 18-20 by the Lawrence University department of theatre arts.

Show times will be Thursday, Feb. 18 and Friday, Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. with two shows on Saturday, Feb. 20 at 3 and 8 p.m. in Lawrence’s Cloak Theatre. Tickets, at $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and students, are available through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749. Due to suggestive content, this production may not be appropriate for anyone 16 years or younger.

While Oswald’s translation draws from the main plot of Plautus’ original comedy, he takes great liberties in retelling the story. First produced in 2005, “The Storm or ‘The Howler'” deals comically with freedom and loss and employs physical comedy, audience interaction and various anachronisms.

Kathy Privatt, associate professor of theatre arts and James G. and Ethel M. Barber Professor of Theatre and Drama, is directing the production. She says Oswald was having fun in giving his translation a double title.

“All the action of the play is set in motion by a storm and then the romp that follows will hopefully make the audience ‘howl’ with laughter,” said Privatt.

Plautus’ original comedy, written around 211 B.C., revolves around Palaestra, a young girl kidnapped by pirates at the age of three and sold into prostitution. When a storm causes a shipwreck, washing Palaestra ashore, she seeks shelter in a temple of Venus, where she is found by a slave. Comedic confrontations between slaves and masters, masters and pimps and pimps and slaves ensue.