In With the Old, In With the New

With the fall semester in full swing, the SUNY New Paltz Department of Theatre Arts’ fall production schedule is up and ready for viewing.

Each semester, the theatre arts faculty selects productions in numerous genres that present diversity to the campus. This means another line of shows including dramas, romantic comedies and musicals will be present on campus during the fall.

The theatre department will begin with the romantic comedy, “The Philadelphia Story”, opening Thursday, Oct. 2 in Parker Theatre.

According to the show’s director Brendan Burke, “The Philadelphia Story” is about the Lord family, a wealthy family of Main Line, Philadelphia, and brings up issues of love, more specifically love triangles, and the protagonists, Tracy’s lack of empathy and understanding for the weakness and faults of others.

Burke, a professor in the theatre arts department, said though the play is not modern what with its 1940s setting, the underlying messages are consistent even in changing times.

“It’s somewhat of a chestnut, but many of the universal themes have a modern feel—specifcally issues of privacy, class relations and how we judge one another and ourselves,” Burke said. Though Burke acknowledges the hardships the cast will have to face when presenting these themes in the present, he said he feels that  they are more than capable to take on the task.

“Casting is a fun, tough and hugely important part of the process,” Burke said.

The actors he chose are well matched to the characters of the play calling them, “honest, brave and willing to be playful within the given circumstances.”

The musical “Rent,” touching on subjects of drug-abuse, crime and tolerance, will arrive to McKenna Theatre on Thursday, Nov. 13.

Based upon Giacomo Puccini’s opera, “La bohème” (1896), about poor Parisian artists suffering with tuberculosis, “Rent” mirrors this idea with a more modern take.  It follows the lives of eight individuals in New York City’s East Village who either live with or know someone with HIV/AIDS, as well as heroin addiction.

“In the midst of difficult circumstance, you can choose love, you can choose life, you can embrace community and, most importantly, you can choose kindness,” said the director, Jack Wade, when speaking about the overall message of the play.

Wade said that an equal balance of major, minors and non-majors will be present on stage showing the diversity of the cast is matched to the characters they will be playing. Wade, who is also the chair and professor for the Department of Theatre Arts, said that when casting the musical he looked for students with strong stage presence: a triad of singing, dancing and acting.

Wade praised the production team and the design team, some who have previously worked on the school’s productions. The visiting light director, Driscoll Otto, is a leading lighting and projection designer from New York City.

Wade said he would like the audience members to focus on the issue of abuse.

“While there are a number of underlying themes and social issues in Rent, one of them is heroin use,” said Wade. “Given the developing national epidemic, and our regions recent spike in heroin related crime, Theatre Arts will be using this production as an opportunity to start a campus-wide conversation on heroin abuse and crime.”