When you think Broadway show, what comes to mind? “Annie, Get Your Gun,” “Rent,” “The Summer of 42 …” Wait, “Summer of 42?” This musical is scheduled to hit Broadway next season, but a few people on campus might have already seen it. That”s because “Summer of 42” owes at least a portion of its future success to the University of Michigan”s New Works Festival. The play debuted at the University, under construction, in June of 1999 in the Festival”s first year on campus.
The Festival of New Works, artistically directed for three years by playwright Frank Gagliano, helped to showcase “Summer of 42” and many other plays, musicals and screenplays in the last two years, and will continue to provide this special and unique opportunity in 2001. In fact, the Festival is the only vehicle in the country for dramatic writing that undertakes production for all three forms of media in one season, and Gagliano and his associate, Mary Lou Chlipala, have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this summers Festival.
Arthur Miller attended the Festival in the summer of 1999 and said that he believes “… this kind of commitment of the University of Michigan to new plays can enhance the art of dramatic writing in this country. I hope it takes off and flies.”
But don”t buy tickets for this year”s upcoming plays expecting to see a finished product. The element of the Festival of New Works that makes it so original is the fact that the productions are in developmental stages. It provides writers with a venue to show their pieces in front of an audience with professional actors and directors so that they can see what works and what needs a little adjusting. Afterwards, there is an audience discussion with the crew in order to provide input about a show that may eventually find its way into a major production.
The plays go through an intense ten-day rehearsal period, where a majority of the people involved meet for the first time and get ready for two public performances in the Freize building. This weekend”s show, “Divided,” is a play written by Tony award-winning playwright Mel Shapiro and directed by Seth Gordon.
It has all the elements necessary for a story of international intrigue: A beautiful, brilliant scientist in love with two men one of whom mysteriously appears in her life riding a shopping cart and putting her marriage, career and life into jeopardy. The plot centers around nuclear waste disposal activism, radioactive world threat and kidnapping in this complex play heavily punctuated with Shapiro”s trademark wit.
Senior Sandra Abrevaya has a starring role in “Divided”, and, as a rare added bonus, theater icon Zelda Fichlander will be speaking before the June 15 performance.
Tickets are on sale now for the Friday and Saturday performances in the Trueblood Theatre at 8 p.m. for those of you that want to experience raw theater at its best.