By Keith Martin
BOONE, N.C. -- Appalachian State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance is announcing its 2021-2022 slate of eight productions showcasing the talents of Appalachian students, staff, and faculty, returning to the stage with in-person performances for the first time in 18 months.
Professor Michael Helms, Theatre and Dance department chair, said, “We are delighted to return to the stage this season and reunite artists and audiences after an absence due to the pandemic, and have taken precautionary measures to ensure a safe space for our audiences, actors and production crew.” Performances are scheduled in various venues around campus from September 2021 through April 2022 with affordably priced tickets available on the department’s website and at the Schaefer Center box office.
Professor Martha Marking co-chaired the season selection committee with colleague Derek Gagnier, a select group comprised of six faculty and two students from the department. They began the year-long selection process in April 2020, reading and evaluating submissions from faculty, staff, and students who were encouraged to submit scripts to the committee. More than 80 titles were submitted for consideration.
“We tried to balance the season with work from diverse playwrights, recent works, and contemporary and classical scripts,” said Marking. “This particular season, we were searching for a smaller musical and a classic play because they are part of our ‘rotation’ as an educational institution.” She said the classic was chosen to coincide the 400th anniversary of the birth of French playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molière, and that the musical chosen is set in North Carolina and available in a concert version, an important consideration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The season selection committee sought work from diverse playwrights that could be produced respectfully without cultural appropriation. Marking said she is particularly pleased with the choice of works by a Native American author and a Pulitzer Prize in Drama finalist by a Black playwright whose works have not yet been produced in the High County.
“And of course,” Marking said, “Our wonderful and innovative Appalachian Dance Ensemble anchors this season with concerts in both the fall and spring that highlight original choreography of both faculty and students.”
Here are the 2021-2022 App State Theatre and Dance productions, in chronological order:
First Year Showcase: In Our Bubbles...
Directed by Marianne Adams and Dr. Gina Grandi
September 24 and 25, 7 p.m., September 26 at 2 p.m., I.G. Greer Studio Theatre
The First Year Showcase is the annual season opener for the Department of Theatre and Dance and is open to all first-year students interested in majoring or minoring in any of the six different degree concentrations within the department. App State students are responsible for the creation and performance of the show, which this year is focused around the theme of "In Our Bubbles...." The 2021 First Year Showcase will utilize outdoor campus spaces to create site specific performance works. Audience members will enjoy guided walks departing from the I.G. Greer Studio Theatre to view each of the dances and theatre vignettes in locations around App State’s campus.
The Thanksgiving Play
By Larissa FastHorse
Directed by Dr. Derek Davidson and Teresa Lee
September 29 through October 2 at 7 p.m., October 3 at 2 p.m., Valborg Theatre
In “The Thanksgiving Play,” good intentions collide with absurd assumptions in Larissa FastHorse’s wickedly funny satire, as a troupe of terminally “woke” teaching artists scrambles to create a pageant that somehow manages to celebrate both Turkey Day and Native American Heritage Month. Playwright FastHorse (a proud member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation) is a 2020 MacArthur Fellow, award-winning writer and choreographer, and co-founder of Indigenous Direction, the nation's leading consulting company for Indigenous arts and audiences. The New York Times said, “The familiar, whitewashed story of Pilgrims and Native Americans chowing down together gets a delicious roasting from expert farceurs.” The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “Very, very funny. ‘The Thanksgiving Play’ skewers liberal pretensions with glee – this clever satire is something for which to be truly thankful.” Produced by special arrangement with Concord Theatricals.
Bright Star: Concert Version
By Steve Martin and Edie Brickell
Directed by Keith Martin
November 3 through 6 at 7 p.m., November 7 at 2 p.m., Valborg Theatre
Inspired by a true story and featuring the Tony®-nominated score by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Broadway’s “Bright Star” tells a sweeping tale of love and redemption set against the rich backdrop of the American South in North Carolina of the 1920s and ‘40s. When literary editor Alice Murphy meets a young soldier just home from World War II, he awakens her longing for the child she once lost. Haunted by their unique connection, Alice sets out on a journey to understand her past. What she finds has the power to transform both of their lives. With beautiful melodies and powerfully moving characters, the story unfolds as a rich tapestry of deep emotion. An uplifting theatrical journey that holds you tightly in its grasp, “Bright Star” is as refreshingly genuine as it is daringly hopeful. Produced by special arrangement with Theatrical Rights Worldwide.
Fall Appalachian Dance Ensemble (FADE) 2021
November 17 through 20 at 7 p.m., November 21 at 2 p.m., Valborg Theatre
This popular annual concert features Appalachian faculty and students showcasing their talents in choreography and performance. The 2022 spring concert is scheduled to include work by Dance Studies faculty members Susan Lutz and Sherone Price, with other choreographers to be announced.
The Bourgeois Gentleman
By Molière, translated by Bernard Sahlins
Directed by Derek Gagnier
February 23 through 26 at 7 p.m., February 27 at 2 p.m., Valborg Theatre
“Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme” is a 1670 work by renowned French playwright Molière. In “The Bourgeois Gentleman,” a new translation of the original play by Bernard Sahlins, Molière's beloved comedy features a rising member of the middle class who lusts for social status and higher learning. The strength of the play lies in its rich comic invention and its sure delineation of character. Its underlying themes of social striving, financial greed, and love's ingenuity still resonate. Molière surely knew how to make a joke, and he was a skilled inventor of comic situations. His lasting appeal is a product of his brilliant employment of these talents in the service of character rather than gags, of behavior rather than comment. Produced by special arrangement with Concord Theatricals.
Spring Appalachian Dance Ensemble (SADE) 2022
March 23 through 26 at 7 p.m., March 27 at 2 p.m. Valborg Theatre
This popular annual concert features Appalachian faculty and students showcasing their talents in choreography and performance. The 2022 spring concert is scheduled to include work by Dance Study faculty members Laurie Atkins, Emily Daughtridge and Sherone Price.
Adapted and Directed by Teresa Lee
April 8 at 7 p.m., April 9 and 10 at 2 p.m., I.G. Greer Studio Theatre
The Appalachian Young People's Theatre (AYPT) touring outreach program will celebrate its 50th anniversary year in April 2022. Plans are underway for myriad events, including a reunion of former students, directors, faculty, and staff who participated in AYPT over its first half-century of bringing live, family-friendly, theatre-for-youth productions to generations of children throughout the High Country and beyond. With “Appalachian Echoes,” AYPT will pay tribute to the heritage of our mountain region with stories passed down by local residents, as adapted by Teresa Lee. The play recalls the “hard knock” life and adventures of growing up in the 1930s and ‘40s as seen through the eyes of an Appalachia child.
By Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Directed by Joel Williams
April 20 through 23 at 7 p.m., April 24 at 2 p.m., Valborg Theatre
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' modern riff on the fifteenth-century morality play Everyman follows Everybody (chosen from amongst the cast by lottery at each performance) as they journey through life’s greatest mystery—the meaning of living. Finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize. “This is theatre rather unlike anything you might have seen…unusual, unconventional and eye-opening…Everyman is no barrel of laughs, being a morality play about death. “Everybody” tells the same tale, with equal emotional heft; but it is not only provocative and involving, it is also funny. Wildly funny, in fact.” - Huffington Post. Jacobs-Jenkins is a Residency Five playwright at Signature Theatre and a Lila Acheson Wallace Fellow at the Juilliard School. His honors include the Paula Vogel Award in Playwriting, the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award, and the inaugural Tennessee Williams Award. Produced by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service.
About the Department of Theatre and Dance
The Department of Theatre and Dance is one of seven departments housed in Appalachian's College of Fine and Applied Arts. Its mission is to facilitate transformative experiences for students and the public, which cultivate compassionate, creative and collaborative communities through theatre and dance. The department also offers coursework for integrated learning through the arts to the general university student population. Its dynamic co-curricular production program provides exemplary theatre and dance experiences to departmental students, the university community and the region.
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls over 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.