The Underground Theatre, a summer theater collaborative, is in preparation for their four-show lineup this July with the support of the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance. The summer series will be the theater’s third official season, which will be led by co-artistic directors and WSU students Kate Martinez and Jared Morin.
Opening July 7, the summer theme “The Fates We Choose” will be launching with “The Witch of Edmonton” by William Rowley, Thomas Dekker and John Ford. Others shows include: “Be a Good Little Widow” by Bekah Brunstetter, “Gallathea” by John Lyly and “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” by Bert V. Royal.
According to Morin, a junior pursuing dual degrees in English and theater, all four productions have a universal theme.
“They have a lot to do with the choices we make, the power (of) fate and how those play and fight with each other,” he said.
Morin has also adapted the production of “The Witch of Edmonton,” the first production of the season, which he will also be performing in. The production centers Elizabeth Sawyer, an elderly woman who sells herself to the devil as a form of revenge for being shunned by those surrounding her.
Many of the production themes tackle difficult and relatable topics that many students face, involving revenge, grief from loss, sexuality, domestic violence, drug usage and eating disorders.
The second production of the season, “Be a Good Little Widow,” a sad comedy, follows the life of a widow grieving her husband, who died in a plane crash. In the third production, “Gallathea,” a daring stage play of its time, portrays the god Poseidon, who demands a village to sacrifice their fairest virgin — in fear, two fathers dress up their two daughters as boys. The daughters ultimately end up falling in love with each other. “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” which is the last production of The Underground’s third season, is a drama for younger audiences. The production tells the story of a man who questions his sexuality and social status after losing his dog.
“Although it may be difficult to get comfortable with these topics and creating around them and discussing them, you have to,” Morin said. “Theater is about being different, and right now we’re living in a world where it can be very unsafe to be different. So we’re going to laugh in the face of that fear and that hate, and we’re gonna choose to be different. We’re gonna make some noise.”
Jake Rydell, a WSU sophomore theater major, plays the role of Craig in “Be a Good Little Widow” and the characters of Cupid and Dick in “Gallathea.”
“Theater reflects reality,” Rydell said. “And more often than not, the reality is that domestic violence and substance abuse are very real problems. The least we can do as artists and social activists is shed light on some of the issues that seemed to have been pushed aside and repressed like a bad memory.”
Of the four, Rydell said the production of “Be a Good Little Widow” speaks to him the most. Rydell plays the role of Craig, a recently married corporate lawyer, who is caught in the midst of his mother’s rivalry with his wife.
“(The production) has a number of themes that hit pretty close to home,” Rydell said. “A number of events parallel things that have happened in my life.”
According to Morin and Rydell, The Underground Theatre is an experimental ensemble, but more of a family with a purpose to push past the surface of traditional theater.
“With shows in the style of the Hilberry, often the intent is to entertain an audience and to grow as performers and designers under the guidance of the program,” Rydell said. “With The Underground, the intent seems to be more akin to reaching further into our own creative minds, being provocative, being an independent company. We often exercise our creative ability and what we do to accompany that, is spend time learning about ourselves and each other.”
Morin explained that theater calls for work on all sides from all artists involving a lot of work, communication and problem solving.
“The process involved with artistic directing is not easy,” he said. “However, with Kate as my partner, we’ve really achieved a harmony between us that made the season fall into place with ease.”
Preparing for a successful summer series, cast and crew are putting in at least 10-15 hours of work each week, according to Morin.
“This is not the theater you know,” Morin said. “It’s an experience. Be ready. Get excited.”
The Underground Theatre will be running morning, afternoon and evening showtimes July 7-30. Student tickets are $10. To see the live performances, purchase tickets here or by calling 313-577-2972. All performances will take place in The Studio Theatre, located at the lower level of the Hilberry Theatre.
Contact Arts and Entertainment Editor Mayssa Masri at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-924-7406. Follow her on Twitter: @MayssaMasri
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