Columbus State Theater
Our Country's Good
By Timberlake Wertenbaker
Directed by Sonda Staley
November 15 - 18, 2017 at 8pm
November 16, 2017 at 3pm
A leading London critic describes it as "highly theatrical, often funny and at times dark and disturbing, it sets an infant civilization on the stage with clarity, economy and insight as it relates the true story of the first theatrical performance in Australia." In June 1789 in the penal colony that was later to become the city of Sydney, a marine lieutenant decides to put on a play to celebrate the king's birthday. He casts the play with the English convicts who populate this distant Australian prison camp. Few of them can read, let alone act, and the play is being produced against a background of food shortages and barbaric punishments--brilliantly juxtaposed against the civilizing influence of theatrical endeavor. The "hangman," himself a convict, has been recruited along with a woman, wrongfully accused of stealing. Even as the play is being rehearsed, he measures her for a noose. Despite powerful and disturbing scenes, such as this, a London critic suggests "It's far from grim. Actually it's mostly funny!" "All people tend to become what society says they are! The Guardian critic writes "Our Country's Good is a triumph...a tribute to the transforming power of drama...It is heartening to find someone standing up for theatre's unique spiritual power."
The Cradle Will Rock
By Marc Blitzstein
Directed by Frank A. Barnhart
April 25 - 28, 2018 at 8pm
April 26, 2018 at 3pm
Performed in conjunction with the Humanities Department Music Program
In 1937 Orson Welles and John Houseman choose Marc Blitzstein's The Cradle Will Rock, a contemporary folk opera set against the backdrop of a steel strike, to produce for the Federal Theatre Project. Characters in the left-leaning work include fat-cat capitalists, brutal policemen, heroic union organizers, and a warm-hearted prostitute. While the play is going through rehearsal, violent labor action spreads throughout parts of United States. Simultaneously, conservative members of Congress attack WPA director Henry Hopkins and his liberal ideology, attempting to cut funding. Fearing The Cradle Will Rock's pro-labor message will cause further damage to the WPA, on the eve of opening night, federal authorities shut the production down. Welles travels to Washington to plead for a reversal -- there are 14,000 seats sold for the run of the play. Failing, he rushes back to New York, as an audience of 600 mill about the Federal Theater wondering if the show will indeed go on. Welles and Houseman telephone frantically to secure an alternate venue, and the cast and audience march 20 blocks across town to another theater. Blitzstein sits at a piano alone on stage; union rules prohibit Equity performers playing in what is now a non-union house. One by one, however, most of the actors voice their parts from their seats, to the applause and cheers of a delighted crowd. This break with the WPA gives birth to the Mercury Theater, which in various incarnations produces some of the most memorable productions of the '30s.
It Can't Happen Here
By Sinclair Lewis
Adapted by Tony Taccone/John C. Moffitt
Directed by Frank A. Barnhart
July 18 - 21, 2018 at 8pm
July 19, 2018 at 3pm
A cautionary dark satire about the fragility of democracy and how fascism can take hold even in the land of liberty, IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE follows the ascent of a demagogue who becomes president of the United States by promising to return the country to greatness. Witnessing the new president's tyranny from the sidelines is a liberal, middle-class newspaper editor from Vermont who trusts the system will fix itself—until he ends up in a prison camp. Sinclair Lewis' eerily prescient 1935 novel gets a fresh update in this adaptation that examines what brings a citizenry to the point of sacrificing its own freedom and how a courageous few can prevail to overcome the fall.
"...thrilling and grim...IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE is an argument for journalism as a basic pillar of democracy. ...The curious pronoun in Lewis's title, lacking an antecedent, may well refer to the rise of fascism in the United States. But a less literal reading of the title suggests that "it" is something more subtle: a collective apathy, born of ignorance, and a populace that can no longer make the kind of judgments that participatory democracy requires." —The New Yorker.
"IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE [drives] relentlessly toward believable, shudder-worthy horrors." —East Bay Express. "...deeply relatable...harrowing...[IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE's] point [is] that demagogues flourish when thinking but complacent members of a society fail to rise up and act as a collective." —San Francisco Chronicle.
"...a thought-provoking and effective reminder that democracies are fragile things." —Sfist.com.
Note: All performances are held in Nestor Auditorium