UNC School of the Arts Opens BABBITT, 4/4; MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, 3/29
A momentous confluence of events will bring a world premiere and an American premiere to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) the weekend of April 5-7.
UNCSA will present the world premiere of David Rambo's Babbitt, adapted from the satirical novel by Sinclair Lewis, April 4-14, and the American premiere of Shakespeare's spirited comedy Much Ado About Nothing with Erich Wolfgang Korngold's complete score in a fully staged production March 29-April 7. Both productions will be presented on the UNCSA campus, located at 1533 South Main St., Winston-Salem.
"Only at a university such as ours can a weekend of ground-breaking stage productions such as these be fully realized," said UNCSA Chancellor John Mauceri, a world-renowned conductor with Grammy, Tony and Emmy awards to his credit. "With conservatories of drama, music, design & production, dance, and filmmaking, UNCSA has the unique capability to bring its expertise to bear on creating historically significant performances."
The founding director of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Mauceri has carved a distinguished and extraordinary career that has taken him not only to the world's greatest opera companies and symphony orchestras, but also the musical stages of Broadway and Hollywood.
Babbitt is directed by guest artist John Dillon, who is known for staging new works around the world by playwrights such as David Mamet, Romulus Linney, Larry Shue, and David Rambo. In addition to authoring numerous plays and adaptations, David Rambo wrote and/or produced "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" - the most-watched TV program in the world - for seven seasons and has a new series, "NYC 22," premiering on CBS on April 15.
Set in the 1920s, Sinclair Lewis' novel introduces George Babbitt, a prosperous partner at a real estate firm in the fictitious town of Zenith. An everyman who conforms without question to prevailing upper-middle-class standards, Babbitt eventually becomes dissatisfied with the American Dream and turns away from materialism, greed and commercialism - themes being played out today with the Occupy movement.
Rambo's lively stage adaptation will vividly reflect the colorful and raucous "Roaring Twenties" - but will also send a serious message by conveying the importance of substance over style. "The themes are amazingly contemporary," said Chancellor Mauceri, who is a close personal friend of Rambo, who adapted the screenplay of SUNSET BOULEVARD for the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra's unique performance of the screenplay with the complete Academy Award-winning score of Franz Waxman played as underscoring.
"That was one of the unique moments in the Bowl's history, and the very first time a complete film score was played live to a live performance of a screenplay - not the showing of the film," Mauceri noted.
Interestingly, the upcoming UNCSA production of Much Ado About Nothing will mark the first time the complete Korngold score has been performed with the Shakespeare play in the United States. Indeed, it will be the first fully integrated production since the music was outlawed by the Nazis in 1933.
"This UNCSA production will afford audiences the rare opportunity to experience a type of theatre which was an entire genre from the 18(th) century to the first part of the 20th and is now, for all practicality, extinct," said Chancellor Mauceri, who is Musical Director for Much Ado. "Before there was movie music, there were fully staged plays with orchestral music played live, in the pit. Now, we have the opportunity to bring that magnificent art form back to life once again," said Mauceri, who is perhaps the world's foremost expert on film music.
A new edition of the score has been prepared by the music-publishing house, Schott, in collaboration with Maestro Mauceri for these performances. The original conductor's score (used by Korngold) and the set of parts used for the world premiere performances photocopied from the Austrian National Archives (Oesterreichische Nationalbibliothek) have been made available to guide the restoration.
"Just as Beethoven wrote music for Goethe's Egmont, and Schubert composed for the stage (Rosamunde), Mendelssohn (A Midsummer Night's Dream), Tchaikovsky (Hamlet), Shostakovich (Hamlet), Prokofiev (Eugene Onegin), and Sibelius (The Tempest) are just a few of the great composers whose work for the dramatic stage is simply unaffordable in today's professional theatre economy," Chancellor Mauceri continued. "It is my hope that in recreating this form of symphonic theatre, the public might better understand that music for the cinema is part of a much older tradition that emanates from Europe's great theatres."
Much Ado about Nothing will be directed by UNCSA School of Drama Assistant Dean Bob Francesconi, distinguished teacher of acting, movement and mask, who has served on the faculty since 1978.
The Much Ado cast features the fourth-year undergraduate students in UNCSA's School of Drama. The chamber orchestra comprises high school, college and graduate instrumentalists in the university's School of Music, and will be conducted by Chancellor Mauceri.
The scenic designs for Much Ado are by John V. Bowhers, a fourth-year college student in the university's School of Design & Production and the winner of the 2012 U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology's W. Owen Parker Award, the highest award for a student scenic designer in the United States. The costumes will be designed by UNCSA's Christine Turbitt, Director of the Costume Design and Technology Program, who has served on the UNCSA faculty since 1974.
The large Babbitt cast features the third-year undergraduate students in UNCSA's School of Drama.
The scenic designs for Babbitt are by Katie Dill, a college senior in the School of Design & Production, who has created a large archway modeled after a Mobius strip that symbolizes Babbitt's journey. It will be painted as a mural of art deco images depicting the city of Zenith and its suburbs. Babbitt costume design is by third-year student Andrea Washington.
All elements of both productions will be constructed by the students of the school, under the mentorship of their professional faculty.
Much Ado performances will take place in Agnes De Mille Theatre on the UNCSA campus, at 8 p.m. March 29-31 and April 5-7, and at 2 p.m. March 31 and April 7.
Babbitt performances will take place in the Catawba Theatre of Performance Place on the UNCSA campus, at 8 p.m. April 4-7 and 11-14, and at 2 p.m. April 14.
For more information and ticket reservations, contact the UNCSA Box Office at 336-721-1945, or visit www.uncsa.edu/performances.
As America's first state-supported arts school, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem ("The City of Arts and Innovation") in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.