Stanford TAPS Reclaims EVITA's Legacy with Two Versions of the Musical's Leading Lady

By: May. 29, 2015

Stanford University's DEPARTMENT OF THEATER & PERFORMANCE STUDIES (TAPS) closes its 2014-15 performance season with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Tony Award-winning rock opera EVITA.

Recipient of the 1979 Tony Award for Best Musical, Evita tells the passionate and moving true story of Argentine First Lady Eva Perón and her rapid ascent from poverty to fame and power. Told through an award-winning score featuring Latin, pop, and jazz music, Evita follows the memorable journey of one of history's most controversial female politicians.

Presented on MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM'S MAIN STAGE - a venue used by the TAPS department less than once a decade - Evita opens May 28th, 2015 and runs through May 30th for a limited run of three 8PM performances. Tickets are $5-$15, on sale now at http://taps.stanford.edu.

Director and TAPS senior SAMMI CANNOLD's Stanford credits include LES MISERABLES; Violet: the Musical; and Machinal. Beyond the university, Cannold has also worked on the Tony Awards and Broadway productions of Beautiful: the Carole King Musical; Porgy and Bess (1st Ntnl); and Finding Neverland.

The culmination of over a year of research and preparation by Cannold, this production of Evita exemplifies Stanford's emphasis on interdisciplinary scholarship and cross-campus collaborations. Not only did Cannold travel to Buenos Aires and Juni?n, Argentina to interview Argentinians and gain primary research on the legacy of Eva Peron, but also, in the first partnership of its kind, TAPS is partnering with THE HOOVER INSTITUTION LIBRARY & ARCHIVES to showcase their world-class Peron collection in the lobby of Memorial Auditorium. Featuring items from Pero?nist Argentina, including several belonging to Juan and Eva Peron themselves, the collection and partnership represent the unique ways that scholarship and art intersect at Stanford.

This ability to study the complex life of Eva Peron is precisely what drew Cannold to direct Evita. "Examining the life of a historical figure is an optimal way to get in touch with how we view our own life stories," Cannold says. "When I first saw Evita, I immediately connected with it because there is something so raw, emotional, and familiar about Eva and her drive for success. To me, Evita is a portrait of a woman so extraordinary in her desire to break the mold of mortality, to be powerful in a culture where women were not, and to make an irrevocable mark on the world she would leave behind far too soon."

Through this musical-itself the spark of much controversy since 1978-Cannold ultimately aims to ignite dialogue amongst the Stanford community and "provide a new perspective on Eva that enables audiences to understand what drove her and her ambition." Evita not only examines Eva's disputed legacy, but also looks at more general and contemporary concerns, including the topic of society's views on women with political ambitions - a particularly relevant subject given the upcoming presidential election.

This production of Evita uniquely features a representation of Eva Peron (Santa Evita) whose purpose is to reclaim her own legacy. In most productions of Evita, the critique on Eva's life is one sided-told by a male cynic named Che. This production attempts to balance that dialogue and the issues with a male narrator being the final word on a heroine's legitimacy as a female figure by putting a second version of Eva into the piece to defend her choices with transcendent perspective equal to Che's. The hope is that this gives audiences the power to evaluate that legacy with information from both sides and ultimately, to decide about their opinions on Eva, on power, and on success themselves.

Cannold, the cast, and the creative team found additional reward in bringing Eva and early- 20th century Argentina to the stage: "The cast and I met with Peronist scholars and have done a lot of research together, in addition to going through every word of the text to mine it for any and all historical context we can pull out," Cannold says. "I think that this show lives and dies on the belief that the people of Argentina truly adored Eva and Juan Pero?n, and this ensemble has been tireless in conveying that passion."

Set Designer ERIK FLATMO uses the large stage of Memorial Auditorium-the first time the Department has used the space in nearly two decades- to the show's advantage. He elaborates, "One of the things that I found in looking at [archival] photos of Eva was that she really wanted to portray this beautiful, glamorous image of herself. Since Memorial Auditorium is such a large space, we decided to take this iconic, mythmaking idea and use it as a broad gesture of the set."

Furthering Cannold and Flatmo's efforts to bring Eva to life on stage are a talented team of designers, including costume designers CONNIE STRAYER (TAPS faculty) and RENO TSOSIE ('15); projection designer STEPHEN HITCHCOCK ('18); and lighting designer MATT LATHROP ('16).

DETAILS:

Evita, the Musical
by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice; Directed by Sammi Cannold
Stanford Department of Theater & Performance Studies (TAPS)
May 28-30 at 8pm
Memorial Auditorium, Stanford University
$5 for students; $10 for seniors (55+); $10 for Stanford faculty/staff; $15 general admission.
Tickets at http://taps.stanford.edu

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