UW School of Drama's Valerie Curtis-Newton Directs Lanford Wilson's 'Fifth of July'

University of Washington faculty member Valerie Curtis-Newton, Head of MFA Performance and Directing, directs the second-year Professional Actor Training Program (PATP) students as they tackle the complex characters of Lanford Wilson's Fifth of July. This is the second show in the 2013-2014 season and it offers the School of Drama students an opportunity to experience the challenges associated with taking on meaty ensemble acting roles.

Curtis-Newton reminds us that "It's really a play about relationships and how people struggle to feel vital in a world that has dramatically changed around them. It brilliantly asks the question, 'What do you do when the fireworks are over?'" It's often considered a play way ahead of its time for the way it addresses family politics and sexual identity.

Set in rural Missouri in 1977, Fifth of July revolves around the Talley family and focuses on their disillusionment with America in the wake of the Vietnam War. Wilson's poignant play is rife with acting challenges while actively confronting many American taboos.

Curtis-Newton explains, "The Talley family and friends are fun. They're passionate. They embody the late-60s to mid-70s, and struggle to reconcile their desire to keep fighting with the almost overwhelming sense of fatigue that has befallen them." Like Trouble in Mind, which Curtis-Newton directed with much acclaim at the Intiman Theatre Festival this past summer, Fifth of July challenges its characters, and its audience, to do better; to keep fighting even when the battle, or war, appears to be over.

Cast members include: Justin Crabtree, Christopher Donoghue, Sunam Ellis, Jon-Erik Hegstad, Anna Lamadrid, Joseph Ngo, Andrea Salaiz and Skylar Tatro.

Performances are Wednesday-Saturday at 7:30 pm. Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets range from $10-20 and are available online or over the phone through the UW Arts Ticket Office, 206-543-4880 / drama.uw.edu/performances. The UW Arts Ticket Office is located at 1313 NE 41st Street, open Monday-Friday, 11 am-6 pm.

About Valerie Curtis-Newton

Curtis-Newton is an Artistic Associate at ACT - A Contemporary Theatre and serves as the Artistic Director for The Hansberry Project, a professional African American theatre lab. She was previously the Artistic Director of Seattle's Ethnic Cultural Theatre and Hartford's Performing Ensemble, Inc. and has worked with Actors' Theatre of Louisville, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Intiman Theatre, Seattle Children's Theatre, The Mark Taper Forum, New York Theatre Workshop, Tacoma Actors' Guild, Southern Repertory Theatre, Capitol Repertory Theatre, and Northwest Asian American Theatre.

About The University of Washington School of Drama

The UW School of Drama celebrates, develops and prepares for employment the 21st century artist through innovative education, practical application and connection to the world of performing art.

For almost 75 years it has served as one of this country's leading training institutions for theatre artists and scholars. Twenty one faculty and 20 staff members serve 150 undergraduate majors and 45 graduate students. For 20 years Sarah Nash Gates has led the department as Executive Director. The 2013-2014 Season marks her final season at the University of Washington as she prepares for retirement at the end of the 2014 school year.

The School of Drama offers a four-year undergraduate liberal arts education, Masters of Fine Arts degrees in acting, design, and directing, and a PhD in theatre history and criticism. Internationally, students may study and present work at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and in Pontlevoy, France as The Drama Collective. Faculty and alumni have founded theatres such as ACT (Seattle), Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Empty Space Theatre, Wing-it Productions, and most recently, the Washington Ensemble Theatre and Azeotrope.

The School of Drama is partnering with the School of Music and Dance Program to offer a new interdisciplinary BA Program in Musical Theatre. This Musical Theatre pilot program will be offered, starting in the Fall of 2013, by the College of Arts & Sciences Individualized Studies Program.

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