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Friday, January 01, 2010

Michigan Tech to compete in American College Theatre Festival; free performance of winning plays to be Jan. 2 at Rozsa

HOUGHTON -- The two one-act plays recently produced by Michigan Technological University's Visual and Performing Arts Department (VPA) -- "The Bald Soprano" and "The Lesson" -- have been selected to be performed at the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival (KC/ACTF). The Region III festival will be held at Saginaw Valley State University from Jan. 5 to 9, 2010.

In case you missed the October performance in Houghton, the cast will give a free performance of these two Eugene Ionesco plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 2, at the Rozsa Center.

"The Bald Soprano," a hilarious look at communication in daily life, and "The Lesson," a tragicomic view of communication between a teacher and a student -- or any authority figure and any innocent person -- were pioneering plays in the "theatre of the absurd." Eugene Ionesco, of Rumanian and French descent, is one of the best known playwrights of this literary movement, popular in the 1950s and 60s.

In 2007, the Théâtre de la Huchette in Paris celebrated 50 years of presenting these two plays, titled in French "La Cantatrice chauve" and "La Leçon." This very small, intimate theatre proved to be a successful venue for the plays, perhaps because of their intense, tragicomic qualities.

According to director Patricia Helsel, Michigan Tech assistant professor of theatre, the plays "tantalize with colorful and musical language in a circular plot full of contradictions, ironies and comical constructs," even as their meaning is easy to grasp.

In announcing the awards, the KC/ACTF selection committee cited Helsel’s creative interpretation of the Ionesco plays and her unique stylistic choices, as well as "outstanding production values and use of technology," particularly the play's use of projections and its scenic, sound and lighting designs.

Helsel joined Michigan Tech’s faculty in 2006. She has directed several plays, including the spring 2009 musical, "The Robber Bridegroom." Set designer Brock Nummerdor, lighting designer Frank Sopjes, costume designers Simone Boicourt and Esther Chuah, sound designer David Nichols, and stage manager Mike McKeller, plus the crew and eight of the nine actors, are Michigan Tech undergraduates.

"If we do well enough (in Saginaw) we perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC," notes cast member Charles Wallace. "We are trying things out on a new stage and we need audience members for support!! Hope you can make it!"

Pictures of the production can be seen on the web at

Editor's Note: Portions of this article are thanks to cast member Charles Wallace and to Dennis Walikainen, Michigan Tech News senior editor. Click here to read Walikainen's complete article about the Kennedy Center / ACTF honor.