American composer Lee Hoiby’s operatic treatment of Tennessee Williams’ “Summer and Smoke” will be presented at the Creative Arts Center, Feb. 4-6.
“Summer and Smoke,” a story of longing and unrequited love, is a co-production of the WVU Division of Theatre and Dance and the WVU Division of Music, accompanied by the WVU Symphony Orchestra.
Performances will be held Thursday and Friday, Feb. 4 and 5, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 6, at 2 p.m. in the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre.
Described in the New York Post after its 1972 premiere as “our most successful American opera to date,” the two-act treatment is considered one of Hoiby’s most famous works.
The story centers on a high-strung minister’s daughter, Alma Winemiller, and the romance that nearly blossoms between her and the wild and undisciplined Dr. John Buchanan. “Alma” is the Spanish word for soul, and the play is Williams’ illumination of the pull between spirituality and physical desire.
“We find another tragic heroine in Alma that reflects Tennessee Williams’ own struggles with sexuality, passion, freedom and the confines society places upon us all,” said Lee Blair, production director and WVU assistant professor of acting.
The WVU production of “Summer and Smoke” features a unique staging. WVU voice students have been cast as alternating leads, with Marissa Bloom and Sarah Nale alternating in the role of Alma; Justin Barclay and Joshua Stubbs alternating in the role of Dr. John Buchanan; and MaryJoanna Grisso and Jeanne Nestor alternating in the role of Nellie Ewell, Alma’s primary competition for the attention of Dr. Buchanan.
“For this production, we have two different music students playing the main characters of Alma, John and Nellie on alternate nights. This is so that more students can have stage experience, but also so that they can rest their voices. These roles are vocally challenging,” said director Blair.
Frostburg State University and WVU voice professor William Koehler and voice students Cynthia Ortiz-Bartley, Karina Sweeney and Nathan Costella round out the cast with theatre students Brittany Jo Sowards, Brian Edelman, Laura Peters, Daniel Evans, T.D. Berkich, Cody Riggins, Daniel Evans, Megan Massie and Matthew Webster.
Musical direction is at the helm of Robert Thieme, director of the WVU Opera Theatre.
This is the third musical collaboration for professors Blair and Thieme. They first worked together on last season’s “Urinetown: The Musical,” continuing their collaboration last September with the musical review “And the World Goes ‘Round.”
“Robert and I have done three musicals together in the past year and a half and we have a really good working relationship, a nice collaboration, although we come to any project from different perspectives,” Blair said.
“This is the first opera I have directed, although I have directed lots of musicals. It is different in that music is involved in all the action. Opera doesn’t stop for a spoken scene. It is truly all combinedmusic, lyric, text, story, and action,” he added.
Other Mountaineers involved in the production include lighting designer Alan McEwen, assistant professor of lighting design, production manager Steven Neuenschwander, clinical assistant professor of technical direction, technical director Ben Lauer, stage manager Janna Jarrett, and assistant stage manager Krista White.
Costume design is by Shana McDonaldson and scenic design is by Andrew Moeggenborg, with assistance and supervision from Robert Klingelhoefer, assistant professor of scene design and Mary McClung, associate professor of costume design.
The original Williams’ work was first performed at the Music Box Theatre in New York City in the fall of 1948.
In 1952, Geraldine Page played the lead role of Alma in a revival of “Summer and Smoke,” directed by Josť Quintero at the newly founded Circle in the Square Theatre.
Page’s legendary performance is credited with the beginning of the Off-Broadway movement. Page went on to portray Alma in the 1961 film adaptation of “Summer and Smoke,” which also featured Academy-award winner Rita Moreno.
For tickets to “Summer and Smoke,” call the Mountainlair or CAC Box Offices at (304) 293-SHOW. Special ticket prices are available for groups of ten or more.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
304-293-4841 ext. 3108, Charlene.Lattea@mail.wvu.edu