A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim) will play in rotation with James Goldman's The Lion in Winter in the University of Southern Indiana's spring 2011 Repertory Project.
Since 2007, the USI Theatre program and New Harmony Theatre, USI's professional summer company, have produced two plays in rotating repertory that blend professional actors with junior and senior students in USI's Department of Performing Arts.
The Repertory Project brings members of the Actors Equity Association to USI's Mallette Theatre stage, allowing students in acting and stage management to work with accomplished professionals and gain valuable points toward qualifying to join the exclusive and prestigious union. Many USI students are able to include professional Equity productions on their resumes even before graduating from USI - a distinction which puts the USI Department of Performing Arts in a league with the country's elite theatre programs.
Inspired by the farces of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus (251-183 BC), specifically Pseudolus, Miles Gloriosus and Mostellaria, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum tells the bawdy story of a slave named Pseudolus and his attempts to win his freedom by helping his young master woo the girl next door.
Eric Altheide, contract assistant professor of theatre, directs A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. "I have thrown out artistic pursuits in favor of explorations of timing, pratfalls and pole dancing," he said. "I have worried less about tugging at heart strings and more about tickling funny bones."
The Lion in Winter depicts the interpersonal relationships among members of the English royal family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of the year 1183. The play is set in the castle of King Henry II of England, located in Chinon, in the English-ruled region of France.
Elliot Wasserman, chair of the Department of Performing Arts and producing artistic director for New Harmony Theatre, directs The Lion in Winter. "Within the Medieval circumstances of the great king is the psychological narrative of a man losing his powers," Wasserman said. "Henry has greatness within him, and he cannot go quietly into the good night."
Actors' Equity Association members Richard Marlatt and Licia Watson appear as Senex and Domina in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and as Henry II and his wife Eleanor in The Lion in Winter.
The cast for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum also includes Alex Hellenberg, Meredith Woodard, Geoff Bach, Kevin Hawkins, Junius Jones, Joshua Smith, Lydia Abel, Hope Boeringa, Michele Rose, Emily Durchholz, Anachebe Asomugha, Emily Kirk, Tawni Morningstar, Rebecca Fortner, Preston Harris-Dunlap, Craig Patterson, Julian Velasquez, and Christen Kelley. Rick Hobbs, assistant professor of occupational therapy, assists as pianist for the production.
The cast for The Lion in Winter also includes recent USI graduates Kevin Bickwermert as Richard Lionheart and Kyle Rupert as Philip, King of France. Other USI students in the cast include Bridgette Hoover, Paul Mindrup, and Kaleb Sullivan.
The artistic team for both productions is Liz Reddick, stage manager and a member of the Actors' Equity Association, Robert Broadfoot, assistant professor of theatre, as scenic designer, Michael P. Frohling, contract assistant professor of theatre, as lighting designer, Shan Jensen, associate professor of theatre, as costume designer, and USI student Danny Kopp as sound designer.