Quivering under the lights of the Hoerner Theatre, a nun will beg for her brother’s life in front of a corrupt politician. Later, a housewife, a prostitute and a steelworker will share the parallels of their lives through introspective song in the Clark Theatre.
The Ithaca College Theater Department’s upcoming season will explore student concerns of social justice, employment and pursuit of passion in relation to the individual with Shakespeare’s play “Measure for Measure,” Stephen Schwartz’s musical “Working” and Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.”
The department’s first spring production, “The Magic Flute,” will open Feb. 24. It features the story of Tamino, a prince lost in a distant land who quests for his other half with the aid of an enchanted flute.
David Lefkowich, lecturer in performance studies and director of the show, said the opera is a combination of tragedy and comedy.
“It has a romantic aspect, it has fighting, it has gods, a queen of the night who is an absolutely dastardly evil villainous character,” he said. “I want the audience to come in and have a rollicking great two and a half hours where they laugh, they cry, they reminisce, they truly have a theatrical experience.”
Brian DeMaris, assistant professor in performance studies and conductor of “The Magic Flute,” said Mozart smartly blends characters with their vocal presence, providing a learning opportunity for the singers.
“We want the students to realize that even fun, light Mozart is very challenging and detailed musically,” DeMaris said. “Every single character is vocally stretched and stretches the instrument beyond the boundaries that have been written for it up to that point. And in terms of blending the character with the voice, [Mozart] does that better in this opera than any other composer did.”
Lefkowich said the show is a metaphor for what goes on in every human’s mind because it brings to question the conflict of following the heart versus following career or professional desires.
“College is the perfect place for those kind of experiences to happen, like ‘What am I going to do when I graduate? What is my next step? Where am I going to go from here?’” Lefkowich said. “It’s an incredibly parallel experience for not only the singers, but the audience as they’re watching these characters in the show, and their stories unfold.”
The second production of the semester, “Working,” was composed by Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical “Wicked.” The show features music by popular folk singer James Taylor and is based on a book of the same title by Studs Terkel, an author who interviewed scores of everyday Americans in 1971 about what they thought of their jobs.
Junior Sam Gates, publicity associate for Ithaca College Theater, said the show takes on an unusual format. Its characters often break the fourth wall to reach the audience and describe working life, rather than interacting for the most part with each other, he said.
“Since it’s an ensemble piece it’s not a linear plotline,” Gates said. “It’s about representing the working man.”
The final show of the semester, “Measure for Measure,” is a piece by William Shakespeare about the Duke of Vienna, who feels he has lost his kingdom to lawlessness. In the play, Angelo becomes corrupted and bribes the novice nun Isabella, who has come to him in desperation because she wants to have her brother spared from execution for impregnating his unmarried sweetheart.
Wendy Dann, assistant professor of theater arts and director of “Measure for Measure,” said she wants the storyline to explore the intricacies of creating a healthy society through the application of law and just leadership.
“Shakespeare is playing with mixing elements of horror and comedy. In America, someone who does that would be like, Tim Burton,” she said. “You have elements of horror, where people’s heads are getting chopped off, where they’re getting thrown in jail for fornication — but it’s really funny.”