SRJC theater takes a modern approach

Brittney Bailey, Staff Writer

The Theatre Arts Department at SRJC has an exciting line-up of plays this year that will deal with themes of “the journey” and identity.

“Theatre Arts has a thrilling 2010-2011 season that offers delicious treats for all ages,” Artistic Director Leslie McCauley said. “This season has something for everyone. This season is about journeys. The journey begins and ends with ancient tales told in fresh ways.”

The season will open in the beginning of October with Naomi Iizuka’s “Anon(ymous),” a “hip and poetic” rendition of Homer’s “The Odyssey.” It is a multicultural and youth-friendly (14 and up) retelling of the classic story, dealing with themes of modern culture and identity.

Debuting in November is “Willy Wonka,” an adaptation of the 1971 film version, starring Gene Wilder. Director Laura Downing-Lee calls it “visually spectacular and surprisingly timely.” The production will feature vocal direction by Jody Benecke and choreography by Carrie Stillman. Audience members will enjoy gorgeous scenery, outrageously complex and stunning costumes, and every special effect the cast and crew could think of, McCauley said. Be prepared to laugh, as the cast of “children” will be played by adults.

“Bring your kids, or anyone who grew up loving the book and two film versions of this story,” McCauley said.

In December, John Shillington will direct John Olive’s “The Voice of the Prairie,” which will be performed in the intimate Newman Auditorium accompanied by live music.

“This is a show people don’t know, but could easily turn into their favorite show,” McCauley said. “This sweet gem of a play is a love story, an adventure and a fond look back at simpler times. From a cheeky young blind girl to an innocently captivating storyteller—the characters will grab your heart.”

Debuting in March is “The Importance of Being Earnest.” This play, by literary genius Oscar Wilde, is one of the most popular comedies ever written. According to McCauley, it will be full of elaborate period costumes and will be highly quotable, with witty sayings and delightfully shallow and charming characters.

Finally, the season will close in April 2011 with “Jesus Christ Superstar,” a version totally unlike the dated 1970s film.

“We are taking the show contemporary with lots of urban edge, contemporary dance and references to today’s challenges in the Middle East,” McCauley said. The story examines the power of celebrity and will feature soaring rock voices, a rock band, stunning scenery and hip costumes. The production will feature music direction by Janis Dunson Wilson, vocal direction by Jody Benecke and choreography by Carrie Stillman and Lara Branen.

In a letter to the community, McCauley said performing arts are essential to creating a better society: “We believe that within the walls of a dark theatre there is a sacred exchange of energy that occurs between performers and audience. With you we celebrate our common humanity and walk away with a greater understanding of our place in this world.”