Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Grossmont College to present 'family-friendly' season at Stagehouse Theater

Beth Duggan
Grossmont College will offer a “family-friendly” schedule of theater productions in the 2013-2014 season, starting Oct. 3-12 with Pygmalion, the George Bernard Shaw play that was converted into the musical My Fair Lady, and ending May 8-17 with “a new spin” on Alice in Wonderland, according to Beth Duggan, chair of the Theatre Arts Department.

In between those two offerings, students will also act in, design costumes and build sets for such productions as To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday by Michael Brady (Nov. 14-23);  Follow Me by artist Dominic Pangborn (Dec. 6-7, followed by a tour of local elementary schools); Inside the Actors Process by Grossmont faculty member Jerry Hager (Feb. 7 and 8, followed by a tour of local high schools);  and You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown (Mach 13-22)

Whereas in some Grossmont College theatre seasons, plays with “adult language” have been featured,  and may again in the future, this season the theater arts department has decided to reach out to families so that they will feel comfortable bringing their children to the campus, said Steve Baker, the college’s dean of arts, language and communication.
Baker said that “family-friendly shows” were “a choice, not a mandate, at this college, where academic freedom is an important value.  Because this is a college, the arts cover a full range of subject matters, sometimes including controversial, adult subjects.  For this theater season, we have chosen a family-friendly theme.”

Duggan said that in selecting the plays to do in the 2013-2014 season, her department also took into consideration such factors as budget, the size of stage needed (The Stagehouse Theater seats 141 guests) and the necessity of exposing students to many different types of plays, ranging from a classic production such as Pygmalion to a musical like You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

, written by Shaw in 1912, is over a century old and therefore may be produced royalty-free, Duggan said.  The money saved in doing such a play can help defray the expenses for a musical that requires the hiring of a choreographer as well as a band, she said.

To put on Pygmalion, students will build three sets, two of which can be rotated on a turntable and the third of which can be moved on a track on and off the stage.  The sets will include the outside of an opera house, Henry Higgins’ library, and a room in his mother’s house.   Faculty member Jeannette Thomas will direct the play.

Duggan will direct the next play, To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, which tells of a family’s efforts  to get a young widower to resume his life after the death of his wife.  “This beautiful and poignant play examines the process of grief and the tenuous hope that comes with trying to move forward,” Duggan said.

She added that she has long wanted to produce this play, in part because she is drawn to productions set at the beach.   Previously the theater arts department had produced Seascape by Edward Albee, and Duggan confesses she’s been waiting for another opportunity to put a great big sandbox onto the stage.

Faculty member Jerry Hager, who became a beloved San Diego figure during the quarter century he worked as a mime at Seaport Village, will take both Follow Me and Inside the Actors Process respectively to elementary and high schools in a continuing Grossmont College program to expose public school pupils to the dramatic arts.  

Never wanting to overlook Grossmont College audiences, Hager will showcase  Follow Me at the Stagehouse Theatre Dec. 6 and 7, and Inside the Actors Processon Feb. 7 and 8.   Faculty member Susan Jordan DeLeon takes the director’s reins March 13-22 in the production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.  Grossmont College tries to produce at least one musical every two years, and the Charles Schultz cartoon strip-based musical comedy featuring Charlie, Snoopy, Linus and Lucy fits right in with the overall “family friendly” theme.

Hager will be back May 8-17 as director for Alice in Wonderland which takes Alice not through a rabbit hole, but in this version, into a carnival.  As Hager describes the play for a brochure, “Odd and eccentric characters and imaginative devices help set the stage for this fairytale adventure into a festival of mystery and magic. Alice is led down the road to discovery and haunted by questions about the astonishing illusions she encounters.  Come enjoy the enchantments and fantasy in this new adaptation of a beloved fable.”

Talking about this play, Duggan suddenly displayed a smile not unlike that of the Cheshire Cat.   “There’s a big surprise in it!” she said.  And, of course, she won’t tell anyone what it is!

In addition to the full productions, the Theater Arts Department will offer two staged readings to help raise funds for the drama program.   On Sept. 6 and 7,  at 7:30 p.m.,  faculty, staff and students will read selections from the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. “The Raven?”  Duggan was asked.  “That will be in there,” she promised.

On February 21 and 22, Jeannette Thomas will bring to the stage a play she wrote.  Misbehaving Women is based on the bumper sticker quotation that “well-behaved women seldom make history.”   In Thomas’s production, audiences meet such history-making women as Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein);  labor leader Mary Harris Jones;  women’s suffrage leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton;  stagecoach driver Mary Fields; Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger;  civil rights Activist Rosa Parks; and astronaut Sally Ride.

“It’s going to be a fun year!” Duggan said.

Tickets for all Stagehouse Theater productions as well as a discounted season packages can be obtained online at
www.grossmont.edu/theatrebrochure, or the box office’s 24-hour message line at (619) 644-7234.  All major credit cards are accepted.