Brian Jacobson

A farcical musical, Narnia tale and Wild West Shakespeare

By - Sep 7th, 2009 01:00 am


At first hearing that the educational theatre department at Cardinal Stritch University is putting on something called Urinetown, your eyebrows either perk up or furrow. Either you understand, or you don’t. The title comes from a musical that started Off-Broadway, then became a huge hit and Tony Award winner. Greg Kotis’ satirical musical comedy is set in the near future, where water has become scarce — forcing city governments to set up pay-toilet systems.  As can be imagined, the oppressed masses (busy crossing their legs) uprise against the crooked system. Romance, social commentary and intrigue abound. Plus, there are lots of jokes about urine, of course.

Faculty and members of the support system of this Franciscan institution were entranced when they saw the show in New York, so much so that they decided to produce the project that explored issues of morality and rebellion, with the students in mind. Even smaller studio pieces like Coyote on a Fence contain some R-rated material but still address social issues. After Oswald guided last year’s Doubt, it made sense to bring Bruce Graham’s hard-hitting topic (the death penalty and nature of evil) to life. It’s been taught in the curriculum for awhile now, and Oswald expects there to be discussions on campus.

Cardinal Stritch usually puts on a show for the juvenile set, too. About a dozen of the performances will be for schools, while the other three are scheduled for public audiences. This year’s production is an adaptation from C.S. Lewis’ Narnia epic called The Magician’s Nephew. It will be a one hour, one act play, allowing for just enough time to keep the target audience engrossed. How will they pull off a magical, mystical land? Much like Chamber Theatre’s version of Around the World in 80 Days; it will be one-part inventiveness with rear projections and masks. The other half will come from the audience’s imagination.

Finally, the school year finishes with Shakepeare’s Comedy of Errors. Inspired by a photograph he saw, Oswald toyed with the idea of setting Errors in the American western frontier. He says it’s not an original idea: American Players Theatre recently set its version in the 1940s. Theodore Komisarjevsky set his in a Toy Story kind of world and a 1975 version was actually set in the wild west. But this kind of full-scale adjustment hasn’t been seen in the Milwaukee area for some time. Oswald also plans to incorporate an era-appropriate soundtrack.

For more information about Cardinal Stritch’s Theatre program and other music events (including the Piano Festival) visit the university’s website or call 414-410-4171.


Categories: Theater

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