VERMILLION, S.D. -- Really old and really new plays are among the diverse productions planned this year by the University of South Dakota Department of Theatre, beginning with one of William Shakespeare’s earliest romantic comedies.
Love, lust and deception combine with laughter and music in the contemporary staging of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” which runs Sept. 28-Oct. 9. It is directed by third-year master of fine arts student Rebecca Bailey, who used the play as her thesis, following her production of “Venus in Fur” last fall. Bailey has infused the production with current music, including a 15-minute live pre-show prior to the start of the play, much like Shakespeare did 400 years ago.
Written around 1590, the light-hearted comedy may well be his first play. The title characters Valentine (Braeden Garrett) and Proteus (Trevor Hudson) are best friends: Proteus loves Julia (Meghan Cameron), but when Valentine meets and falls in love with Sylvia, Proteus decides that he, too, is in love with Sylvia (Allie Verry). Complications both dangerous and comical arise as the quartet of naive young characters attempts to sort out love and friendship. Their youthful follies are contrasted by the older and wiser servants.
For Bailey, the play is about the power of love: “We see love represented as that between friends and lovers. I think at the heart of this story’s love is youth.”
“The Two Gentlemen of Verona” also features the only dog in all of Shakespeare’s plays, Crab, the scene-stealing pet of the equally comic servant Launce. Crab is portrayed on the USD stage by a dog from Heartland Humane Society. Playing Launce is Christa Gesicki, who has the unenviable task of trying not to get upstaged by a dog every night. Audiences can also adopt the canine star after the run of the show.
The three other main productions: “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Nov. 18-Dec. 4; Nobel laureate Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” Feb. 16-19; and one of the first productions of a relatively new work, “Green Violin,” April 19-23 about Soviet Yiddish theater.
Besides the four main shows, the department of theatre will present three one-act plays, each directed, designed and performed by students, Cuban-American playwright Maria Irene Fornes’ searing drama "Mud," and the department’s first Spring Dance Showcase.
Details of all the shows and information on season and individual tickets are available online, by calling 605-677-5400 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. All plays are held in the Wayne S. Knutson Theatre.
Download a photo: Trevor Hudson as Proteus (left) and Braeden Garrett as Valentine in USD's production of "The Two Gentlemen of Verona."