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Mainstage series continues with work by Pulitzer Prize winner
Sunday, February 01, 2015

 Mainstage series continues with work by Pulitzer Prize winner

The cast of the Walter Gloor Mainstage production of “Balm in Gilead” includes, from left, Mark Diven as Dopey, Cody Jones as Fick, Eric Schutt as Joe, Kate Armstrong as Darlene and Joann Shapiro as Ann.

A gritty urban drama by Lanford Wilson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer, will be the next offering in the Walter Gloor Mainstage Series at Fredonia.

The Department of Theatre and Dance presents six performances of “Balm in Gilead” from Feb. 27 through March 7 in Bartlett Theatre at Rockefeller Arts Center. Dates and show times are Feb. 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m., March 1 at 2 p.m. and March 5 through 7 at 7:30 p.m.

Written in 1965, “Balm in Gilead” was Wilson’s first full-length play. It primarily centers on the relationship between a small-time drug dealer and a naive new arrival to New York City’s upper west side. It is recommended for mature audiences only because of the adult language and subject matter.

Professor James Ivey of the Department of Theatre and Dance will direct the Mainstage production.

“A compelling aspect to this play for me is that we will have a cast of 35 actors in the confines of the Bartlett Theatre playing a wide variety of addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, drug dealers and hustlers representing the underbelly of urban life,” Dr. Ivey said. “Equally compelling is how Wilson employed a writing style of overlapping dialogue that is particularly challenging to actors and audience alike as many story lines are functioning at the same time.”

The New York Times described Wilson’s works as “earthy, realistic and greatly admired.” Wilson was credited with helping to advance the “off-off-Broadway” movement.

“This is one of Lanford Wilson’s early plays and its success at the La Mama Experimental Theatre in New York City would help establish him as a distinctly unique voice in the American theatre until his death in 2011,” Ivey said.

 
 See a video of the cast and crew in production.

Among the highlights of the production, according to Ivey, will be the set that student Chad Healy, the scene designer for this production, has fashioned.

“Chad Healy’s richly detailed and visually dense scenic environment will act as a perfect complement to the many layers of the dramatic storyline,” Ivey said. “We will be somewhat disoriented by the scenic elements as the familiar becomes strange and the strange becomes familiar.”

Ivey, who also directed 2013’s “The School for Scandal,” thinks audience members will “definitely walk away having had a profound stimulation to their senses as the play will be experienced on multiple levels.”

“We are attempting to affect the audience by creating a powerful emotional response that will not be forgotten by the time they arrive home from the theater,” the director said.

Tickets are available through the Campus Ticket Office in the Williams Center, by phone at 673-3501 or online at fredonia.edu/tickets.

“Balm in Gilead” is part of the 2014-15 Lake Shore Savings Season at Rockefeller Arts Center.

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State University of New York at Fredonia