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Rotating repertory kicks off main stage theatre season

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

The West Virginia University School of Theatre and Dance kicks off its main stage season with two rotating productions Sept. 21 – Oct. 1.

“The School’s Season Selection Committee chose to start the season with two shows in repertory as an effort to provide complimentary but diverse material to our students and audience,” said Lee Blair, assistant professor and coordinator of the performance program. “’Topdog/Underdog’ and ‘Exit, Pursued by a Bear’ fulfill our commitment to contemporary works, but with each play being small in cast size, picking just one of those for our season opening would not satisfy student curriculum needs.  We decided to take a big new step and produce a rotating repertory of these two contemporary plays.”

Top Dog/Under Dog

“Topdog/Underdog” is a historic piece written by Susan-Lori Parks. Parks in 2002 earned the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work, becoming the first African American woman to achieve this honor. The play shows audiences a slice of life between two competitive African American brothers, orphaned as children. Parks symbolically examines United States history and the power struggle between cultures and ideals with the two brothers crammed together in a studio apartment. 

“Topdog/Underdog” is directed by guest artist Jade King Carroll. A rising voice in the national contemporary theatre scene, Carroll is a Theatre Communications Group New Generations Future Leader Award recipient and was presented the Paul Green Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Professional from the National Theatre Conference and The Estate of August Wilson.

“Exit, Pursued by a Bear” by Lauren Gunderson premiered in 2011 and focuses on the relationship between a young husband and wife. Gunderson explicitly depicts the horror of domestic abuse and symbolically explores the power struggles of gender and sexuality. A revengeful romantic comedy, Nan recruits friends to help her tie up her husband and put on a play about the relationship and its demise.

Irene Alby, teaching assistant professor of acting and directing, makes her WVU directing debut with “Exit, Pursued by a Bear.”

The rotating repertory provides many learning experiences and challenges for acting and technical students alike. Each show must have a different look using a similar set, lighting plots and two separate wardrobes.

Steven Neuenschwander, clinical associate professor, technical director and production manager, explains the benefit of producing two shows for technical students noting that “doing rep is a great experience for the students to not only show them how scenery can quickly be changed, but to prepare them for many summer stock opportunities.”

“Topdog/Underdog” begins at 7:30 p.m. September 21, 23, 27, 29 and at 2 p.m. September 23 and October 1. “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” begins at 7:30 p.m. September 22, 26, 28, 30 and at 2 p.m. September 24, 30 in the Gladys G. Davis Theatre at the Creative Arts Center. Tickets are available through the WVU Box Office at 304-293-SHOW or by visiting Ticketmaster.