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Behind the curtain

A closer look at Taylor's upcoming fall plays

By Rylie Harrison | Echo

A new semester means new stories to be told by the Taylor Theatre Department. This season promises an intriguing blend of timeless classics and modern issues.

The first production of the season will be “Clybourne Park” by Bruce Norris, a modern look at race relations.

For this play, director Tracy Manning set up a collaboration with the Office of Intercultural Programs, headed by Felicia Case.

“I am not the expert on campus about race relations and these issues,” Manning said. “Because (of that) I didn’t want to travel this road alone . . . I need her (Case’s) perspective. I need her thoughtfulness. I need the way she approaches the subject with students.”

Manning and Case began working with members of other departments early in the summer. Currently, the cast is two weeks into production.

Felicia’s main role includes helping the actors process what they’re feeling both in rehearsals and in private conversations.

Case praised the script and its themes. She said, “It’s not about just one thing. It really is broader than that.  It … is a great play because it does not make the issue so black and white. You get to see the lives of people and the way they really are. Nobody’s life is one dimensional; they’re complicated.”

Manning responded in a similar way, stating, “I think the play invites us to see ourselves and other people in the complicated way we are made.”

With this play, both Case and Manning hope to inspire conversations on race and diversity within the Taylor community.

Case’s biggest hope is that people will just talk about it. “Go see it and then talk. Because when people start talking to each other, that’s when things can happen,” Case said.

To help start such conversations, talk-backs will be held after every performance.

“Really, my only desire is that there’s some space created where people can have . . . conversations and can see themselves in a fresh light, in a new way,” Manning said.

“Clybourne Park” will be performed Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

Yet that is not the only production audiences can look forward to. On Nov. 10-19, the Taylor theater will be putting on the classic romance “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmond Rostand.

“Cyrano” director Terrance Volden currently serves as the technical director within the theater.

“It’s kind of a learning experience for me; a resume builder. But also a lot of the skills needed to pull off the show . . . are in my wheelhouse,” Volden said.

This classic tale focuses on the immensely talented poet Cyrano de Bergerac, who is cursed with a hideously large nose. Cyrano falls in love with the beautiful Roxane, yet he is fearful that she will not accept him because of his appearance. The ensuing story delivers romance, adventure and comedy.

“Definitely the biggest theme of Cyrano is the fact that beauty — inner beauty — is often more important than outer beauty,” said Volden.

Volden goes on to say, “The playwright who wrote it, what he wanted people to walk away with was not only the inner beauty thing, but seeing that a journey towards an ideal is sometimes more important and more life changing than reaching that ideal.”

To accompany its timeless themes, “Cyrano” also delivers plenty of laughs and adventure.

“I think comedy helps us to step away from the super serious and dramatic side of life,” Volden said. “When you have a comedy that kind of deals with deeper meanings, making it lighter kind of helps the audience to digest those ideas.”

Currently, the production is still in the conceptual stage, with auditions having taken place this last week.

Two such different productions invite a broad spectrum of experiences for audiences. Don’t miss these opportunities!

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