UW Today

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November 20, 2008

School of Drama peeks behind the Iron Curtain with powerful comedy, ‘The Quick-Change Room’

The UW School of Drama continues its 2008-09 season with The Quick-Change Room: Scenes from a Revolution, Nagle Jackson’s hilarious and powerful backstage comedy about a Russian theater group transforming itself from the Communist economy to capitalism.


The Quick Change Room previews Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 1 and 2, and opens Wednesday, Dec. 3. It runs through Dec. 14 in the Penthouse Theatre. The cast features the MFA Acting Class of 2010.


The play paints the crumbling Soviet Union as an ever present backdrop to the inner workings of the struggling Kuzlov Theatre of Leningrad (soon to be St. Petersburg). Nina, daughter to the wardrobe mistress, is elated to finally have been cast, and prepares to play Irina in Chekhov’s Three Sisters. Her mother struggles to maintain efficiency in the quick-change department amidst lay-offs due to budgets cuts. Then the box office director takes charge while the idealistic artistic director is barred from rehearsals, and more lay-offs ensue, along with brash devices to increase ticket sales.


As a last-ditch effort to survive in a new Russia, the company decides to change Three Sisters into a more entertaining theater piece by turning it into an American-style musical. The company begins to rehearse O My Sister, and the reigning leading lady finds herself off the stage and into her new role as a quick-change costume assistant. And that isn’t the only change as the Kuzlov Theatre struggles to keep up with the new Russia while the costume switches in the quick-change room must happen faster and faster.


Inspired by his time directing a production at the Bolshoi Dramatichny Theater of Leningrad (currently St. Petersburg) in 1986, playwright Jackson pays homage to artists struggling with political change, specifically to those who were forced to deal with losing government subsidized arts budgets during Perestroika.


“The play is a tribute and a gesture of great love to the wonderful Russian artists with whom I was privileged to work,” Jackson said. “It was a fascinating time to be in Russia; heady optimism was in the air. But a cynical side of my nature kept asking: ‘Do they know what they’re getting into?’”


The play is directed by Mark Jenkins, head of the Professional Actor Training Program, who has had his own experience in Russia. He collaborated with Stanislavski master Leonid Anisimov in Russia and with the Ilkhom Theatre in Uzbekistan, and was instrumental in bringing the Ilkhom Theatre Company to Seattle’s ACT Theatre and to the UW in the spring of 2008.


Tickets for the previews are $8; all other performances are $13 for UW employees, $15 for adults $12 for seniors and $10 for students. Tickets are available at the Arts Ticket Office, 4001 University Way NE or at www.drama.washington.edu.