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May 21, 2009

First-year MFA directors show their work in one-act plays at the School of Drama

Two MFA directing students in the UW School of Drama will present one-act plays May 27-June 7 in the Penthouse Theatre. The two pieces — The American Century, written by Murphy Guyer and directed by Paula Bennett; and The Apollo of Bellac, written by Jean Giraudoux and directed by Alyson Roux — feature MFA and undergraduate actors.


The American Century is set amid the era of hope at the end of World War II, when Tom returns from war to his doting wife. Just as they are about to make their dreams of children a reality, they are interrupted by a stranger claiming to be from the future. In a hysterical confession, the stranger reveals the failures of their parenting skills and demise of their yet-to-be-born children, throwing the couple into chaos.


“I like this play because it humorously tackles the way people perceive their own lives, as victims of circumstance or as having the power to determine their own fate,” said director Bennett.


The Apollo of Bellac takes place in France during the late 1940s. Attraction and enchantment fill the office of the International Bureau of Inventions in Paris where timid Agnes attempts to find employment. Unable to get anyone’s attention, Agnes seeks advice from a mysterious man in the waiting room who shares the secret to a woman’s success: Tell men that they are handsome. She takes his advice to heart, and men begin offering her employment and marriage proposals.


“I plan on highlighting the farcical nature of the text with dance,” said director Roux. “This play will provide audiences with a breath of delight and joy during our difficult times.”


This is the first showing of Roux and Bennett’s work at the UW. “The Directing Program is really pleased to showcase the work of our first-year directors,” said Valerie Curtis-Newton, who heads that program. “This is great opportunity for us to introduce them to School of Drama audiences. Our hope is that audiences will join us as we follow their work in the UW drama mainstage over the next three years.”


Before attending the UW, Bennett was a directing intern at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre where she directed Am I Blue for the Milwaukee Rep Intern Lab. Prior to Milwaukee Rep, she founded a fringe theatre company called Contact Theatre Seattle. Her past directing credits include: The Gift, Riders to the Sea, The Marlboro Man, and The Nazi Nearest You at Contact Theatre. Bennett received theatrical training at Freehold Studio Theatre in Seattle and the Actor’s Workshop in Dublin, Ireland.


Roux came to the UW after working with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago as an artistic apprentice, assistant dramaturge, assistant director (for Austin Pendleton and Pam McKinnon), and primarily as the coordinator of the professional acting program at the School at Steppenwolf. In Chicago she directed four world-premiere plays: Pool Of with Collaboraction Theatre, 32 with Artistic Home, F-ing Gandhi with 20% Theatre, and her own bilingual adaptation of Pablo Neruda’s 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair at the Bailiwick Theatre.


Guyer, author of The American Century, is also an actor who is currently appearing in South Pacific on Broadway. His other plays include Eden Court, World of Mirth, Russian Romance and The Infinite Regress of Human Vanity.


Jean Giraudoux, author of The Apollo of Bellac, was a French writer (1882-1944), known for his impressionistic and fanciful style. Many of his plays are imaginative modern reinterpretations of Greek myths, satirizing selfishness, greed, and moral frailty.


Tickets are $10 for students, $12 for seniors, $13 for UW employees and $15 for others. Previews on May 24 and 26 are $8 for everyone. They are available at the UW Arts Ticket Office, 4001 University Way NE, 206-543-4880 and online at drama.washington.edu.