University Theatre is revving things up for the new school year with a selection of both well-known and obscure productions in the 2016 season. In an effort to promote awareness and diversity on campus, the plays selected feature a variety of themes and characters.

“We wanted to include aspects of diversity in our selection so that the themes of the plays as well as the cast of the characters reflected the kind of diversity that we see on campus,” said Dennis Christilles, associate professor of theatre and artistic director of University Theatre. “For the most part, I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”

With casting coming up in the next couple of weeks, Christilles said this thought process would be something kept at the forefront of production in order to develop the diversity seen on stage.

“The time has come to really take a hard look at the kind of plays that we do and the kind of message that we send to people and of course we want it to be a positive message,” Christilles said. “One way that we can do that is to include more types of people in those messages.”

Jane Barnette, an assistant professor of theater, said that she is very excited for the upcoming season and that she’s glad to be presenting a message of acceptance in her production of "Late, a Cowboy Song."

“There was a lot of conversation last year about inclusion and diversity on campus,” Barnette said. “"We took a hard look at ourselves and saw an opportunity to join the conversation about diversity and inclusion. Theater is another way that was can talk to people from all different walks of life.”

As well as being more inclusive this year, University Theatre will also be partnering with the Acting Company, a group of professional actors and Juilliard graduates, who will be producing both "Julius Caesar" by William Shakespeare and "X" by Marcus Gardley.

“Marcus Gardley actually has family history with the Black Power movement and he is writing about the assassination of Malcolm X in response to Julius Caesar,” Barnette said. “He’s drawn some very interesting parallels between what happened to Julius Caesar and what happened to Malcolm X so I really recommend that you go see both to see the uncanny connections between ancient Rome and twentieth-century United States.”

Barnette said that she’s also excited to see Blair Yates, a graduate student, direct "P.U.R” and undergraduate Drew Hafling direct "Seminar." 

“This is one of the first times that I’ve seen where both a grad student and an undergrad are in the main season that is publicized for everybody,” Barnette said. “We’ve had student-directed work before but as something special by itself.  I’m really excited to see what they accomplish.”

The 2016 season will kick off with "Picnic" on Sept. 30.  A season pass can be purchased for $70 for students by visiting or calling 785-864-3982.

The upcoming productions are as follows:

"Picnic" by William Inge and directed by Jack Wright — Opening Sept. 30

"Late, a Cowboy Song" by Sarah Rahl and directed by Jane Barnette — Opening Oct. 21

"Pooter McGraw is Not Dead Party" by Padraic Lillis and directed by Peter Zazzali — Opening Nov. 11

"R.U.R." by Karel Capek and directed by Blair Lawrence Yates — Opening Dec. 2

"Seminar" by Theresa Rebeck and directed by Drew Hafling — Opening Feb. 9

"Julius Caesar" by William Shakespeare and directed by Devin Brain — Opening Feb. 15

"X" by Marcus Gardley and directed by Ian Belknap — Opening Feb. 16

"Company" by Stephen Sondheim and directed by Leslie Bennett — Opening March 3

"Anon(ymous)" by Naomi Iizuka and directed by Jason Bohon — Opening March 31

"Don Giovani" by Mozart and directed by John Stephens — Opening April 21


— Edited by Chandler Boese

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