Ashland University Theatre Travels to the South in 1949 to Open Season

Ashland University Theatre Travels to the South in 1949 to Open Season

10/6/16 ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University Department of Theatre opens the 2016-2017 season with Lillian Hellman’s drama The Autumn Garden. Directed by Associate Professor of Theatre Teresa Durbin-Ames, evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 21, 22, 28 and 29, along with a 2 p.m. matinee on Oct. 23 in Hugo Young Theatre.

Hellman’s drama contains humor, sharpness, integrity and toughness. The story takes place in 1949 at an annual reunion of old acquaintances in their forties who reflect on their misspent lives, paralyzing regrets and realization that life isn’t what everyone thought it would be. The characters realize it is important to be honest with yourself and create an identity that you can live with; yet there are those who can change their lives, and those who are stuck. 

With the theatre season’s theme of "The Pursuit of Happiness,” Durbin-Ames explains, “Hellman’s play has given the cast and audience an opportunity to explore complicated characters, most of who are not being honest with themselves and others. Many of them realize that they have not made anything of their lives. They have been waiting for something or someone that never materialized and the sad part is that some of them don’t seem to mind. We must all be active participants in our pursuit of happiness to live lives of purpose and meaning so that we don’t look back with regret at the life we lived.”

The cast of complicated characters begins with Constance Tuckerman, played by senior musical theatre major Andrea Disch (East Liverpool), who owns the summer guest house in the deep South where the friends reunite. Constance was once in love with Nicholas Denery, portrayed by freshman history major Carson Chipner (Loudonville), who is now married to Nina played by senior psychology major Muslimah Williams (Oberlin). As an added twist, sophomore theatre major Waylon H. O'Donnell (West Sunbury, Pa.) plays Edward Crossman who may have been in love with Constance. 

Constance’s niece, Sophie, portrayed by sophomore theatre major Maya Rickard (Wooster), is engaged to Frederick Ellis, who is played by freshman sports communication major Jacob Ellis (Bellevue). It is suggested that Frederick is homosexual, but his mother, Carrie, and grandmother, Mrs. Mary Ellis, portrayed respectively by senior musical theatre major Ceyanna Stasick (Sullivan) and community member Kathleen Thompson Parker (Ashland), are in denial. 

Meanwhile Rose Griggs, played by junior history major Mary Joyce Myers (St. Joseph, Mo.), will not face the reality that she is in a loveless marriage and her husband, General Ben Griggs, portrayed by freshman Alejandro Ridolfi (Parma Heights) wants a divorce. Additional characters include Constance’s gossiping employee, Leona, and the Denery’s German maid, Hilda, as played by freshman musical theatre major Alli Lange (Mansfield) and freshman forensic biology major Megan Saupé (Fairfield),  respectively.

The production staff includes three guest design artists including Daniel Hobbs, costume designer; Patricia E. Lanious, lighting designer; and Kimberly V. Powers, scenic designer. 

Hobbs is a freelance scenic and costume designer currently based in NYC. He earned his MFA in production design from Michigan State University, where he collaborated on several world premiere shows. His most recent credits include assistant costume design for the tour of Cheers, Live on Stage as well as working in designer David Korins’ studio in New York, which designed the sets for shows such as Hamilton and Grease Live! on FOX.

Lanious has worked for organizations such as Syracuse Stage, the University of Illinois, and First City Players in Ketchikan, Alaska. Prior to joining Ashland University, Lanious served as the general manager for Wayne Center for the Arts in Wooster, Ohio; and spent a decade at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts near Milwaukee, Wis., where she was director of operations. She holds an MFA in Theatre Design & Technology from Northern Illinois University and a BA in Communication Arts/Theatre from Allegheny College. In addition to her lighting design, Lanious is also the production manager for The Autumn Garden.

Powers is a graduate of Ashland University Theatre (2001), completed her MFA in Scenic Design from Kent State University (2006) and has worked as a freelance set, exhibit and event designer, as well as scenic artist. She has designed for venues across the country and has taught in higher education for six of the past eight years. Additionally, she was an assistant in the scene design studio at the Denver Center Theatre Company (2006-08), the resident set designer and props master for Ocean State Theatre Company (2012-13), and an assistant scenic artist for The Cleveland Play House (2002). 

Other Ashland University Theatre alumni on the production staff include Justin Bilewicz (2009) as the costume studio manager and Dusten Welch (2007) as the fight choreographer. J. Michael Desper serves a double-role as sound designer and technical director. Junior design and technical theatre major Seth Morrison (Millersburg) and freshmen Alli Lange, Tiffany Smolinski (Circleville) and Morgan Tinnirello (Middleburg Heights) are the show's stage manager, assistant stage managers and assistant to the director, respectively.

Special events surrounding the performances include an opening night reception immediately following the Oct. 21 performance. Patrons with tickets to that evening's performance are invited to celebrate the show's opening with the cast and crew. A pre-show talk with director Teresa Durbin-Ames will be held Friday, Oct. 28, at 6:45 p.m. in Hugo Young Theatre. This special pre-show event will give audience members the inside story as they learn more about the production and its creators. A school matinee performance on Friday, Oct. 28, at 9 a.m. is now accepting reservations at a special $2 per seat admission. Reservations can be made through Tricia Applegate, coordinator of performing arts publicity and events, at 419.289.5950 or tapplega@ashland.edu

Season tickets for the three theatre productions are still available and include admission to the three main stage productions at a reduced price compared to single tickets. Season tickets are: $28 for adults; $24 for senior citizens, Ashland University faculty, staff and alumni; and $12 for non-AU students. Single tickets are: $12 for adult; $10 for senior citizens, AU faculty, staff and alumni; $8 for groups of 10 or more, $5 for non-AU students, and $2 for Ashland University students with ID.  

To purchase tickets, call the Ashland University Box Office at 419-289-5125, Monday through Friday, 12 noon to 6 p.m.; or purchase online 24/7 at www.ashland.edu/tickets. For more information about the department of theatre, visit www.ashland.edu/theatre, find us on Facebook at
www.facebook.com/AshlandUniversityTheatre or contact Tricia Applegate, coordinator of performing arts publicity and events, at 419-289-5950 or tapplega@ashland.edu.

Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2016, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.                                                                                ###