AU Theatre Tackles the Unpredictability of Love in Almost, Maine

Ashland University Theatre Tackles the Unpredictability of Love in Almost, Maine

3/15/17 ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University Department of Theatre closes its 2016-2017 season in “Pursuit of Happiness" with John Cariani’s romantic comedy Almost, Maine. Associate Professor of Theatre Dr. Teresa Durbin-Ames directs the production, which runs for one week with 7:30 p.m. performances on Wednesday, March 29, through Saturday, April 1, and a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on April 2. The show is staged in the intimate Studio Theatre so audiences are encouraged to purchase their tickets early to guarantee their seat.

Almost, Maine is the title and mythical setting for this play, which is a series of nine cordial, yet bizarre and whimsical vignettes about love that are laced with magic realism, uncanny coincidences and metaphors taken literally. As the northern lights hover in the star-filled sky above, residents find themselves falling in and out of love in unexpected and often hilarious ways.

Director Durbin-Ames explains, “Just as winter in Ohio can be unpredictable, life and matters of the heart are also unpredictable. It is hard to predict who you will fall in love with and where or when that will happen. The unexpected firsts of a relationship – a first love, first kiss, being the first to say “I love you”- they are moments that are often exciting and scary at the same time. Sometimes impulsive and sometimes planned, worlds collide and magical things can happen...The pursuit of happiness often involves these magical and unpredictable matters of the heart - the moments of falling in or out of love.”

Since the script is comprised of separate stories, many of the cast members play multiple roles in the show. Integrated language arts and English major Ariel McCleary (Stow) is the lone senior cast member and plays the roles of Glory, Deena and Hope. Junior cast members include technical theatre major Jessica Dupee (Wellington) as Sandrine, and psychology major Matthew J. Mayer II (Mansfield) as Jimmy and Dave. Sophomores are education major Emma Dumford (Westerville) as Ginett, Gayle, Shelly and Suzette; and social work major Hannah Shaw (Coshocton) as the waitress and Rhonda. Cast members representing the freshman class are theatre majors Ivey Buffenmyer (Ashland) as Marvalyn and Marci; Nik Demers (Shelby) as Pete and Phil; Jacob Ellis (Bellevue) as Steve and the man; and Alejandro Ridolfi (Parma Heights) as East and Lendall.

Designs for the production welcome back two Ashland University Theatre alumni who combine efforts with a student designer and another guest designer. As observed by Durbin-Ames, "The past and present of AU Theatre collided in a magical way as current students met and worked with graduates of the theatre program. Our guest artists have brought a positive energy to the production that began with our first design meetings in December and continued through rehearsals and their residencies on campus in March."  

Ashland alumni Charlene Gross (1999) and Michael J. Beyer (2001) bring their talents back to their undergraduate roots as costume designer and lighting designer, respectively. Gross' costume designs for theatre, dance and opera have been seen on and off Broadway in New York City, across the country, and on the West End London stage. Her theatre credits include work with the Cleveland Playhouse, Florida Repertory Theatre, Cleveland Museum of Art, The Royal Theatre, The Public Theater (NYC), Berkeley Carroll School, Columbia University & The Ingenuity Festival. Her designs for dance include GroundWorks, The Yard, The Juilliard School, Dance Space, & Kunningham Studios. She is currently the Resident Costume Designer & Production Manager for Ohio Light Opera and Resident Costume Designer for The College of Wooster's Department of Theatre and Dance and a proud member of United Scenic Artist, Local 829.

Beyer has lit many stages in his career as a lighting designer since he graduated from Ashland and then Wayne State University with his MFA. He spends most of his time as a professor, lighting designer and production manager at Hillsdale College, but has designed for Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Theatre By The Sea, The Performance Network, Michigan Shakespeare Festival, Boarshead Theatre, Jewish Ensemble Theatre, Hilberry Repertory Theatre, Cain Park, Goodspeed Opera House, The Ensemble Theatre and more. He also works with a number of touring rock and roll bands when he is able, and most recently assisted the design of the Electric Forest Festival. He has won two “Thespie Awards” from the Lansing State Journal for his designs of Boarshead Theatre’s The Glass Menagerie (2009) and Lansing Community College's Threepenny Opera (2016).

Although he didn't graduate from Ashland, scenic designer Daniel Hobbs is also returning to campus as he served as the costume designer for AU's fall production of The Autumn Garden. He 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.

Junior design and technical theatre major Seth Morrison completes the design elements for the show as the sound designer, which is his fifth sound design for AU Theatre. He also works as the master electrician for the theatre department, as well as technical director for Exit Left Productions (Columbus, Ohio). He recently received an Excellence in Lighting Award from the Theatre Roundtable Awards for his co-design of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. He will be returning to Weathervane Playhouse (Newark, Ohio) this summer as resident lighting designer. 

The production staff includes Patricia E. Lanious as the production manager; J. Michael Desper, technical director; Justin Bilewicz, costume studio manager; Nicolle Lamson (West Salem), scenic charge artist; Megan Harvey (Medina), stage manager; Jake Riley (Wooster), assistant stage manager; and Nik Demers, production assistant. Alumnus Dusten Welch also joins the staff as the stage combat choreographer.  

Special events surrounding the performances include an opening night reception immediately following the March 29 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 Durbin-Ames will be held Friday, March 31, 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. 

Tickets for the performances are: $12 for adults; $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 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 tier of colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2017, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) deeply 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.                                                                                ###

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