SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -Slippery Rock University theatre is breathing new life into Shakespeare classics "Romeo and Juliet" and "Othello" by presenting seven performances of "Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)." The play infuses comedy into scenes and characters developed by The Bard.
Directed by Laura Smiley, SRU associate professor of theatre, the play is about romance, self-discovery and the nature of tragedy. The April 19 opening performance will be presented in SRU's University Union as part of SRU's April 16-28 Kaleidoscope Arts Festival.
"It is an exuberant comedy with time travel, girl crush, cross dressing and sword fights," Smiley said. "It's also about a personal voyage of discovery."
Ann-Marie MacDonald wrote "Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)," which was first produced in 1988 at Toronto's Annex Theatre.
The play explores the theory that "Romeo and Juliet" and "Othello" were originally comedies, Smiley said.
"Goodnight Desdemona" begins with a "dumb show," or a scene with no sound, in which three situations occur simultaneously. Othello murders Desdemona, Juliet kills herself and the main character of the contemporary play, Constance Ledbelly, an academic, throws a pen and manuscript into a wastebasket.
In Scene 1, Constance works on her doctoral dissertation, which claims that "Romeo and Juliet" and "Othello" were originally comedies written by an unknown author and that this can be proved by decoding a manuscript written by an alchemist named Gustav.
Her longtime crush, professor Claude Night, comes in, criticizes her dissertation topic and tells her that he is taking a job at Oxford University that she had hoped to secure. Ledbelly laments her fate and begins throwing her possessions into the wastebasket until she herself is sucked into the wastebasket and transported into the plays.
"She visits Juliet and Desdemona, has a hand in saving them from the deaths The Bard had planned for them and finds out what these women are all about," Smiley said. "In true Shakespearean spirit, Constance plunders the plans and creates something new, all the while engaging in a personal voyage of self-discovery. With an abundance of twists, fights, dances, seduction and wild surprises the play is an absolute joy of theatricality."
The cast includes Carina Iannarelli, a psychology major from Canonsburg, as Constance Ledbelly; Ethan Rochow, a theatre major from West Middlesex, as professor Claude Knight, Tybalt and Othello; Rachel Lambert, a psychology major from Hermitage, as Desdemona, Ramona and servant; Ci'Era Spencer, a theatre major from Harrisburg, as Juliet; Nick Benninger, a theatre major from Prospect as Romeo and Iago; and Malic Williams, a theatre major from Aliquippa, as chorus, Mercutio, nurse and ghost.
Rebecca Morrice, SRU assistant professor of theatre, is the production's costume designer. Michael Boone, SRU technical director for the theatre and music departments, is the technical director.
Samantha Kuchta, a theatre and communication major from Lower Burrell, is the production's stage manager and properties mistress; Liam Nute, a theatre major from Aliquippa, and Holly-Rae Patterson, a theatre major from Mesa, Ariz., are the show's assistant stage managers. Danielle DePalma, a theatre and communication major from Plum, is the lighting designer; Zach Durler, a communication major from Cranberry, is the sound designer; Alex Barnhart, a theater major from Butler, is assistant to the technical director.
All performances will be offered in the University Union Multi-Purpose Room. The show opens at 7:30 p.m., April 19, and will be presented at 2 and 7:30 p.m., April 21, and at 7:30 p.m., April 22-25. There is no Saturday performance. Tickets are $7 for students and $12 for the public. They may be purchased in advance at the Smith Student Center Information Desk or at the door. For more information contact the SRU Theatre Box Office at 724.738.2645.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.