Summer Theatre and Musicorda Offer New Treats and Familiar Delights

[NOTE: Information about Musicorda follows information about Summer Theatre.]

The Curtain's Up on Summer Theatre at MHC's 28th Season

Whether you like to laugh until your sides ache, relish spending several hours figuring out "whodunit," or take pleasure in the sort of good old fashioned chill-up-your-spine feeling that goes along with a Gothic vampire tale, there is a play for you in the Summer Theatre at MHC's twenty-eighth season lineup.

Five comedies, a drama, one mystery, and a thriller set in time periods ranging from turn-of-the-century England to the present will be staged in the tent. In addition, Snow White and her dwarfs, the princess and the infamous irritating pea, and Jack and his beanstalk will entertain kids of all ages in the amphitheater.

Dearly Departed, a comedy with a Southern sensibility, will inaugurate this year's series on June 23. Highlights of the season include The Heiress, a recent Broadway hit adapted from Henry James's Washington Square; the comedy-thriller Deathtrap; and the season finale, Dracula, which promises to be as popular as last year's staging of Frankenstein.

In assembling this selection of what he calls "audience-friendly, story-centered plays," Producing Director of the Summer Theatre, playwright, and actor Jack Neary has accomplished the mission assigned to him by the Summer Theatre's board when he rejoined the organization in mid-February of this year (he had served as producing director for the Summer Theatre during the 1980s, as well).

Neary's task, "making the 1998 season happen," was not a simple as it might sound, due to the amount of time he was given and the theater's well-publicized financial woes. "I have concentrated on putting together a great season, which I hope will help the board with its fundraising efforts, as well," said Neary. Since the theatre has never had trouble attracting an audience­the "house" is typically 80 to 90 percent full­the board hopes to generate additional funds through the theatre's expanded educational outreach programs and gifts from the corporate and private sector, according to Neary.

In addition to presenting a rare commodity these days­one-week summer stock­the Summer Theatre has long served as a training ground for MHC students and young people from all over the country who are interested in the theater. This year, nine MHC students, "the largest number of students in recent memory," according to Neary, have joined the company in roles ranging from actor to master carpenter to lighting technician.

"The resurgence in student interest may be the result of several joint activities undertaken by the Summer Theatre and MHC's theatre arts department faculty, including a directing workshop with Bonnie Panson '74 in 1997 and a January 1998 course in auditioning," noted Summer Theatre Associate Producer Susan Daniels '79. Daniels, who is an actor and director as well, is also is coordinating a full-time summer apprentice program for sixteen- to nineteen-year-olds, the Students on Stage Program of classes and performances in children's theatre for nine- to twelve-year-olds, and Artists and the Stage, a program in which thirteen- to sixteen-year-olds work with an instructor to create works of art relating to shows being performed.

Single tickets for Summer Theatre performances are $21 for inner circle seats and $19 for upper tier seats. The box office can be reached at 538-2406 and is open Monday through Saturday from noon to 9 PM. Children's theatre tickets are $5.

Musicorda's '98 Season Offers New Sounds and Familiar Delights

Musicorda, the annual summer music festival in residence at Mount Holyoke, offers much to please new and veteran audiences alike this year. For the first time, the festival includes a student piano program, led by Samuel Sanders, one of the world's leading chamber music collaborators and a frequent accompanist to violinist Itzhak Perlman. Five advanced piano students will be joining those in the violin, viola, and cello programs. Altogether eighty-four students will create music in Musicorda's various programs at Chapin Auditorium on Friday, Wednesday, and Sunday nights during July and the first week of August.

During a free moment while supervising the moving of nine pianos around campus, including the College's nine-foot Steinway concert grand, Musicorda's administrative director Jackie Melnick enthused about the riches of this year's program and its performing artists.

"We have a wonderful group of eighteen resident artists this year and are offering interesting and worthy works chosen from an eclectic repertoire," she said. "Our special guests include the principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston-area artists Carol Ou (cello) and Deborah Dunham (double bass), and the Caspian String Quartet from the Juilliard School of Music."

Under the management of artistic director Leopold Teraspulsky, the Festival Series will offer Brahms' C Major Trio, Rachmaninoff's Sonata for Piano and Cello, Dvorak's Five Bagatelles, Harbison's Fanfare and Reflections for Two Violins, a program of French music, and much more. Works by Chausson, Schumann, Martin, Schubert, Bruni, Schnittke, Offenbach, and others will be performed.

Students in the Young Artist Series perform at 8 PM on five consecutive Sunday evenings beginning July 5. While a ticket charge of $5 will be collected each Sunday to benefit the student scholarship fund, listeners may enjoy free student recitals this year on Wednesday nights at 8 PM. And, adds Melnick, "Don't forget that students under eighteen are always admitted free to all Musicorda events."

When not busy rehearsing or performing at Mount Holyoke, students in the Musicorda Road Company take to the stage around the Pioneer Valley under the direction of Nathaniel Farney. They'll be playing for public and private audiences at sixteen venues this summer, including Shriners Hospital in Springfield, Stanley Park in Westfield, the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, and the First Church in Longmeadow.

For a season brochure or ticket/performance information, call Musicorda at 538-2590.