October 18, 2002
Season Opens with Thomas Cole, A Waking Dream
from Mt. Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm
(The Oxbow) by Thomas Cole, which is currently on view at
the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum.
Cole, A Waking Dream
cast members offer a preview of the production's spectacular
costumes, which were designed by MHC's Vanessa James.
The play opens October 24 in Rooke Theatre.
canvases of Thomas Cole are prized for the sense of heightened
reality they conveyfull of luminescent colors set off by
malevolent shadows, and telling stories, at times, that grandly
illuminate nineteenth-century thinking. These same themes"heightened
reality" and a dramatic plunge into the nineteenth centuryare
exactly what theatergoers can expect at the MHC theatre arts department's
20022003 season opener, Thomas Cole, A Waking Dream.
This multimedia production, written and directed by Donald T.
Sanders, tells the story, in verse, of Cole's life, work,
and world. The play features period costumes made of multihued
plastic and a fifteen-member cast composed of MHC faculty and
students, members of the local community, and Five College students.
A Waking Dream opens October 24 in Rooke Theatre.
A Waking Dream
is part of a series of events addressing the theme of Destinations:
New Meanings of Travel sponsored by the Weissman Center for
Leadership. Also part of the series is the Mount Holyoke College
Art Museum's current exhibition Changing Prospects: The
View from Mount Holyoke, which features one of Thomas Cole's
most famous paintings, View from Mt. Holyoke, Northampton,
Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow), on loan from
New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Known around the Pioneer
Valley as the mastermind behind the Massachusetts International
Festival of the Arts (MIFA), Sanders has brought dozens of world-class
performances to valley stages. With A Waking Dream, which
is part of this year's MIFA season, Sanders revisits a childhood
reverence for Cole's paintings that inspired the playwright
to develop the show when it was commissioned in 1985 by the Hudson
River Museum in Yonkers, New York. The play was subsequently produced
at Joseph Papp's Public Theatre in New York, where it played
to critical acclaim: "A waking dream and a dream from which
we are sorry to wake up," wrote John Russell in the New
Vanessa James, chair
of the theatre arts department, created the sets and costumes
for the original production and is happy to return to A Waking
Dream. She explains how her designs blend with the multimedia
effects to absorb the audience in Cole's world: "The
proscenium is a gilded Victorian picture frame through which the
audience sees, in perspective, another picture frame. One is in
the museum, and one sees the painting on the wall, and one melts
into the painting and sees Cole's life taking place amongst
his paintings. Pictures within life within pictures within life!"
James's period costumes complete the scene. "They're
all made in plastics put together with tape and all sorts of crazy
things." The lighting and multimedia effects contribute,
says James, to the look of an oil painting.
Avant-garde jazz composer
Henry Threadgill re-created for MHC's A Waking Dream
the music that he first composed for the Public Theatre production.
Threadgill has been called "one of the greatest musical masterminds
of the past quarter century." Lighting is by Amae Kurre '03.
Performances of A
Waking Dream take place October 24 through 26 at 8 pm and
October 26 and 27 at 2 pm. Tickets prices are $5 general admission
and $3 for students and senior citizens. Admission is free of
charge on opening night for students with identification. Box
office hours, beginning Monday, October 21, are from 3 to 6 pm
daily and one hour prior to the performance. For reservations,