Theatre of the Mask Beneath the Mask 


            The Performing Arts Department and Drama Society are excited to bring Jean Claude van Itallie’s America Hurrah to the ECSU community-at-large April 20-25, 2004; Tuesday-Saturday at 8pm, with a Sunday matinee at 4pm, in the Harry Hope Theatre (Shafer Hall groundfloor, corner of High and Valley Streets, Willimantic).  Originally a trilogy of one-act plays, this production will feature The Interview directed by guest artist Nora Cole and Motel directed by guest artist Larry Hunt. Both plays feature physical movement as integral to telling/showing the story at hand – Interview features ensemble movement juxtaposed with innovative vocals; Motel presents the actors as full body puppets inhabiting and invading their space. The set designed by Bob Ritz becomes part of the choreography of action as it is literally set in motion.

Ellen Faith Brodie, Director of Theatre, having seen the original production of America Hurrah at the Pocket Theatre in NYC in 1966, selected it to be part of the Millennium Milestones in Theatre Series as it so clearly demonstrates the innovative approaches of theatre in the mid-1960’s. This dark comedy is an ideal milestone as the music of the language, movement, and mask work were uniquely used as a means to convey controversial issues at the forefront of the American consciousness of the time. These issues still resonate strongly today. Theatre critic Robert Brustein wrote, van Itallie “has discovered the truest poetic function of the theatre… to invent metaphors which can poignantly suggest a nation’s nightmares and afflictions.” 

Bill Coco also confirms that the 1960’s is often thought of as the “Golden Age of American theater. The creative anarchy in the arts of this period . . . reflected the social turbulence of its time – a time of radical hope . . . and radical darkness. . . . It was also a time of radical struggle. . . . Van Itallie’s most important and successful contribution as the revolutionary playwright of the 1960’s came with the award-winning off-Broadway production . . . .  America Hurrah . . . . a cultural landmark, the watershed play of the sixties.”

Nora Cole and Larry Hunt bring years of professional theatre experience and expertise to their roles as directors of this production. Their visions for their shows are more fully realized through the talents of guest designers, Carlton Coffrin, (lighting), and Stephanie Hawks, (costumes/puppet body masks), in addition to Bob Ritz (set), as all the design elements provide the strong contrasts of color, shape and pattern to heighten the moods and strengthen the stage compositions of the actors, set and props.  Technical Director Chase Rozelle has overseen the building of this movable world in which change is imminent – for better or worse. Ultimately, that’s for the audience to decide.

Please call the Harry Hope Theatre box office at 860-465-5123 for reservations. Tickets are $10 for Students and Senior Citizens; $12 for the General Public. Please note that tickets are $5 for Groups of 10 or more people.  Also note that Larry Hunt will be presenting a University Hour, Performance Approaches of the Mask, on Wednesday, April 7 at 3:00pm in the Betty Tipton Room (Student Center) for which admission is free.