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Spring 2014

Senior Performance Series: May 1-4.

The Senior Performance Series of Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College presents two one-act plays: the world premiere of How Miss Long Beach Became Miss Long Beach, written by Alejandra Castillo ’15 and directed by Amy Jimenez ’14; and The Chairs, by Eugene Ionesco, directed by Grace Gilmore ’15.

Playwright Alejandra Castillo, a Posse Foundation Scholar from Los Angeles, CA, describes her play this way: "What does it mean to be a girl? What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a Latina? Miss Long Beach is a play that explores femininity and womanhood in Latino culture. Sixteen-year-old Angie must decide whether to compete in a beauty pageant to please her glamorous mother or continue with her tomboy ways. The play touches upon issues of gender, sexuality and cultural assimilation, and the importance of mother-daughter relationships." Director Amy Jimenez adds,  “Although this play speaks to the Latina experience to some extent, it is definitely relevant to all female experiences because it deals with issues of identity, sexuality, family, and the ideology of beauty.”

In Eugene Ionesco's landmark Absurdist play, The Chairs, the Old Man and the Old Woman prepare their guests for the arrival of the mysterious Orator, whose speech will not only be the couple's farewell to life, but also contain a great message for humanity. A comedy of language, director Grace Gilmore notes, “The Chairs forces us to imagine a world where the meaning of life is undefinable, where loneliness is in the eye of the beholder, and where what we say is not always what we mean and yet when we look closer we realize this world is not so different from our own.”

Designed by Katie Anderson '15 (Set) and Michael Wecht '14 (Lights) The Senior Performance Series showcases the "best and brightest" of Kalamazoo College students creating their own theatre. Show times are Thursday, May 1, at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday, May 2 and 3, at 8pm, and Sunday, May 4, at 2pm in the Dungeon Theatre in the Light Fine Arts Building on the campus of Kalamazoo College. After Thursday’s performance the audience is invited to converse with the director and actors for The Chairs, and, after Friday’s performance, with the cast, director, and playwright of Miss Long Beach. All tickets at the door are $5, with the exception of Thursday’s performance, which is “pay-what-you-can.” For more information, contact Festival Playhouse Box Office at 269.337.7333.


The World is My Oyster—and I am the Pearl: Peer Gynt at Festival Playhouse

As human beings, each of us must ask ourselves who we are, what we believe, and to whom do we have obligations? In Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, the author inverts the usual  paradigm of characters that look inward for answers: Peer looks outward, toward the entire world to serve him. His duty toward himself is to manipulate others to serve his needs, regardless of the suffering required by others.

Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College will present Peer Gynt as the grand finale of its golden anniversary season Thursday, May 15- Sunday, May 18 in the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse.

Though many are familiar with Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s suite by the same name, this production, an adaptation by current Scottish playwright Collin Teevan, is anything but parlor-like. Guest Director Todd Espeland has set the play in a contemporary punk rock club, with an “in-your face” attitude still capable of shocking a 21st century audience. (*Peer Gynt contains mature subject matter and language, and some of the material may not be suitable for children.)

“I selected this modern adaptation because I felt that the updating of the language and situations would make the message and story connect more to our students,” states Espeland.  “The roughness of the language, modernizing Peer’s adventures by making him a human trafficker, and its references to the way we idolize TV celebrities, brings Ibsen's message into the 21st century while still keeping the heart of the fairy tale.”

Dramaturg David Landskroener ’14 concurs: “Audiences will be even more struck by this denouncement of pride and self-interest because of the ever-increasing modern societal message that everything is about ‘me’ which this adaptation deconstructs in an even more relatable fashion through references to reality TV.”

Peer constantly changes his persona to suit the occasion at hand: he’ll do and say anything to get what he wants. Kyle Lampar ’17, who plays the title role, describes his character as “vulgar, carefree, and unapologetic…but behind that persona of tough teenage angst, there’s a fragile individual who only wishes to fulfill his dreams.”

The design team includes Theatre Arts Professor and Scenic Designer Lanford J. Potts, Costume Designer Elaine Kauffman, Lighting Designer Katie Anderson ’15, and Sound Designer Lindsay Worthington ’17.

The show opens Thursday, May 15 at 7:30pm (which is also “pay-what-you-can” night), and runs Friday and Saturday, May 16-17 at 8pm, and Sunday, May 18 at 2pm. Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for seniors, and $15 for other adults and may be purchased at the door. To make reservations, please call 269.337.7333 or visit the website for more information. Note: Thursday’s performance will be followed by the Final Alumni talkback, led by Kristen Chesak ’94, Managing Director of The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, with the audience and company members.

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Winter 2014

Senior Performance Series--Extraordinary Women: Real and Imagined

Festival Playhouse invites you to meet some extraordinary women, real and imagined.

Senior and junior directors Arshia Will ’14 and Jane Huffman ’15 will share their work (Maria Irene Fornes’ Mud and a compilation of Shakespeare scenes titled What She Wills) at Festival Playhouse’s Senior Performance Series, presented in Kalamazoo College’s Dungeon theatre February 13-16. The works offer two highly contrasting portrayals of women—one places Shakespeare’s female characters in a new setting with fresh voices; the other portrays a woman’s uncompromising effort to carve out her own life amidst severe poverty and abusive relationships.

Huffman chose to direct Mud in part because she sees the character Mae as a later-day Antigone: “Cunningly and aggressively, she subverts the paradigms that oppress her. She is a mirror. She is a call to action. She is a singular voice that resounds with that of countless women who have been rendered voiceless.”

In What She Wills, Will  has provided an opportunity for Shakespeare’s female characters to be heard from a woman’s perspective.

“Shakespeare may not have written roles for women actors since every role in Shakespeare’s time was played by men, but the women characters he created are complex and compelling,” says Will.  “The characters are so rich they can be found throughout history and today. We have seen countless Juliets and Lady Macbeths, and they will continue to live on. What She Wills takes these famous Shakespearean women and puts them in new environments and under ’new lights.’ It illustrates how enduring and relevant Shakespeare is today.”

The Senior Performance Series also features the work of three senior designers: Kelly Eubank (costumes), David Landskroener (sound), and Mary Mathyer (set). Sophomore Katie Lee is the lighting designer.

The show will open on Thursday, February 13, at 7:30pm, and run Friday and Saturday, February 14 and 15, at 8pm. The show closes on Sunday, February 16, at 2pm. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at the door. For more information about these and the remainder of Festival Playhouse’s golden anniversary season (including The Firebugs and Peer Gynt), call 269.337.7333 or visit

The Senior Performance Series continues the tradition of featuring the work of Kalamazoo College students creating their own theatre.

The Firebugs by Max Frisch: Comedy in Tragedy

Don’t play with matches—especially near barrels of gasoline.

Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College invites you to the production of The Firebugs, by Max Frisch as part of their 50th Anniversary Season. The show will run Thursday, February 27-Sunday, March 2.  

Originally staged and directed in 1964 by Festival Playhouse Founder and Professor Nelda K. Balch (for whom the theatre itself is named), The Firebugs is a satirical comedy that tells the story of Biedermann, a man who foolishly allows two arsonists into his home. Fearful of offending of them, he goes out of his way to accommodate their outrageous requests, much to his own—and others’—detriment.

While the play is comical and was once even described by Frisch himself as “a learning play without a lesson,” Firebugs delivers a serious message. Dramaturg Belinda McCauley ’16 states, “It has been speculated for decades that Biedermann’s dilemma throughout the play is allegorical to the way humans unintentionally allow evil into their lives, most specifically how the Nazis worked their way into the lives of average German citizens.”

Director Nora Hauk ’04, currently working on her doctoral dissertation in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of Michigan, emphasizes that Biedermann chooses political correctness over what he knows to be true and right—with dire consequences.

The Firebugs is a play about the trouble that people can get into as they try to maintain the status quo and their own social standing in the face of major challenges,” explains Hauk.  “Despite all the warning signs, Biedermann fails to take a stand.” 

“There are many messages one could possibly take away from The Firebugs,” says McCauley, “but perhaps the one to be concerned with is the way words are used. What do your words say about you? Do your words start fires? Or do your words save lives?”

The Firebugs’ design team includes Theatre Arts Professor Lanny Potts (scenery), Elaine Kauffman (costumes), Lydia Strini ’14 (lights) and Lindsay Worthington ’16  (sound). 

The show will open on Thursday, February 27* at 7:30pm, and run Friday and Saturday, February 28 and March 1 at 8pm. The show’s final performance is Sunday, March 2 at 2pm. Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for seniors and $15 for other adults and may be purchased at the door. For more information about these and the remainder of Festival Playhouse’s golden anniversary season (including Peer Gynt), call 269.337.7333 or visit *Note: Thursday is “pay-what-you-can” night.

Fall 2013

Special Festival Playhouse Diversity Guest Arts Series Performance: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 @8pm, Nelda K. Balch Playhouse The Dog and Pony Show. A hilarious one-person show about lesbians and their dogs by award-winning performance artist and K-alum Holly Hughes '77. A 2010 Guggenheim recipient and current Professor at the University of Michigan School of Art & Design, Hughes describes the piece as "a blend of autobiography, animal behavior and bald-faced lies...a poetic/comic meditation on the midlife crisis in the key of canine by the woman who drove Jesse Helms nuts. Or nuttier." Followed by a talk-back, book signing, and reception for the artist. While there is no charge to attend The Dog and Pony Show, reserving tickets is an option and encouraged for those with special needs or who are attending in partial fulfillment of course requirements. Reserved tickets will be held at the box office until 10 minutes prior to curtain at 8pm; tickets not picked up by that time will be made available to others who are interested. Call 269-337-7333 for ticket reservations and for more information. 

The Festival Playhouse Diversity Guest Artist Series provides culturally diverse art free to
the Greater Kalamazoo community. It is made possible primarily through funding from the Dorothy U. Dalton
Enrichment Fund. Previous Guest Artist Series performances include Oni Faida Lampley in The Dark Kalamazoo,
Lisa Kron in 2.5 Minute Ride, and Guillermo Goméz-Peña in The Return of Border Brujo.

An Evening of Kalamazoo College Theatre Alumni Scenes: Saturday, October 19, 2013 (K Homecoming), 4pm.
Alumni of past Festival Playhouse productions will present staged readings of their favorite plays. Readings will be presented in the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse.

A Dream Play by August Strindberg

Kalamazoo College’s Festival Playhouse Celebrates 50th Anniversary with A Dream Play
August Strindberg’s A Dream Play will be presented at Kalamazoo College in the Nelda K. Balch
Playhouse November 7-10.

“I dream, therefore I exist,” Strindberg wrote. But stubborn questions persist: Why do we exist, and why is
life so difficult? In A Dream Play, the daughter of the Hindu god, Indra, leaves heaven to visit humans on
earth. In living with humans as a human herself, her mission is to determine why humans suffer.
Following the logic and feeling of a dream, characters morph into other characters; move in lyrical,
musical ways; pursue that which is unattainable.

The performance is part of the Festival Playhouse’s golden anniversary. In the tradition of Festival
Playhouse, one will find theatre that is always provocative, always thoughtful. Director Ed Menta notes
that the production will attempt to create a theatre poem, using Strindberg's text, staging, performance, and

Senior David M. Landskroener, composer and music producer for the production explains, "Creating live
sound effects for A Dream Play is such an interesting experience because I'm creating sound to accompany
a dream. Because I'm so used to realism, many times while tinkering around with effects I reject my initial
thoughts about a certain sound in a scene and try out multiple options that may not at first sound
completely congruent with the action onstage, but reflect the idea of associative links found in a dream.
This experience is so exciting because I can think outside the box and not worry about things like
dissonance and realism."

Prior to 1901, plays may have contained a dream sequence, but Strindberg created a new genre in writing a
play that is entirely a dream. In his foreword to the play, Strindberg wrote: "In this dream play, the
author has…attempted to imitate the inconsequent yet transparently logical shape of a dream.
Everything can happen, everything is possible and probable. Time and place do not exist; on an
insignificant basis of reality, the imagination spins, weaving new patterns; a mixture of memories,
experiences, free fancies, incongruities and improvisations.”

"It has been a challenge to make all of the 30+ characters come to life,” comments K senior Michael
Wecht, assistant director for A Dream Play. “It is my goal, through movement coaching and exercises
emphasizing physicality, to help the cast discover each of their roles. This is especially pertinent because
most of the actors are playing multiple roles."

The show opens on Thursday, November 7, at 7.30pm. A talkback will follow Thursday’s performance.
Additional evening performances are on Friday and Saturday, November 8-9, at 8pm; a matinee concludes
the run on Sunday, November 10 at 2pm. Tickets are $5 for students with an ID, $10 for seniors, $15 for
other adults. Note: Thursday is “pay-what-you-can night.”
For reservations or more information about the season’s plays which include The Firebugs and Peer Gynt,
call 269.337.7333 or visit

To listen to the interview with WMUK:

Spring 2013

50thAnniversary Golden Jubilee Season Festival Playhouse Kickoff: Sunday, May 19, 2013, 2pm matinee
performance of the Spring musical, Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine, the Tony, Drama Critics
Circle, and Drama Desk Award winning show that helped change the American Musical, and produced in
collaboration with the Kalamazoo College Department of Music.

Theatre that is always provocative. Theatre that is always thoughtful.

Festival Playhouse gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Dorothy U. Dalton Foundation.