2009-10 OFA Flashback: Busy on the Boards

by Tom Lee

Thomas Lee, Manager of the OFA Learning From Performers program, reports on the past year's undergraduate theater season, another in an ongoing series of posts highlighting significant programming during the 2009-10 academic year.

Inveterate patrons of Harvard undergraduate theater can be forgiven for not attending every production this academic year; with a multitude of musicals, classic comedies and dramas, and several original works, it was a very busy season.

In the New College Theatre, the Harvard Early Music Society presented John Eccles and William Congreve's 1707 opera Semele. Later in the fall, Bat Boy, the Musical took up residence, and its composer/lyricist, Larry O'Keefe '91, was on campus to work with the cast and creative team.

Other NCT productions included the Hasty Pudding Theatricals 162nd show, Commie Dearest; the OFA Dance Program's annual showcase Dancer’s Viewpointe (celebrating its tenth year); and Nicky Silver's corrosive comedy Fat Men in Skirts. In late spring, the second annual Harvard Playwrights' Festival, featuring works by ten undergraduates, was held in the NCT Studio, co-sponsored by the Office for the Arts, the Provostial Fund in the Arts and Humanities, and the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.)/MXAT Institute for Advanced Theater Training.

Shows at the Agassiz Theatre included Hyperion Shakespeare Company’s production of Richard II; the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert and Sullivan Players productions of The Sorcerer and The Pirates of Penzance;

and the historic Yiddish operetta Shulamis by Avrom Goldfaden, which featured a new translation by Yiddish theater scholar Nahma Sandrow and a revised score by Zalmon Mlotek, Artistic Director of the Folksbiene National Yiddish Theatre. The Agassiz season also included Stairs to the Roof, a rarely performed 1941 play by Tennessee Williams, directed by Harvard alum Michael Donahue '05 and co-presented by the OFA and A.R.T.; the Office for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response's annual production of The Vagina Monologues, by Eve Ensler; Lost and Clowned, this year's edition of the annual Freshman Musical; and the South Asian Association's annual dance event Ghungroo.

At the Loeb Drama Center, the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club had a full season, both on the Mainstage—Jean-Paul Sartre's The Flies; Harvard Ballet Company's Momentum; Georg Büchner's 1835 historical drama Danton's Death; and Stephen Sondheim's award-winning musical Into the Woods—and in the Experimental Theater. The latter venue hosted an abundance of productions, including Attempts on Her Life by British playwright Martin Crimp; the popular 50's-inspired musical Grease; Last Call, an original work by Rheeqrheeq Chainey '11; Peter Weiss' Marat/Sade; David Auburn's Proof; another Stephen Sondheim show, Putting It Together; Peter Shaffer's Five Finger Exercise; a Tennessee Williams classic, The Glass Menagerie; Leah, an original work by Sonia Coman '11; Martin McDonough's The Pillowman; Working, the 1977 musical composed by Stephen Schwartz and others; and Space, the Funny Frontier, the 12th annual Laugh Riot Festival presented by the Immediate Gratification Players.

Student thespians, directors and designers got into the swim of things in the Adams Pool Theatre with productions of the one-act farces Criminals Are Afoot; Wendy Wasserstein's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Heidi Chronicles; An Ordinary Man, an adaptation of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment by Noa Silver '10; a reading of Relativity, an original play by Jonathan Meyer '13; a double-bill of Clock/Radio by James Patrick Fitzpatrick '12 and scenes from High School Musical; and the Hyperion Shakespeare Company production of Pericles.

What were your favorite Harvard theater productions this year? Let us know...and let us know what we left off the list!

[Caption: Bat Boy in the New College Theatre, Fall '09]

[Caption: Sofia Selowsky '12 and Michael Yashinsky '11 in "The Sorcerer," presented by Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert & Sullivan Players.]