UMD theatre department prepares for its fall 2017 shows

Teiresias in Antigone. Photo Courtesy of Brett Groehler.

Teiresias in Antigone. Photo Courtesy of Brett Groehler.

This semester the UMD Theatre Department is presenting “Antigone,” “Noises Off” and “In A Jazz Way.”

“UMD Theatre prides itself in presenting a wide range of productions that appeal the broadest possible audience,” said Mark Harvey, theatre department head.

The team just finished showing the Greek tragedy “Antigone,” written by Sophocles. The play follows a town beaten by civil war and a King, Creon, trying to govern this town. Creon is not flawless and refuses advice adherently.

Director of “Antigone,” Jenna Soleo-Shanks, had the challenge of making it more contemporary and engaging.

“We had to make it about the audience in Duluth in 2017, their current everyday lives and what they care about,” Soleo-Shanks said.

Soleo-Shanks did not want to interject any political stance in the play, but rather leave the audience with some questions.

“What does it mean to be a good leader?” Soleo-Shanks said. “How do we get along in our civil lives? These are still relevant questions.”

Showing Nov. 2-5 and 8-11, “Noises Off” is a comedy written by Michael Frayn.

Dance rehearsals for a past dance concert. Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Katz Harwood

Dance rehearsals for a past dance concert. Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Katz Harwood


“Noises Off” follows a troupe of British actors desperately trying to get a play up; becoming incredulously frazzled and upset. The play provides a unique look on what goes on backstage of a production.

“There is big time drama, but the solutions are funny,” said Kate Ufema, Director of “Noises Off.” “[Everyone] tries to solve their problems using extreme measures.”

The extremity of the play even required a professional stunt man to be hired to work with some actors involved in difficult scenes.

“We had to otherwise someone would get hurt,” Ufema said. “It’s very face paced.”

However, the absurd stunts just add to this door slam comedy.

“In rehearsals tears are falling down cheeks and sides are hurting,” Ufema said. “It is just so good, so funny.”

Harvey describes feeling “laughter to the point of tears,” along with “humor” and “joy.”

The cast of actors working with Ufema put in hours of preparation leading up to the show.

“Rehearsals are 26 hours a week,” Ufema said. “Actors are working out all the time with the athletes.”

Showing from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, “In a Jazz Way” is a dance concert that conveys what jazz music means to our culture and the rich variety of the genre.

Director of “In a Jazz Way,” Rebecca Katz Harwood, was inspired to produce the play after celebrating the genre at the national jazz dance convention.

“The culture of jazz is part of being an American,” Harwood said. “It is a bunch of cultures thrown together.”

Each student choreographer is displaying their expression of the genre through their dances.

“Each student gave their proposal for their unique interpretation of jazz. We have a buffet of jazz,” said Harwood.

Kate Erickson, a Junior choreographer, is creating a dance to a hip-hop song released this year. Sophomore Elsa Barnes will display a classical jazz song with lyrics, mingling together the story of her song and dance. Another student has Brazilian music to express what it means to her.

“It was gratifying to see students grow and rise to the challenge,” Harwood said. “[There is] an enjoyment in seeing the aspects of themselves.”

Tickets for students are $8 and must be purchased for reserved seating here. All performances are shown at Marshall Performing Arts Center.  


Correction made Oct. 17, 2017 changing the dates of "In a Jazz Way" from Nov. 2 to Dec. 3 to Nov. 30 to Dec. 3


CultureJakob Bermas