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Two plays open at SOU

Southern Oregon University's Department of Theatre Arts will present two plays this month: "Dick Whittington and His Amazing Cat," and "Anna in the Tropics."

Its annual children's theatre offering "Dick Whittington and His Amazing Cat," a musical by Pat Hume, performs at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 13-14, 20-21, and 27-28; at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Feb. 14-15, 21-22, and March 1; and at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning "Anna in the Tropics" by Nilo Cruz performs at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, Feb. 19-21 and Feb. 26-28; with 2 p.m. matinees Saturday, Feb. 28 and Sunday, March 1.

"Dick Whittington and His Amazing Cat" is filled with outrageous characters and is best suited for children eight years and older. Written in 1980, the play is based on the 1605 ballad about the true story of Richard Whittington, a London merchant who became the mayor of London in the 15th century. He was known to be a generous philanthropist to charities and the British monarchy. Dick teams up with an extraordinary cat when he travels to seek his fortune in London and exotic locales.

The playwright, Pat Hume of Ashland, was a Broadway actress and worked for two decades as a drama teacher. Guest director Michael J. Hume of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is playwright Hume's son. Guest artists include Jim Giancarlo of the Oregon Cabaret Theatre (choreography), Jennifer Schloming (musical director), Chris Duval of OSF (fight choreography), and David Kelly of OSF (dialects).

James Larson plays Dick Whittington, Tamara Burgess plays Pussycat, Erin Claxton plays the Cook, Jonathan Dyrud plays Mr. Fitzwarren, Kaitlin Humphreys plays Anne, Tim Homsley plays Gransville, and Holly Edwards plays the Wife of Bath.

Student designers are Dorian Robison (scenic), Bradly Sosinski (costumes), Kristin Lake (lighting), and Robert Erickson (sound). Robison is also the technical director and Karen Kuran is stage manager.

In "Anna in the Tropics," as Cuban immigrants worked in Florida's cigar-making factories in the early 20th century, lectors would educate and entertain them by reading great works of literature aloud. When a new lector reads "Anna Karenina" to the workers, desires and jealousies within a family bound by tradition are revealed.

Cruz received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for this play in 2003. In the foreword to his play, Cruz says that his fascination with cigar boxes and cigar labels was integral to the play's themes. "These wooden boxes, with their intricate pictures of imaginary landscapes, suggested the possibility of escaping to a magical place through the brevity of a smoke," writes Cruz. "Some of them have been named after the greatest ill-fated love stories ever written; as if the smoker is to experience the enraptured heights of romantic passion from a puff of a Romeo y Julieta or a Madame Butterfly."

Jimmy Garcia plays family patriarch Santiago, Deborah Jensen plays his wife Ofelia, Joanna Ortiz plays daughter Marela, Danielle Chaves plays daughter Conchita, Gregg Land plays son-in-law Palomo, Sam Ashdown plays Santiago's half-brother Cheche, and Jorge Paniagua plays lector Juan Julian.

Guest director Stephany Smith-Pearson also directed the 2007 SOU production of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." Student designers are Amanda Patt (scenic), Savel Sabol (costumes), Bridget Carlson (lighting), and faculty designer Chris Sackett (sound). Christopher Cook is the technical director and Jonathan Stinson is stage manager.

Tickets for each show are $18 regular, $16 for seniors, and $5 for students. Subscribers to three or more plays receive a discounted rate of $15 regular and $13 senior. Tickets are available at the door or by calling the SOU Theatre Arts Box Office at 552-6348. More information is available at sou.edu/theatre/calendar.