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From the classroom to the stage

The department of theatre arts at Southern Oregon University is usually a very active place, but things are really hopping this week and next as the department presents two shows.

"Hunting Cockroaches" by Janusz Glowacki, translated by Jadwiga Kosicka, opened Thursday at the Center Square Theatre. The play runs at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, through May 24 and at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 17 and 24 and Sunday, May 25.

"Metamorphosis" by Mary Zimmerman, based on 10 mythic tales written by Ovid in 13 B.C. opens next Friday, May 23, on the Center Stage Theatre. The play runs at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, May 22-24 and Thursday-Sunday, May 29-June 1 and at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 31.

SOU theater arts majors participate in an intensive program that produces two or more stage productions each academic term. The students assume responsible roles in the areas of performance, scenery, costumes, lighting, sound, and management.

The department seeks to present a balance of both classical and contemporary plays which offers theater majors a range of stage opportunities. "Hunting Cockroaches" was cited by the American Theatre Critics Association as an "Outstanding New Play" in 1986. Ovid's "Metamorphoses" is a work from classical Greek times.

"There are several of Ovid's ideas from the 'Metamorphoses' that Zimmerman is most concerned with," says director Dale Luciano, SOU professor of theatre arts. "One is the metaphor of transformation and change, the 'metamorphoses' of the title, that ties the stories together."

Zimmerman uses water to symbolize the transformations experienced by the mythological characters. The stories are enacted in a pool of water enveloping the stage.

"There are some complicated challenges that are exciting," notes Luciano, "such as working with the large pool of water, 15 actors playing multiple roles, and finding the right emotional tone for the dream-like quality of many scenes."

Luciano oversees director instruction at SOU's theater arts department. Dennis Smith and Maggie McClellan teach acting courses. Sean O'Skea is the scenic design faculty and Ezra Severin teaches stagecraft. Deborah Rosenberg teaches costume design and Laurie Kurutz teaches costume construction. Eric Levin teaches theatre literature courses and mentors theatre arts education students. Lighting and sound design is taught by department chair and associate professor Chris Sackett.

Designated a Center of Excellence in the Fine and Performing Arts by the Oregon University System (OUS), Southern Oregon University is the longest-standing OUS institution to offer the preprofessional Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater.

"We're the largest undergraduate theater program that's not affiliated with a graduate program west of the Rockies," Sackett said. "Exclusively undergraduate means more direct contact with faculty and not competing with graduate students for experiential roles," Sackett said. "Students who come out of our program hit the ground running when they go to grad school. Their experience here has prepared them to follow whatever they pursue even if it's not theater."

For those students who are aiming to make theater their life's work, Sackett pointed out that SOU alums are working in all aspects of theater in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and other regional theater centers across the country. He attributes part of this success to the high quality of student attending SOU's theater program.

The theatre department employs Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors, directors, and designers as guest artists and adjunct faculty, enabling students to work directly with professionals in their field. A number of SOU theater students have found their way onto the stage at OSF and other local theaters.

Tickets for "Hunting Cockroaches" and "Metamorphosis" are $17 regular, $14 senior, $5 students. For information, call 552-6348 or visit sou.edu/theatre.

Southern Oregon University student Chris Cook works on the set for the theater department's production of 'Romeo and Juliet.' - Southern Oregon University