Sunday, September 03, 2000

University companies lead way to diversity

        Several local companies are addressing issues of diversity, and leading the way are two area university theater departments.

        “America in 2000 is diverse,” says University of Cincinnati drama chair Richard Hess. “There's a blending, mixing, stirring up of our culture.”

        College-Conservatory of Music will introduce Cincinnati to contemporary Hispanic playwright Jose Rivera with Marisol and African-American playwright Pearl Cleage with Blues for an Alabama Sky.

        “The work is out there and it's good, so we're doing it,” says Mr. Hess. “Marisol is Hispanic, and that's great, but it's not as if we were filling a Hispanic slot. It's gorgeous theater and a voice that's not someone else's.

        “America has many voices. It's our responsibility to listen harder.”

        Crossing Borders is Miami University's theme for its 2000-2001 season. Theater department head Paul Jackson lists some of those borders: “history, space, time, gender, class, race, cultures and communities.”

        Among entries will be Naga Mandala by India's Girish Karnad, classy feminist fantasy Top Girls and Eugene Ionesco's parable about the end of the universe, Exit the King. Each show includes one talk-back session.

        CCM drama is doing purely contemporary work this season (nothing produced earlier than 1990), and Mr. Hess is claiming the local professional theater premiere of Six Degrees of Separation. (You might remember the film version, about a well-spoken black man who spins outrageous lies to a group of chic Manhattanites.)

        Taking a national as well as a local view, Mr. Hess observes, “Our art reflects what we're living. It doesn't reflect (theater's) audience, but by doing art reflective of our time we can begin to grow and nurture a new audience.”
       — Jackie Demaline

DEMALINE: Season's quantity matched by quality
More theater, on the road
Theatre season a packed house
- University companies lead way to diversity

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