Stephen F. Austin State University

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SFA to present 'Street Scene' on Turner stage

March 22, 2013 - Robbie Goodrich
NACOGDOCHES, TEXAS - Kurt Weill's "Street Scene," an American opera based on Elmer Rice's Pulitzer Prize-wining play, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April 4 through 6, in W.M. Turner Auditorium on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus.

The opera, with lyrics by Langston Hughes and Elmer Rice, is a presentation of the SFA College of Fine Arts, School of Music and University Series.

The story is set in the summer of 1946 and takes place in Manhattan's West Side on a "dingy, slummy street in New York City where the neighbors spend their time gossiping about each other, particularly about a supposed affair between a local married woman and the milkman," according to program notes by Elaina Nordin, who serves as dramaturg for the production.

"Themes of dysfunctional and stifling domestic life, the damages of alcoholism, loneliness and unrequited love, ethnic stereotypes and political paranoia are incorporated throughout," Nordin writes, "and Weill portrays all of these aspects through irony, melodrama and comedy."

"Rice's 'Street Scene' is a 'slice-of-life' play that presents all the comedy and tragedy, hopes and dreams, and love and death that embody daily life," said Deborah Dalton, associate professor of voice at SFA and opera director. "Kurt Weill masterfully translates everyday people and events into musical expression.

"The most dramatic characters sing arias; a young girl sings of her dreams of love in a ballad; the 'fast' girl of the neighborhood sings an upbeat Lindy Hop; and the janitor has a blues song," Dalton said. "Much of the dialogue has musical underscoring that serves to highlight the emotions of each scene. If real life was set to music, Kurt Weill would be my choice to compose it."

With a cast of more than 50, "Street Scene" is a large production that has taken months in planning and casting, and rehearsals have been exciting, according to Dalton.

"I saw 'Street Scene' in Houston many years ago, and it has been one of my favorites since then," Dalton said. "I thought it would be a perfect piece for our students because of the large number of roles. So many characters have solo numbers and perform in many different musical genres - show tunes, arias, operatic duets, comic ensembles, blues and the 1940's foxtrot. There is truly something for everyone in this show."

Many of the "Street Scene" performers will make their solo operatic debut in the production.

"The students have been such a delight to work with," Dalton said. "With the exception of two or three students, all of the students in leading or in featured roles will be making their solo operatic debut. In rehearsal, there have been many moments of hilarity, pathos and even tears in response to the beauty and vérité of the subject matter. I am so proud of their work ethic and genuine collegiality in rehearsals. And don't even get me started on the excellence of their singing!"

The set for "Street Scene" was purchased from UTSA Lyric Theater and scaled down to fit the Turner Auditorium stage.

"We were very fortunate to be able to purchase a set that would have been torn apart and thrown away," Dalton said. "Every other year, SFA Opera Theater collaborates with the SFA School of Theatre faculty designers and students to produce the opera. We are so fortunate to have their knowledge, talent and skills to create a sense of place and time for the audience as well as for the performers.

"On the off year, we must find a set designer/technical director to build the opera set," she explained. "Once again, our theatre colleagues help with all the technical aspects of the production but on a smaller scale. Student costume designers, hair and make-up artists and light and sound board operators are recommended to us to work on the opera. These students are paid for this service, and often, their work on the opera is their first professional engagement. In addition, theatre graciously provides us with a lighting designer."

Prior to the performance on opening night, Dalton will present a 7 p.m. informative talk in Griffith Gallery, located across the hall from Turner Auditorium. The audience is invited back to the gallery for a post-performance reception to honor the event's corporate sponsor, Point A Media.

Tickets are $18 for adults, $12 for seniors and $6 for students and youth. For tickets or information, visit www.finearts.sfasu.edu or call (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS.