It’s the end of another long, hot summer in Salt Lake City. The parades are over, fireworks are illegal again and the first day of class is around the corner. The Dog Days of August are laden with boredom. If you ready for a cool escape out of the Salt Lake Valley, dust off your passport. Local college theater offerings this season are likely to whisk your imagination away without your having to pass through customs.
The University of Utah opens its season in the Babcock Theatre with a taste of ancient Greece and Egypt, in Euripides’ Helen, directed by acting professor Barbara Smith. The U’s Classical Greek Theatre Festival is performed outdoors at 9 a.m. on the north side of the Performing Arts building so audiences get a feel for how theater was performed around 500 B.C. In this version of the story, Helen was never in Troy. She had been secretly removed to Egypt, while a bogus Helen was kidnapped and taken to Troy, starting the 10-year Trojan War. Uncover the destiny of the real Helen in this classic tragedy. With performances scheduled Sept. 22, 23, 29 and 30. This show will go on tour to Weber State University, Westminster College and Brigham Young University in October.
From Greece, the U travels north to Amsterdam, putting you in hiding with 13-year-old Anne Frank and her family during World War II. A steadfast example of human dignity in the face of danger and great suffering, The Diary of Anne Frank, directed by Bob Nelson, Department of Theatre chair, runs Sept. 26-30 and Oct. 3-6, with two special performances in Kingsbury Hall on Oct. 9-10.
Later in the season, indulge in the British sensibilities of William Shakespeare’s most spiritual play, A Winter’s Tale. This show is cast only with senior students from the Actor Training Program and directed by guest artist Michael Barakiva. The show runs Nov. 7-11 and 15-18.
Emma Rice’s adaptation of the romantic Cornish legend Tristan and Yseult, directed by professor Larry West, showing Feb. 20-24 and Feb. 28-March 2, rounds out the English experience. It is followed by Frederico Garcia Lorca’s dark tale Blood Wedding, set in rural Spain. Directed by Actor Training Program professor Sandra Shotwell, the show runs April 2-6 and 10-13.
The U’s first black-box theater production in Studio 115 this season is German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s Happy End. Set in Chicago in 1919 and directed by Actor Training Program head Sarah Shippobotham, this frisky musical comedy about a Salvation Army officer who falls in love with a gangster may remind you a bit of Guys and Dolls. This show runs Oct. 3-7.
Westminster College is also offering stamps for your imagination passport with its first production of the season in the Courage Theatre, Moliere’s Tartuffe, directed by theater department chair Michael Vought. Set in France in the 1700s, this rollicking comedy full of con men, romance and cheeky maids is a big, period costume show with some serious eye-candy. Open auditions for this show take place Aug. 30-31, with parts for men and women from college age to 60-years-old. The show runs Nov. 8-10 and 15-17.
In the spring, cruise to the Emerald Isle to County Donegal and the village of Ballybeg to visit the five Mundy sisters and their new wireless radio. This lively play, also directed by Vought, is an exploration of Irish culture, memory and change, and of course, dancing, in Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa. Open auditions take place Jan. 10-12, 2008, and the show will run March 13-15 and 20-22.
If mental globetrotting is not your cup of tea, then head on out to The Grand Theatre at Salt Lake Community College. Its production of Johnny Guitar, directed by Weber State University professor Robin Wilks-Dunn, will take you to sunny New Mexico. This spirited musical, based on the 1954 movie starring Joan Crawford, has an original score full of 1950s rock & roll, Western and lounge tunes, and a great romance to boot. The saucy saloon keeper, a tightly laced cattle baroness and a couple of sexy cowboys promise to keep you entertained during your visit. The show runs Sept. 14-29.
Want a cooler clime? Imagine lush Prince Edward Island in Canada and spend some quality time with mischievous Anne Shirley in the musical Anne of Green Gables directed by WSU professor Narlene Mathie, from Oct. 26 to Nov. 10. A perennial favorite, this show tells the poignant and touching tale of an orphan who finds a loving home and lifelong friends.
The Grand’s late winter production of Crowns, directed by Grand Theatre artistic director Richard Scott, offers an intriguing look into black culture and the practice of wearing elaborate hats to church. Let the hats of six Southern women reveal and conceal stories about their histories and lives. The show runs Jan. 25 to Feb. 9.
From the arid Greek countryside to lush Canadian landscapes to the exalted Parisian court and the streets of the Windy City, you can take your imagination on vacation all year long. So get your tickets and leave Salt Lake City behind, if only for an evening.
BABCOCK THEATRE/STUDIO 115 University Of Utah, 240 S. 1500 East. 581-7100, KingTix.com
JAY W. LEES COURAGE THEATRE Westminster College, 1840 S. 1300 East. 832-2457, WestminsterCollege.edu
THE GRAND THEATRE Salt Lake Community College, 1575 S. State. 957-3322, SLCC.edu/the-grand