A radically re-envisioned production of George Bernard Shaw’s comic masterpiece Major Barbara opens at the University of Rochester’s Todd Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 24. Often considered the centerpiece of Shaw’s oeuvre, Major Barbara will run at 8 p.m. from Feb. 24 to 26 and from March 2 to 5, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Feb. 27.
With Shaw’s inimitable wit and trenchant social criticism, Major Barbara examines the question “What happens when moral and economic values collide?” Shaw pits the values of idealism—vividly embodied by Barbara, the Salvation Army major of the title—and pragmatism—as exemplified by her plutocratic, industrialist father—against each other, creating a theatrically exuberant fable on the conflict between money and morality. Increasingly pertinent in current times, Major Barbara remains perhaps Shaw’s most eloquent exploration of dearly held beliefs and the compromises demanded to adhere to those beliefs in the face of the modernized world’s industrial behemoth.
The University of Rochester International Theatre Program’s production is directed by visiting artist and experimental director Brooke O’Harra, artistic director of New York City’s acclaimed Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf. O’Harra and her company are known for their daring and viscerally theatrical work of classic texts, including works by Henry Fielding and Polish playwright S. I. Witkiewicz. O’Harra’s production of Major Barbara builds on the International Theatre Program’s mission to bring exciting, alternative theatrical visions to the Rochester community by exploring Shaw’s classic through the lens of unorthodox performance styles. O’Harra juxtaposes divergent aesthetics, including Kabuki, shadow puppetry, live music, and multi-media.
Major Barbara’s production team includes set designer Justin Townsend, whose work has been seen at New York City’s LaMama ETC, New York University’s Experimental Theatre Wing, and Seattle’s Intiman Theatre; costume designer Michael McKowen, who has worked as milliner on the Broadway productions Wicked, The Boy from Oz, and Gypsy; lighting designer Peter Ksander, who has done work with the California Shakespeare Festival; composer and sound designer Brendan Connelly, whose work has been performed in New York City at Primary Stages and Lincoln Center and whose composition “Quintet 1” was recently released on Planeria Records; and videographer Bilal Khan, a faculty member at John Jay College of Criminal Justice whose wireless, live, and computationally manipulated video applications have been a feature of several Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf productions.
Tickets for Major Barbara are $10 for the general public; $8 for senior citizens and University of Rochester faculty and staff; and $6 for University of Rochester students. They can be reserved online at www.rochester.edu/theatre or by calling the box office at (585) 275-4088. Tickets can also be purchased at the door one hour before the performance. Todd Theatre is located on the University of Rochester’s River Campus.