Rochester Debut of Award Winning Play About Unquenchable Desire and Unrequited Love
The human search for connection through love, desire, and lust is a timeless thing.
Set all that to music, and you have Hello Again, John LaChiusa's award-winning musical, to be presented by the International Theatre Program in Todd Theatre on the University of Rochester's River Campus. The production, the program's first musical, opens on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, 2008, and runs for 11 performances, including three matinees, through Feb 23.
Based on Arthur Schnitzler's classic and controversial 1897 play Reigen, often referred to as La Ronde, Hello Again presents a series of 10 interlinked scenes of couples searching for love and connection. Both the German reigen and the French ronde mean "round dance."
Fittingly described by some critics as a "ballet with words," Hello Again is a chamber musical in which each scene presents a sexual encounter between two characters who yearn for and pursue a romantic ideal that seems forever out of reach.
"Our mission is to do challenging and exciting work that pushes the boundaries of theatrical form," says Nigel Maister, artistic director of the International Theatre Program since 2002. "I felt that Hello Again was a unique musical of ambition, excitement and intrinsic theatrical challenges that easily fit this mission—and it's intimate, sexy, moving and entertaining to boot."
When performed on stage in 1921, La Ronde was immediately shut down due to the explicit manner which it dealt with the sexual morals and class ideology of its day. The first text edition of the play, released in Vienna in 1903, was a huge success, selling 40,000 copies. It was banned in 1904, but was published again in Germany in 1908.
Hello Again, an early LaChiusa work, debuted at Lincoln Center in 1995 and was nominated for nine Drama Desk Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book, Best Lyrics, and Best Music. LaChiusa's musical theatre adaptation of La Ronde adds one crucial extra element to Schnitzler's work: the passage of time.
As in the original, each couple is linked to the couple in the scene that follows, with one character in each scene appearing as half of the couple in the next scene, until the circle of romance and sexuality ironically completes itself.
In Hello Again, each scene is also placed in and against the sexual, political and social mores of an individual decade of the twentieth century. "This allowed the composer-librettist to explore the range of musical forms of the 20th century from ragtime to disco, and the musical then serves as a multi-layered portrait of the 20th century," says Maister, also a founding member and resident staging director of the award-winning new musical ensemble Alarm Will Sound.
Maister, whose creative ventures span the genres of theatre, fiction, and puppetry, says there are no "stars" in Hello Again, as each of the roles is equally weighted. The cast includes Matt Myers (College Boy); Lazaro Estrada (The Husband), Sarah Seider (The Young Wife); Douglas Zeppenfeld (The Soldier); Amanda Averack (The Nurse); Jesse Thorpe (The Actress); Kristin Volpicella (The Whore); Joshua Hatcher (The Writer); Andrew Polec (The Young Thing); and John Amir-Fazli (The Senator).
Choreography for Hello Again was created by acclaimed choreographer Seán Curran. A leading dancer with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company for many years, Curran recently made his Metropolitan Opera debut choreographing Romeo and Juliette.
Musical direction for the play is by Christopher D. Littlefield, whose work has been seen regionally, off-Broadway, and at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Justin Townsend is the set and lighting designer, whose work in New York City includes productions at Primary Stages and P.S. 122.
Costume designer Arnulfo Maldonado's extensive credits include film and dance work. He is the recipient of the Alberto Vilar Global Fellowship in the Performing Arts. Sound Design is by William J. Pickens, whose work as resident sound associate for Geva Theatre Center may be familiar to Rochester-area audiences.
LaChiusa's other musicals include The Wild Party, Mary Christine, Bernarda Alba, First Lady Suite, and Chronicle of a Death Foretold. He teaches in New York University's Musical Theatre Program while continuing to work prolifically in the field.
The production will run Feb. 14 through 16, and Feb. 19 through Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. with matinees on Feb 16, 17, and 23 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $8 (UR students); $10 (UR staff, faculty, alumni, and seniors); $15 (general public). Tickets can be reserved online at www.rochester.edu/theatre or by calling (585) 275-4088.
Director's Note: The material and subject matter of Hello Again is mature in nature, and thus more suitable for adults.