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From behind the microphone and onto the stage: International Theatre Program presents Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas

September 29, 2015
large cast of actors on stage

The University of Rochester’s International Theatre Program kicks off its 26th season on Thursday, Oct. 8 with a rare stage production of Dylan Thomas’ play, Under Milk Wood.

Originally written for radio in the 1950s as a  “play for voices,” Under Milk Wood was the only play Thomas ever completed. He died shortly after finishing the work, which was published posthumously and broadcast on BBC radio. In the play, an omniscient narrator invites the audience to listen to the thoughts and dreams of the inhabitants of the fictional small Welsh village, Llareggub  (or “bugger all” read backwards.)

“Because the play was originally intended for radio, the challenges for both the actors and director are significant because the emphasis is on the words and not the staging,” says Nigel Maister, the Russell and Ruth Peck Artistic Director of the University of Rochester International Theater Program.  “Essentially, the play is about a typical day in an atypical town yet Thomas is able to convey love, desire, and affection through some of the most beautiful language ever written for the English stage.”

Regarded as one of the last romantic poets of the 20th century, Thomas’ life was cut short by alcohol abuse and has been the subject of myth and mythologizing. “But what is indisputable is his command of language,” said Maister. “He wrote some of the most vivid and evocative poetry of his time.” Thomas’ beloved works include Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, and numerous poems including the famous Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night and Fern Hill.

Maister, who has led the University’s International Theatre Program since 2002, directs the play and designed the sets. Born in South Africa, he has trained as an actor and director and has a master’s of fine arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University. He is the recipient of numerous awards and a founding member and resident theater director of the music group Alarm Will Sound. His work has been seen at the Lincoln Center Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Holland Festival, NYC’s River to River Festival, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cork Opera House (Ireland), and NYC’s Miller Theatre. Also an author, composer, and librettist, his latest musical-theater work I Was Here I Was I received its world premiere at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in summer 2014.

Costume design for Under Milk Wood is by Tilly Grimes, whose work has appeared at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and for Trinity Repertory Company and New World Stages. Lighting design is by Seth Reiser, a graduate of New York University whose recent credits include the St. Matthew Passion at the Park Avenue Armory with Peter Sellars; Uncle Vanya at The Pearl Theatre Company; The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs at The Public Theatre, and the Obie Award-winning production of The Lily’s Revenge at HERE Arts. Sound design and original music for the production are by Obadiah Eaves, a veteran of the International Theatre Program, who has created music and sound for original productions on- and off-Broadway of works by David Mamet, Woody Allen, Eric Bogosian, Ethan Coen, and Suzan-Lori Parks.

Under Milk Wood runs Thursday, Oct. 8 through Saturday, Oct. 10, and Wednesday, Oct. 14 through Saturday, Oct. 17. The shows begin at 8 p.m., except for matinée performances on Saturday, Oct. 10 and Sunday, Oct. 11 at 3 p.m. All performances will take place in Todd Theater, located in the Todd Union building on the River Campus. Tickets are $8 for University of Rochester students, $12 for faculty, staff, alumni, and seniors (65+), and $15 for the general public. They can be purchased online at, or by calling 585.275.4088.  Tickets may also be purchased at the box office up to an hour before each performance.

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Category: The Arts