Beginning Wednesday, December 2, the school’s University Productions department will release six innovative, student-driven productions over the course of three weeks for its first fully online season. A new production will be released every Wednesday and Friday through December 18. All performances will be free and available to the public for a limited time.
Much like a normal production season, the Fall 2020 season features highlights from the Departments of Musical Theatre and Theatre & Drama, as well as two releases from the University Opera Theatre. The productions themselves, however, will look quite different.
“COVID-19 may have stopped us from having audiences, but it hasn’t stopped SMTD students from creating,” said Paul Hunter, Production Manager for the school’s University Productions. “This fall, we were faced with the same challenge every performing arts organization has faced this year: how can we put on performances safely? The answer: with the same creativity we use to approach all of our productions.”
The season has been filmed in-person and remotely throughout the semester according to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s approved safety plan. All safety protocols for the performing arts to prevent the spread of Covid 19 were observed.
The season digitally premieres with A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY, a Theatre & Drama production originally intended for the 2019-20 season, which uses drag, drama, and documentary elements to examine the fundamental questions surrounding the immigrant experience, including what it means to be an American.
Other highlights include MT GHOSTLIGHT 2020, a compilation of student-driven performances from the Musical Theatre department that seeks to bring a new kind of light to the darkened theatres on U-M’s campus. MT GHOSTLIGHT 2020 will air in three episodes over consecutive Friday nights in December.
The season is rounded out with two releases from the University Opera Theatre—a night of OPERA ONE-ACTS, featuring workshop performances of two newer works, and PROVING UP, a fully-staged performance of Missy Mazzoli’s haunting chamber opera about Nebraska Homesteaders and the American Dream, filmed live (without an audience) in the Power Center.
See below for a full schedule of releases:
A Beautiful Country // Department of Theatre & Drama
Wednesday, December 2
Using dance, drag, drama, and documentary elements, A Beautiful Country chronicles 150 years of Asian-American immigration history. Miss Visa Denied, a transgender drag queen and performer, is the narrator who guides the audience through the turbulent history of Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese people coming to America. Heartfelt testimonials and the dramatization of some highly vibrant and egregious pieces of propaganda showcase the provocative events that have shaped this history. Addressing issues of race, gender, and appropriation, this play examines the fundamental questions surrounding the immigrant experience, including what it
means to be an American.
This production was filmed over two weeks in the Arthur Miller Theatre and various remote locations according to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s approved safety plan. All safety protocols for the performing arts to prevent the spread of Covid 19 were observed. The production will receive its premiere on Facebook and be available for one week on YouTube beginning on Wednesday, December 2nd.
MT Ghostlight 2020 // Department of Musical Theatre
Friday, December 4: Episode 1
Friday, December 11: Episode 2
Friday, December 18: Episode 3
In theatre tradition, a ghostlight—usually a single bulb—remains on an empty stage when a theatre goes dark, to appease the spirits. Faced with the near impossibility of putting on a fully-staged production during a pandemic, the Department of Musical Theatre has chosen to provide a new kind of ghostlight: an online-only revue of the best that the department has to offer.
This student-driven production will feature songs, skits, and dances directed, choreographed, performed, and in some cases written by students from across the Department Musical Theatre. From classics of musical theatre to pop, folk, and jazz, this revue has it all.
This production was recorded over the months of October and November in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, the Arthur Miller Theatre, and remotely, according to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s approved safety plan. All safety protocols for the performing arts to prevent the spread of Covid 19 were observed.
MT Ghostlight 2020 will be released on SMTD’s YouTube channel in three installments over three weeks, on Fridays beginning December 4 at 8:00 PM EST. Each episode will be available for one week.
Opera One-Acts // University Opera Theatre
Wednesday, December 9
The University Opera Theatre showcases two new works—each around 30 minutes in length—in a stripped down performance on the University of Michigan’s North Campus.
The first opera, ALL WOUNDS BLEED, is a re-telling of the myth of Echo & Narcissus in three scenes and an epilogue, composed by Pulitzer Prize finalist Christopher Cerrone with libretto by Tony Asaro. It features three vocalists—a soprano, a mezzo, and a tenor—as nymph Echo, goddess Hera, and self-adoring Narcissus, respectively.
The second opera, DAUGHTERS OF THE BLOODY DUKE, is a dark comedic one-act opera written by Jake Runestad, in which Margot, the young daughter of the Bloody Duke of Ravenswood, must choose between love and the demands of her revenge-crazed family.
This performance was filmed live with piano accompaniment in the McIntosh Theatre on October 9, according to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s approved safety plan. All safety protocols for the performing arts to prevent the spread of Covid 19 were observed—including masks for the vocalists. The Opera One-Acts will premiere on the SMTD YouTube channel on Wednesday, December 9 at 8:00 PM EST, where it will be available for a one-week run. Both operas will be sung in English.
Proving Up // University Opera Theatre
Wednesday, December 16
Based on the short story by Karen Russell, PROVING UP is an intimate and haunting look at the perils of the American Dream. Set in Nebraska in the 1870s at the height of the push west, a family of homesteaders struggles to meet the daunting requirements of the Homestead Act as they try “proving up” on their land claim. This atmospheric new chamber opera from composer Missy Mazzoli features a sparse cast and orchestra, and was selected as one of The New York Times’ Best Classical Music of 2018 selections.
This performance was filmed live in the Power Center over two nights in November, according to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s approved safety plan. All safety protocols for the performing arts to prevent the spread of Covid 19 were observed—including masks for the vocalists. Proving Up will premiere on the SMTD YouTube channel on Wednesday, December 16 at 8:00 PM EST, where it will be available for a one-month run. Proving Up is sung in English with an approximate run time of 80 minutes.