Scheduling Faux Pas Packs Arts Events Into A Single Weekend

by RoxyRegionalTheatre on May 2, 2011

I have come to love Clarksville and, in doing so, I have an irresistible urge to fix whatever I feel is broken.

Last week, APSU Opera premiered a glorious new work by George L. Mabry and Richard P. Gildrie, Ben and the Virtues, artistically directed by Lisa Conklin-Bishop with designs by her daughter Kyra (which I hope everyone put on their list of Sunday matinee must-do’s, as I have done for years). This production was scheduled directly opposite the APSU Theatre Department’s How I Learned to Drive, an important play which we produced here some years ago … but that’s not the point.

A number of years ago, Charles Strouse, composer of Annie, Bye Bye Birdie, etc., spoke at Austin Peay. The one-acts were in full swing, and so was the opera’s production of Candide. Then, as now, a similar scheduling faux pas occurred.

I made an appointment to meet with Dr. Hoppe, and I told her I would have loved to have received a letter from my son which would have read, “Dad, I’m in the one-acts here at school tomorrow. And one of your favorite composers, Charles Strouse, is on campus and will be speaking Wednesday night. On top of that, your favorite opera, Candide, is being given. Isn’t this a wonderful university?”

But I told Dr. Hoppe that such a letter would be impossible, since none of the one-act performers could attend the opera, none of the opera singers could attend the one-acts, and neither was free to hear Charles Strouse speak.

The university has made a formidable leap in producing the work of two of its finest assets, its professors. The axiom that “those who can, do, and those who can’t …” etc. holds no truth here when giants in their fields are given the glorious opportunity to do, and can, as well as teach. We go for weeks in Clarksville without an event worth getting up from our La-Z-Boys for, but somehow the opera and the play were scheduled the exact same days. Let’s not make this mistake again. As Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here.” But where is here? And at whom do I point and shake my finger?

These talented young students learn, of course, by doing, as is the axiom for acting: “Acting is doing.” Some knowledge is garnered from viewing, and what could not be better than singers seeing actors act. And the reverse is equally advantageous: actors seeing singers sing. A drama instructor of old told me you can learn from bad acting as well as from good.

We began this Sesquicentennial year with Stephen Vincent Benet’s John Brown’s Body and continue our efforts with an American musical, The Civil War, which continues through May 21 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7pm and Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, with a 2pm matinee on Saturday, May 14.

See you at the theatre!

[John McDonald]

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