The New Studio Company, the hybrid merging of the professional Meadow Brook Theatre and the Oakland University Department of Music, Theatre and Dance, in Rochester, MI, will stage its second production, Terrence McNally's Master Class, April 28-May 16.
Meadow Brook is a cultural program of OU, in suburban Detroit, but until spring 1998, the campus professional and the academic factions rarely mixed. Actors' Equity performers and OU theatre students and faculty created the New Studio Company in 1998, staging Angels in America: Millennium Approaches under the direction of Meadow Brook artistic director Geoffrey Sherman.
Master Class, the conceptual piece about a fictional Maria Callas lecture, in which the aging diva spins tales about her life while critiquing vocal students, was a Broadway hit starring Zoe Caldwell. It won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Play. Its national tour starred Faye Dunaway.
The New Studio Company staging -- with Meadow Brook's associate artistic director Debra L. Wicks directing a mix of students and two anchor professionals -- officially opens April 30.
OU has a strong vocal music department, a recital hall and one of the only well-equipped, flexible black-box theatres (the Varner Studio in Varner Hall) in the Detroit area. OU and Meadow Brook have traditionally maintained separate identities, with the undergrads being in Meadow Brook's shadow, but under Sherman's reign the professional theatre has worked more closely with the undergraduate department. The troupes are headquartered separately on campus and do not share facilities.
Master Class will be staged, like last year's Angels, in the black-box Studio Theatre on campus.
The idea of the New Studio Theatre was initiated by Carol Halsted, chair of the OU performing arts department, and theatre professor Michael Gillespie.
"Our goal is to produce contemporary dramas that are artistically adventurous," said Gillespie. "We look for material that neither Meadow Brook nor the undergraduate department could produce on its own and lends itself to an intimate (150-seat) space."
Meadow Brook, Michigan's only LORT theatre, produces a seven-show season September-May. OU's department of music, theatre and dance stages a number of events, including an undergrad theatre season, during the academic year.
Master Class tickets ($18-$25) are available by calling (248) 377 3300.
-- By Kenneth Jones