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 opens its second production, Terrence McNally's Master Class, April 30.
Previews began April 28 and performances continue to 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 helped create the New Studio Company in 1998, staging Angels in America: Millennium Approaches under the direction of Meadow Brook's (Now departing) 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. Detroit actress Susan Marie Arnold (artistic director of the Attic Theatre in Detroit) is the anchor Equity actress as Callas.
Meadow Brook's associate artistic director Debra L. Wicks directs a mix of students and Arnold. The cast includes Lisa Gazzi, Caitlin Burke, Matthew Hammond, Joseph A. Pokorski and Amy Smith. 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. Sherman resigned from the theatre and leaves at the end of June 1999.
The troupes are headquartered separately on campus and do not share facilities.
Master Class will be staged, like last year's Angels, in the Varner Studio Theatre.
Designers are Brian Dambacher (sets), Kerro Knox 3 (lights) and Suzanne M. Hanna (costumes).
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