Unnatural Acts, About Harvard's Expulsion of Gays, Gets NYC Premiere Starting June 15

News   Unnatural Acts, About Harvard's Expulsion of Gays, Gets NYC Premiere Starting June 15
Unnatural Acts, a new play about Harvard's investigation and persecution of a group of gay students in 1920, begins Off-Broadway performances June 15 as the final show of Classic Stage Company's 2010-11 season. 

Cast member Nick Westrate
Cast member Nick Westrate Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The work was conceived and directed by Tony Speciale and created by members of the Plastic Theatre. Based on the real-life story of Harvard's "Secret Court" of 1920, Unnatural Acts plays at CSC (136 East 13th Street) to July 10. Opening night is June 23. Owing to tech rehearsals, the first preview is a day later than originally announced.

According to CSC, the play "is inspired by events that occurred at Harvard University in the spring of 1920, when a student's suicide sparked a campus-wide investigation by a panel of administrators who convened to investigate, expose and ultimately expel a group of homosexual students. Both intimate and epic, Unnatural Acts explores themes of fear and societal intolerance that are as relevant today as they were 91 years ago."

In 2002, a student journalist for The Harvard Crimson came upon a reference to the "Secret Court" while combing university archives. After initial resistance, Harvard granted access to over 500 pages of abandoned documents describing the systematic persecution of these students, according to CSC production notes. "The revelation of this controversy motivated conceiver and director Speciale's own journey into the court transcripts, family correspondence, and countless records revealing the lives of these promising young men."

Speciale and his team of writers (the Plastic Theatre) "devoted countless hours of research and development decoding the long-hidden records from the Court, identifying witnesses and accused individuals, and piecing together a timeline of events and experiences. Through meticulous research, study and improvisation, Unnatural Acts emerged."

Read Playbill magazine's feature about the play. The cast of Unnatural Acts features Jess Burkle, Joe Curnutte, Frank De Julio, Roe Hartrampf, Roderick Hill, Max Jenkins, Brad Koed, Jerry Marsini, Devin Norik, Will Rogers and Nick Westrate.

Set design is by Walt Spangler, lighting by Justin Townsend, costumes by Andrea Lauer and original music and sound design by Christian Frederickson.

Speciale is in his third season as associate artistic director at CSC where he has directed Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew.

Unnatural Acts performs Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM. Tickets are $60 for weekday performances and $65 for weekends. For tickets and information, visit www.classicstage.org or call (866) 811-4111, or (212) 352-3101.

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