CSU, Chico News

School of the Arts to Stage ‘The Arabian Nights’ in November

Date: 10-22-2012

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Katie Whitlock
School of the Arts Publicity Office
530-898-4056 / kwhitlock@csuchico.edu

California State University, Chico’s School of the Arts will bring to life the magical world of “The Arabian Nights” for its next theatre production. “The Arabian Nights,” directed by Department of Music and Theatre faculty member Katie Whitlock, will have performances Nov. 6–10 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 10 and 11 at 2 p.m. in Wismer Theatre, the Performing Arts Center’s small, intimate “black box” theatre.

CSU, Chico’s production of “The Arabian Nights” was written by Tony Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman, considered in theatre circles to be a pioneer in working with ensembles as well as adapting classic stories into theatrical form.

“Her most well-known work is ‘Metamorphosis,’ which premiered in Chicago and then had a successful Broadway run,” noted Whitlock. “Most recently she worked in Ashland at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival staging the world premiere of her new work, ‘The White Snake.’”

Zimmerman’s adaptation of “The Arabian Nights” was initially performed in the shadow of the first Gulf War at the Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago in 1992. The play has been described by the New York Times as “a celebration of the salutary powers of storytelling.”

“The Arabian Nights” weaves ancient tales of wonder into a poetic testament to the transformational power of storytelling. The play is built around the seductive narrative prowess of Scheherazade, the bride of the caliph Shahryar, who, having been cuckolded by his first wife, now beds and murders a different virgin every night. Scheherazade, as readers of the book know, postpones her execution by telling the caliph intricate fables, stopping tantalizingly short of their conclusions just before dawn.

“She reintegrates him back into the real world through fiction, through story,” said Whitlock. “These classic tales of love, lust, hilarity and sorrow present the encyclopedia of human experience, imagination and poetry in the familiar and exotic realm of the book.”

Anyone with an interest in myth, culture, story and human experience should find something of interest in “The Arabian Nights,” noted Whitlock. “The play is by nature a journey for the viewer, and each person who joins us will hopefully find something funny, erotic, romantic and enchanting.”

CSU, Chico’s production will be ensemble-based. The majority of the actors will portray several different characters. Leading the cast is Scheherazade, played by theatre alumna Sepideh Burgiani (last seen onstage in the School of the Arts’ “The Revenger’s Tragedy”), and the caliph, Shahryar, played by Alexander Ritchey (last seen as the Woodcutter in “Rashomon,” also produced by the School of the Arts). Other familiar faces include Murphy Mayer, Chelsea Haskell, Ernesto Rosales, Krystal Elebiary, Nate Whitaker and Madison Kisst.

CSU, Chico’s production of “The Arabian Nights” is set in the ancient Middle East and will include dancing, singing, improvisation and traditional storytelling. Joining Whitlock in staging the production will be Department of Music and Theatre staff member Sandy Barton (costumes) and theatre students McKenna Perry (set), Keith Bratton (lighting design) and Mikey Perdue (choreography). Whitlock has taken on the sound design to go along with her directing duties.

“This show is designed to be a world of mystery and play,” said Whitlock. “The set and costumes are still being developed to best suit the ensemble nature of the show as actors move from place to place, character to character, with very little time between each. Our student designer is creating a set with a nod toward the classic image of a desert palace to take us from Egypt to Arabia to India in the blink of an eye. This is a world of sensuality and physicality, so the costumes will nod to tradition while still serving to present our vision of this classic story.”

The show serves several needs in terms of artistic and educational perspectives, said Whitlock. “The play is by a leading theatre artist of the 21st century, and it calls for inventive, ensemble-based work, which is ideal for the collegiate environment,” she explained. “It also deals with the Middle East and different perspectives from our own, serving the idea of diversity. It also is a great piece of theatre that focuses on storytelling and theatre in relation to the human condition.”

“The Arabian Nights” is written for audiences of most ages, although there is a touch of eroticism in keeping with the original tales. Whitlock recommends parental discretion in bringing children to the show. She wants lovers of the book to know that some of the historic favorites from the tales such as Aladdin, Sinbad and Ali Baba are not included in this version.

Advance tickets—at $15 adults, $13 senior citizens, and $6 students/children—are available at the University Box Office, 530-898-6333. An additional $2 will be added for tickets purchased at the door. For disability-related seating, please call 530-898-4325.

Visit the School of the Arts website at www.schoolofthearts-csuchico.com.