Theater department gears up for “Kiss Me Kate”

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It’s that time in the spring semester when some students start to dial out of focus, distracted with thoughts of warmer weather and summer break. The theater department, however, is beginning to dial it in, preparing for their last performance of the season.

In early April the theater department will perform Cole Porter’s 1948 musical “Kiss Me Kate.” The productions coincides with the yearly campus theme, which happens to be Shakespeare. While “Kiss Me Kate” is not Shakespearian, It draws upon the bard. It’s a play within a play, with the characters of “Kiss Me Kate” performing Shakespeare’s play “The Taming of the Shrew.”

Justin Amellio is director for this year’s production. As an assistant professor of theater, he’s been doing this sort of thing for over a decade. It’s his job to not only direct the play, but to help “with the staging of the story” and assist other departments conceive and carry the production.

“My favorite part about this production has been working with the students,” Amellio said. “The collaboration between the production staff, the technical staff and the students has been great.”

One challenge the theater department faces with “Kiss Me Kate” is the size of the cast. Westley Butcher, stage manager, said that this year’s cast was one of the biggest yet.

“It’s a 21-student cast,” Butcher said.

Add in all the staff and assistants, there are 30 to 35 people involved, give or take. It’s a jump compared to last spring’s production of “Pippin,” which had only 15 parts, according to Butcher.

“We also have a considerable amount of moving pieces. It’s a busy show, but it’s very exciting,” Butcher said.

Brad Pontius, sophomore and theatre performance major, plays the characters of both Harry and Baptista. He said the dancing in this year’s production was both his favorite aspect and greatest challenge.

“We have a lot a lot of dancing, some of the numbers are really fantastic. It’s got a really jazzy, 1940, 1950s feel to it,” Pontius said. “We spend a lot working on the dancing.”

This week, the cast begins technical rehearsals on stage. They’ll have a week to perfect their performance on stage, and then open to the public on Thursday, April 10, at 8 p.m. “Kiss Me Kate” will also show Friday, April 11, and Saturday April 12, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, April 13, at 2 p.m.

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