COSI at Longstreet Theatre
Louis Nowra's hit Australian comedy runs at Longstreet Theatre November 11-19.
The University of SC Dept. of Theatre and Dance
by Louis Nowra
Directed by Steven Pearson
November 11-19, 2016
1300 Greene St.
Friday, November 11: 8pm
Saturday, November 12: 8pm
Sunday, November 13: 3pm
Wednesday, November 16: 8pm
Thursday, November 17: 8pm
Friday, November 18: 8pm
Saturday, November 19: 3pm
Saturday, November 19: 8pm
$12 | Non-UofSC Students
$16 | USC Faculty/Staff, Military and Seniors 60+
$18 | General Admission
Box Office: 777-2551
Or purchase in person at Longstreet Theatre. Box office opens November 4.
Box Office Hours: 12:30pm - 5:30pm, Monday - Friday
First-year MFA actor Donavon St. Andre (left) is Lewis and third-year MFA actor Matt Cavender is Roy
Set in the shadow of the Vietnam War, Louis Nowra’s endearing autobiographical story begins as Lewis, a young Australian director, lands a job handling a group of inexperienced but colorful performers, all patients in a mental institution. Against surprising and touching odds, a motley band of players emerges ready to perform Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte. But can they sing? And who speaks Italian? A madcap look at theatre behind the scenes, Così is ultimately a fresh, startling play about personal dreams, madness, ambition, disappointment, creativity and transformation. Così was adapted into a major motion picture starring Toni Collette in 1996, for which Nowra received an Australian Film Institute award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Although director Steven Pearson has staged the play twice before as a studio production, this will be its first full production at the University. Pearson says it’s the script’s strong sense of humanity that has made it such a favorite. “It’s about the possibilities of the human spirit in a way,” he says, “and it’s uplifting in that regard. It has great humor, great sadness, and great understanding about how people work.”
He adds that the script’s play-within-a-play structure is also appealing. “It’s the idea of theatre being fundamentally redemptive at some basic level,” he says, “creating something that makes us all better — the people watching it and the people doing it. That’s my reason for doing theatre, and this play is actually like that.”
In keeping with the humanistic tone, Pearson says the production’s approach to its mentally ill characters is equally compassionate. “It’s with great sensitivity that we’re approaching the characters’ mental states,” he says. “We’re not using mental illness for our own entertainment ends. What these characters endeavor to accomplish is actually a great model for us. In spite of the madness that’s surrounding them, they do a particularly ‘sane’ thing in figuring out how to make something against incredible odds. I think that’s a positive message.”
To help create the institutional setting of the story, Pearson has enlisted the artistry of third-year MFA in Design students Baxter Engle (scenic design) and Neda Spalajkovic (costume design), as well as guest artist Jeremy Winchester (lighting design). Currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Winchester has been a theatrical designer and director for productions across the country for two decades. He has worked with Pearson’s independent production company, Pacific Performance Project/east, on New York City-based productions of the plays Flight, Gravity and The Water Station. “He’s really good,” says Pearson. “He has a wonderful eye and a wonderful sense for the dramaturgical core of the play and how light relates to that, but he’s also sensitive to the dramatic action of what’s going on in a particular environment.”
Appearing in Così are first-year MFA in Acting students Donavon St. Andre, Kimberly Braun, Gabriela Castillo, Kaleb Edley, Kimberly Gaughan, Libby Hawkins, Darrell Johnston and Nick Stewart, third-year MFA in Acting student Matt Cavender, and undergraduate student Brooke Smith.
In the end, Pearson’s aim is to facilitate a story that make us think and feel, while being, as the U.K.’s Daily Express reported, “a hoot from start to finish.”
“This play is looking at people who have a much larger struggle than we do in ‘normal’ society, whatever that is,” says Pearson. “The fact that they strive to overcome what seems to be a sort of quixotic idea in spite of huge limitations and negative influences is a lesson for all of us, in the so-called normal world.”
For more information on Così and the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803.777.9353 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.