Saint Louis University

Saint Louis University Theatre 1997-1998 Season

Our Country's Good | Sweet CharityCome Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean | Don't You Want To Be Free | The Learned Ladies

Our Country's Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker
October 3 & 4 - 8PM
October 5 -2PM - Sunday Matinee
October 9 - 10:30AM - High School Matinee
October 10 & 11 - 8PM

In 1789, some British convicts who had been exiled to a remote Australian penal colony, plan to put on a play. Against a background of barbaric punishments, it is Ms. Wertenbaker's design that the actors play both convicts and jailers -- a rich device which places on trial all of our assumptions about what "civilization" means. One critic described this moving play as "a tribute to the transforming power of drama."

    Sweet Charity - Book by Neil Simon, Music by Cy Coleman & Lyrics by Dorothy Fields

November 14 & 15 - 8PM
November 16 -2PM - Sunday Matinee
November 21 & 22 - 8PM

Bob Fosse's production of this musical first appeared on Broadway in 1969, and it remains one of the wittiest of American musical comedies. Based on a movie by the great Federico Fellini, it tells the story of a woman whose honesty and true generosity, within her world of women for hire, are underappreciated. It contains such hit songs as Hey, Big Spender, and If They Could See Me Now.

Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean by Ed Graczyk

The action of the play takes place on September 30, 1975 at the Five and Dime in the small town of McCarthy, Texas. On this date, the members of the "Disciples of James Dean" gather to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the night in which James Dean died in an auto accident. Through scenes in flashback the characters relive the events of that fateful night in 1955 when the idol of their youth crashed his Porsche on a lonely stretch of California highway. Through the course of the evening they each experience painful memories of their past and present, revealing to themselves and to the group a secret pain and a secret strength hidden deep inside.

Don't You Want To Be Free? by Langston Hughes
March 20, 21 & 27, 28 - 8PM
March 22 - 2PM

When Langston Hughes returned from his assignment in Spain as a war correspondent, he told Louise Patterson of his idea for establishing a people's theatre. She suggested the hall of the International Workers Order (a leftist labor-cultural group) above Frank's Restaurant on 125th Street. This was the first home of the Harlem Suitcase Theatre, in 1937.

Named for its arena staging and lack of scenic properties, Suitcase Theatre was a peoples' theatre composed of amateur actors. The audiences were seventy-five per cent black; admission was thirty-five cents. The program was usually two or three short pieces; The Slave, or The Man Who Died at Twelve O'Clock, or several skits written by Mr. Hughes lampooning white chaicatures of blacks: Em-Fueher Jones, Limitations of Life, and Little Eva's End. The piece de resistance was always Don't You Want To Be Free? We had no play so the suggestion came up one evening as we were sitting there plotting the theatre, that Langston should do a play and why not a play of music-drama of many of his folk poems? So that he went home that night after we had had that discussion and sat up all night writing it and came back the next night with Don't You Want To Be Free? (from an interview with Louise Patterson by Norma Markman, 1969)

Although Suitcase Theater lasted only two years (it did not survive its transplant to the library basement on 135th Street) the idea of a Negro People's Theater spread to other cities. In March 1939, Mr. Hughes founded the New Negro Theater in Los Angeles.

The success of Don't You Want To Be Free?, which opened in February 1937 and ran for 135 performances, may be found in three factors: (1) the direct appeal to the problems of the audience (most businesses in Harlem were owned by whites and only one of every six employees of the businesses were black), (2) the simplicity and beauty of the poetry and songs, (3) the appeal to unite poor whites and blacks in a fight against exploitation by the rich.

The Learned Ladies by Moliere
April 17 & 18 - 8PM
April 19 -2PM - Sunday Matinee
April 23 - 10:30AM - High School Matinee
April 24 & 25 - 8PM

Moliere spent his career poking fun at anyone he felt had it coming including Doctors, Lawyers, and the Clergy; and the playwright believed that no one should be exempt from satire. In this rollicking comedy (Les Femmes Savante) we meet some women who are obsessed with pseudo-intellectual pursuits, and some purveyors of the most vapid artistic pretensions, who consider traditional interests such as romance and marriage beneath them.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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