After a fire gutted Hoch Auditorium in June, Jack Wright became a rather popular figure on campus.
Wright, as director of University Theatre, helped schedule both classes and performances in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre, where two large lecture classes would have to be rescheduled.
"It was remarkable how many people suddenly discovered the University Theatre program on campus," Wright said in June.
Fortunately, Wright said, he was able to accommodate the needs of the university with a minimal change in his schedule.
And with the coming theater season, a lot more people will become aware of the work of the Kansas University Theatre. Pending reschedulings because of dates in the Kansas University Concert Series, the theater season promises a full schedule of works from around the world in what the University Theatre calls its International Year.
THAT HEAVY international flavor this season comes from a production of a Bertolt Brecht play directed by an German professional; the French opera "Carmen," which is set in Spain; a play from the Soviet Union directed by a graduate student; and "Festival of Renewal," a Nigerian theater piece written and directed by a KU faculty member.
Wright said Lewin Goff, a former director of University Theatre, is back after retiring from the University of Iowa to supervise the International Year, which will bring in speakers and directors from Europe and Asia to speak and work.
This season follows a 1990-91 schedule that saw revivals of "Tobacco Road,'' "Waiting for Godot" and "The Pirates of Penzance" as well as productions of contemporary American plays ("On the Verge," "The Colored Museum") and a pair of Soviet plays from the early '70s.
"I THINK we had a good season last year," Wright said. "All the productions had their own internal artistic integrity.''
Auditions for the first part of the University Theatre season will be held at 7 p.m. nightly between Aug. 26 and 30, with an open call Aug. 26 and 27 and callbacks Aug. 28, 29 and 30. The auditions are open to KU students enrolled in six hours or more.
The mainstage season in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre will open Oct. 11 with a production of "Side by Side by Sondheim," a collection of songs by the Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. His musicals include "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "A Little Night Music," "Follies" and "Sweeney Todd.''
The musical revue, first staged in the mid-'70s, obviously didn't include the songs from Sondheim's shows from the '80s, such as "Sunday in the Park with George" or "Into the Woods," which was performed here last February as a Concert Series special event. But Wright said he was hoping to rent the rights to a later version of the musical.
NEXT ON the list is "The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui," written by Brecht in the 1930s during his exile from Hitler's Germany. The play, to be directed by the East German exchange director Hans Uwe-Haus, takes the basic story of the rise of Hitler and sets it among Chicago gangs of the '20s. Europeans of the '20s, when Brecht emerged as a playwright, were fascinated by the lawlessness of American cities, Wright said.
Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," directed by associate professor of theater and film Paul Meier, is scheduled to open Feb. 27. In addition, this year's opera is "Carmen" by Georges Bizet. The show will be a co-production by University Theatre and the department of music and dance in the School of Fine Arts.
THE FINALE, "Festival of Renewal," promises to incorporate varying aspects of African drama and dance under the direction of Omofolabo Ajayi, assistant professor of women's studies. Ajayi, the sister of Nobel Prize-winning playwright Wole Soyinka, first wrote the production to celebrate an anniverary at a Nigerian university, Wright said. The university cut the production, however, because it could have offended the military government.
University Theatre will also stage two children's works; the first, "More of a Family," will run the week of Sept. 23, and the second, "Crying to Laugh" by Marcel Sabourin," will be held the week of Feb. 3. The plays are performed over the course of a week for visiting school audiences, with public performances coming on the Saturday at the end of the run. Both plays are scheduled in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre.
In the Inge Theatre, the schedule includes "The Story in Frank" by Marcus Richey, a 1989 graduate of KU currently living in Seattle. The play, to be directed by Ron Willis, professor of theater and film, is set to open Dec. 4 and be this year's entry in the American College Theatre Festival, which could bring the production to Washington, D.C., if it is selected in regional competitions.
"THE BLONDE" by Alexander Volodin arose from an exchange with a Moscow theater school which brought Elena Kreindlina to Lawrence last spring to direct two Soviet plays. "The Blonde," a contemporary Soviet work, will be directed by Sam Marinov, a KU doctoral student who went to Moscow last year.
Other productions slated for the Inge Theatre include "The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs," opening Oct. 22; the annual Opera Workshop, opening Jan. 16; and the Pot Pourri Productions, a short season of productions directed by students, to be held March 22-26.
The season will also include "Burning Patience" by Antonio Skarmeta, a live radio drama to be performed in Swarthout Recital Hall. The drama will be broadcast live on KANU.
Tickets for all University Theatre productions are available a the Murphy Hall box office.