FTT professor's original play "Avanti" to open performance season Friday

by Julie Hail Flory

“Avanti: A Postindustrial Ghost Story,” a multimedia theatrical production created by University of Notre Dame playwright Jessica Chalmers, will be presented Sept. 24 to Oct. 3 in a 70-seat theater inside the old Deluxe Sheet Metal Factory at 506 W. South Street in downtown South Bend.p. A complete performance schedule and ticket information are available on the Web at http://avanti.nd.edu .p. Performed by The Builders Association, a professional company from New York, “Avanti” is a large-scale, innovative production that depicts the 1963 closing of the Studebaker Corp. in South Bend as an event foreshadowing later plant closings in communities across America. Named after the stylishly futuristic car that was the company’s last-ditch effort at financial solvency, “Avanti” is a story about the remains of industry – stylistic, architectural, personal and economic – haunting the landscape and psyche of the country.p. Set in current day South Bend, “Avanti” opens with a demolition team discovering a ghost drifting in an underground storage tank in an abandoned Studebaker building. One member of the team is mysteriously transported back to the last days of Studebaker and comes to understand the legacy his job has required him to destroy.p. Written as a journalistic fiction, the unique computer-generated story features five live actors set against a video backdrop of archival footage of Studebaker company events and advertising from the late 1950s and early 1960s. The extensively researched script incorporates text from actual labor board hearings conducted in the 1980s at Indiana University. An “Avanti” tour is in the planning stages, to include performances in other cities, including Chicago and New York.p. A graduate of New York University, Chalmers is an assistant professor of film, television and theatre (FTT) and a performance artist with an interest in multimedia. Her play “Jet Lag” received a 2000 Obie award, off-Broadway’s highest honor. With a focus on 20th-century drama and experimental theater, her current projects also include a book titled “Reality Theater: From Authenticity to Liveness.”p. “Avanti” is the first of six plays to be presented by FTT this season in four theatrical venues, including Notre Dame’s new Marie P. DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts (PAC), which opened this month. The other scheduled productions are:p. • “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Nov. 3 and 6, Leighton Concert Hall, PAC – Performed by the Notre Dame-based international touring company Actors From The London Stage (AFTLS) as part of the Fall ArtsFest: Shakespeare in Performance, this popular Shakespearean play combines comic chaos and magical romance as the world of the fairies collides with the world of humans in the woods outside of Athens.p. • “Fortinbras,” Nov. 3 to 13, Philbin Studio Theatre, PAC – Also part of the Fall ArtsFest: Shakespeare in Performance, this comedy by Lee Blessing will be performed by FTT students. The play picks up where Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” leaves off, with most of the cast lying dead on the stage, and the title character, the Prince of Norway, arriving to clean up the mess and take control of Denmark.p. • “Othello,” Feb. 11 and 12, Leighton Concert Hall – Performed by AFTLS and sponsored by the Henkels Lecture Series, this Shakespearean classic demonstrates what poor combatants we humans are against the raw power of love and its many facets.p. • “The Laramie Project,” Feb. 22 to 27 and March 1 to 3, Decio Mainstage Theatre, PAC – Presented as part of the Spring ArtsFest: Tolerance and Reconciliation and performed by FTT students, this production captures the turbulant emotions of the people of Laramie, Wyo., after the 1998 hate killing of Matthew Shepard and the ensuing trial.p. • “Arcadia,” April 12 to 23, Decio Mainstage Theatre – Performed by FTT students, this comedy by Tom Stoppard explores chaos theory with references to mathematics, physics, philosophy, history and gardening, pondering the meaning of human existence while showing just how funny genius can be.p. A complete schedule and ticket information will be available on the Web at http://performingarts.nd.edu . Tickets may be purchased by visiting the PAC box office or by telephone at 574-631-2800.p. _Contact: Robin Slutsky, “Avanti” producer, 574-292-6205, rslutsky@nd.edu _

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