Photo: Ronald Dean Nolen, Artistic Director of Van Ellis Theatre
“Our first production of the new season is Rabbit Hole,” says Ronald Dean Nolen, Artistic Director of Van Ellis Theatre and HSU assistant professor of Theatre, who planned the upcoming season marked with a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Shakespearian comedy, classic musical theatre from Broadway’s golden age, and a play featuring country music legend, Broadway actor and native Abilenian, Larry Gatlin.
Rabbit Hole is the winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for drama, written by David Lindsay-Abaire, and was also nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play. Nolen says, “The drama centers on the impact of personal loss and how one family in particular handles the experience with both disarming humor and profound grace.”
Playwright Lindsay-Abaire describes his work as centering around “outsiders in search of clarity,” believing that theatre is a place for absurd things to happen. He uses characters who look at the world differently than everyone else.
The play will be directed by HSU adjunct instructor of theatre Dr. Victoria Spangler. Dates for Rabbit Hole are September 27, 28, 29 and October 4, 5, 6, at 7:30 p.m. with one Sunday matinee, October 7, 2012, at 2 p.m. in Van Ellis Theatre.
The season continues with the West Texas premiere of John Logan’s powerful 2010 Tony Award®-winning Red which explores the enigmatic life of famed artist Mark Rothko. The play is directed by HSU senior theatre major, Jayci Pruitt, of Eastland, Texas.
Set in the 1950s, Red recalls the cantankerous, curmudgeonly life of Rothko behaving badly as he mentors a student artist. Nolen says anyone who enjoys history, especially art history, and modern art will enjoy this show.
It will be performed in Down Center Stage Theatre in the basement of the Van Ellis-Behrens complex October 25, 26, 27 at 7:30 p.m. and October 28 at 2 p.m.
Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (or What You Will), is the Christmas presentation, taking place just prior to HSU’s fall graduation. The play is believed to have been written around 1601 to mark a time of merrymaking concluding on the 12th day of Christmas. The play chronicles the riotous disorder expected of the occasion in Shakespeare’s day, with the plot drawn from the short story Of Apollonius and Silla.
The play is directed by Nolen and will be in the Van Ellis Theatre November 29, 30, and December 1, then again on December 6, 7, and 8 at 7:30 p.m.
The spring semester opens with a revival of the beloved Lerner and Loewe musical classic My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. The musical’s 1956 Broadway production set the record for the longest run of any major musical theatre production in history at that time. The musical features more than a dozen musical numbers including, “The Rain in Spain,” “I Could have Danced All Night,” and “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly.”
My Fair Lady will be directed by Nolen, with musical direction by Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth, assistant professor of voice and director of opera. Performance dates are February 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, February 24, 2013, at 2 p.m. in Behrens Auditorium.
Sure to draw plenty of interest from a broad spectrum of audiences is a new one-man show by one of Abilene’s own Broadway stars. The world premiere of Will the Real Larry Gatlin Please Sit Down stars Broadway actor and country music star (as well as Abilene native) Larry Gatlin.
Also directed by Nolen, the show will be in Behrens Auditorium March 21, 22, 23 at 7:30 p.m. and March 24 at 2 p.m. Nolen says while Gatlin is back in Abilene, HSU students will work on the development of a musical written by Gatlin, The Texas Flyer, which may be included in the 2013-2014 theatre season at Hardin-Simmons.
The season ends with DirectFEST 2013, the annual one-act play festival featuring the work of HSU’s young student directors.
This summer, HSU theatre students will be in Scotland to present the 2012 spring-semester production of Birds on a Wire. The dramatic play about the American dustbowl and the very personal loss it wreaked on those who endured it was presented on the HSU stage last February in what was the world premiere of the play.
Playwright Shauna Kanter was in-residence in Abilene to help develop her play with HSU student actors and Nolen at the helm. Those same students take Birds on a Wire to Edinburgh, Scotland, for a performance at the International Collegiate Theatre Festival at the Fringe. The ten students, along with Nolen and associate professor of theatre and department head, Larry Wheeler, will leave for the United Kingdom on August 1.
Nolen, the play’s director, and an HSU graduate, brought his professional theatre background to HSU when he signed on as the artistic director and assistant professor of theatre in the summer of 2010. Fresh from acting in New York City, Nolen brought with him his many theatre contacts from both coasts.
Nolen has guest-starred in numerous television shows, including Law and Order and Crossing Jordan, and co-starred in the original Broadway cast of Mamma Mia! Nolen is also editor of The Film Encyclopedia, and a recipient of the 2006 HSU Outstanding Young Alumni Award. He played the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in the hit HSU Christmas musical production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Nolen holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University.