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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

“The Poor House”: UMB Theatre Takes you On a Trip to Madrid

The Division of Communication and Theatre Arts is proud to announce its Spring 2002 Drama Workshop, “The Poor House.” Written by UMB professor emeritus Louis E. Roberts, “The Poor House” is based on the novel Misericordia by Benito Peres Galdos, who is hailed as the Spanish master of realism.

Set in Madrid just before the turn of the century – that means the 1890s, not the 1990s – “The Poor House” deals with the extremes of cultures, from the aristocratic nobility and established authorities of church and state, to the disenfranchised and impoverished beggars (who make up the majority of the cast). This by no means suggests the production will be lost in its own history, however, as Professor Diane Almeida, who will direct the play, is quick to assert. “We can make it abstract,” she says, meaning we can make it apply to the present day.

This is the American stage premiere of “The Poor House.” Previously, Almeida directed a radio broadcast version as a joint venture between WUMB and WTIC (Talking Information Center). Almeida’s last production was the well-received Fall 2000 mainstage production of “MacBeth.” Over the course of her tenure with UMB, she has also directed a number of other plays by Roberts, including “Fog,” “John Henry,” and “Stages.”

Joining Almeida and Roberts will be composer John Gagne, who also scored “Fog” and “Stages.” Division Chair Ron Nash will design the set and lighting. While “The Poor House” will likely prove the latest in a string of successes for this quartet, it will also be the last, as Almeida has announced her decision to relocate closer to her husband, and Nash is considering retirement.

No drama workshop is successful without the assistance of the students, however, and the faculty have already nominated several students to key positions. Sara Porter, a participant in last summer’s Nantucket Playwriting and Performance Program, will assist Almeida in directing the play. Danielle Brennan, onstage last semester in “Plays of Prejudice,” will take the helm as stage manager. Theatre Arts senior Henry Santiago will act as dramaturg and costume building, make-up and hair, and choreography. (In case you’re wondering – yes, all theatre students are this multi-talented.) Rounding out the team is publicity coordinator Matthew Breton.

Already the production team are considering means to engage the community, including volunteering time with a local homeless shelter, sponsoring a “homeless night” on campus, and donating a portion of the proceeds from performance to advocacy organizations.

Auditions for the drama workshop will be held on January 29 and 31 during class. Every student enrolled in the workshop is expected to audition, consisting of a two-minute scene or monologue from “The Poor House.” In addition, a large number of instrumental behind-the-scenes roles – such as scenic artist, properties designer, and house manager – are waiting to be filled. It’s the perfect opportunity to take part in theatre at its best: a solidly written play, important social issues, and a great group of people.

For more information on “The Poor House” or the Division of Communication and Theatre Arts, contact the theatre office at (617) 287-5642.