Next season, Randolph Theatre is going from Ancient Greece to Wonderland to small-town Wisconsin.
The 2020-2021 season, announced earlier this week, begins in October with the College’s Greek Play, the more than 100-year-old tradition held every other year in The Dell’s Mabel K. Whiteside Greek Theatre.
This year, the tragedy Heracles and Deianeira, which depicts the fates of the titular hero and his second wife, takes center stage. Auditions were held remotely last month in order to give students the summer to study the script and get to know their characters.
From there, the action turns to a stage adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, set for a late November debut.
Theatre professor Stephanie Earl says they chose the classic children’s tale in part because of the success of their last family-friendly production, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
“We had such a great response,” she said. “We got really good crowds, bigger than we’re used to getting, and we also did a school matinee for elementary school students. It’s a great way to get more people on our campus to see what we’re doing.
“For the students, the opportunity to perform in front of young children is something I really wanted for them as well because kids are so honest,” she added. “It’s good training. You can gauge how things are going in a really accurate way.”
And you can’t go wrong with the story itself.
“Alice in Wonderland, specifically, we liked because it puts a strong female lead right at the center, and that’s something we’re really interested in at Randolph.”
The musical The Spitfire Grill, coming in February, also centers on a strong female protagonist. Based on the 1996 film of the same name, it follows a young woman, just out of jail, as she goes to work at a small-town diner.
“It has been on my radar for a long time,” Earl said. “It’s a smaller-cast musical with folk music, and the music is just really fantastic. It’s got sort of a mystery, but also a heartwarming, happy ending. It’s got something for everyone. It’s got comedy. It’s got strong friendships. It’s got female empowerment in there, but it’s also got some great male characters. We’re really excited about doing a musical in this way.”
The season will wrap up with two student-directed shows in April.
Dakota Willard ’21 will direct Stop Kiss, while Alexus Allen ’21 will helm Any Night.
“If we have a senior or seniors who have met the criteria to be able to direct in their senior year, then we work with them on selecting a play to direct. Both Dakota and Alexus have jumped through all the regular hoops. They’ve taken all the classes they’re supposed to take,” Earl said. “They’ve just been people that have been strong leaders in the department, and we really felt like they were ready to take on their own shows.”
Stop Kiss, which tells the story of a young gay couple that is attacked on the street while kissing, was one of the most produced plays in the 1990s and early 2000s, Earl said, and has been especially popular on college campuses.
“It’s incredible,” she said. “It’s set in the ’90s, deals with a lot of issues of inclusivity, and it’s got a thriller vibe. It’s dark, but it’s also got a lot of comedy.”
Any Night is lesser known but no less thrilling, focusing on a troubled young woman who starts having night terrors after the death of her mother.
“It’s a very stylized thriller, and when I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down,” Earl said. “People are going to be on the edge of their seats. It just makes you realize how many great stories are out there.”
Looking at the season as a whole, Earl said it falls right in line with the College’s goal of offering students a wide variety of opportunities.
“Even from one year to the next, we try to do things that are very different. It’s all about giving the students a taste of all the genres that are out there and all the different styles that are out there,” she said. “We try really hard to mix it up as much as we can so over the course of their four years, they feel like they’ve gotten it all.”
Greek Play: Heracles and Deianeira
Oct. 9-11 in the Mabel K. Whiteside Greek Theatre (The Dell)
Alice in Wonderland
Nov. 19-22 in Thoresen Theatre
The Spitfire Grill
Feb. 25-28 in Thoresen Theatre
Student Directed Works: Stop Kiss and Any Night
April 22-25 in Lab Theatre