LAWRENCE — The latest University Theatre production, “Rhinoceros,” will take audiences on a visual and satirical romp that offers insight on totalitarianism, xenophobia and human will.
The play is considered playwright Eugene Ionesco’s masterpiece. University Theatre’s production will include political cartoons, tweets and a podcast to artfully blend contemporary news and American icons, including President Donald Trump, into motifs inspired by Europe’s fascist history, which Ionesco saw first-hand.
The new production at the University of Kansas will be guest-directed by Lawrence resident and longtime theatre practitioner Ric Averill.
“The cast and crew deliver an immersive exploration of Ionesco’s absurdist piece. Human beings transforming physically into rhinos serves as a metaphor for ideological conformism,” said Averill, artistic director emeritus of performing arts at the Lawrence Arts Center.
It’s a story of the last man standing after a mass movement. Both nonsensical and poignantly political, “Rhinoceros” evokes feelings of disbelief, outrage, apathy, determination and even love.
“The play challenges audiences to form connections between Europe’s fascist movement and the nationalistic and xenophobic demonstrations happening in America today,” Averill said. “It’s an important time to examine the issues of digital dependence, humanity and nationalism.”
The play will feature designs by Professor Mark Reaney, a pioneer in the use of computer graphics in theatre design. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11, 14, 15 and 16, noon Nov. 10 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 12 in the William Inge Memorial Theatre in Murphy Hall.
“Rhinoceros” earned a Tony Award for its Broadway production and has been adapted for film and musical.
Tickets for “Rhinoceros” are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre, (785) 864-3982, and the Lied Center, (785) 864-ARTS. Tickets are $15 for adults, $14 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff, and $10 in advance, $15 at the door for KU students.
Members of the cast and crew include Josh Philoon, Wilmette, Illinois, senior, as Berenger; Adrian Brothers, Lawrence, as Jean; Johanna diZerega, Lawrence senior, as Daisy; Noelle McDonald, Overland Park senior, as Waitress/Ms. Papillon; Aeron Lewis, Lawrence freshman, as Old Gentleman/Botard; Rachel Woolery, Lawrence junior, as Housewife/Mrs. Boeuf; Stephen Elberg, Weston, Florida, junior, as Café Proprietor/Dudard; Matthew Reynolds, Oskaloosa junior, as Grocer/Old Man; Caitlin Forgione, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, sophomore, as the Grocer’s Wife/Old Man’s Wife; Daniel Lorentz, Salina senior, as Logician/Fireman; Taylor Zimmerman, Gardner graduate student, as the lighting and tweet designer; Robert Crone, Emporia senior, as costume designer; Abbey Lynn Smith, Altamont senior, as media designer; and Emma Dodge, Leavenworth junior, as stage manager.
The Department of Theatre is one of four departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of the Arts offers fresh possibilities for collaboration between the arts and the humanities, sciences, social sciences, international & interdisciplinary studies.
Image: Graphics for "Rhinoceros," designed by Mark Reaney, professor of theatre.