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The Play's the Thing

Wake Forest's University Theatre takes front and center

Story by Wake Forest University July 20th, 2017

all the world's a stage

Taking the stage at Wake Forest isn’t just for theatre students. And many of the University Theatre’s most memorable productions feature economics or chemistry majors who decided to try their hand at acting or stage design. Performing live theatre cultivates a wide range of real world skills, like adaptability, creativity, teamwork and confident public speaking.

But mostly, it’s fun.

Laugh, cry and enjoy the drama as we pull back the curtain on the past few years of Wake Forest’s University Theatre productions.

Elizabeth Patterson is Tracy in the University Theatre production of "Hairspray."
Michael Pizzalato and Morgan Stumbras star in "The Imaginary Cuckold" by Moliére.
The cast of Moliére's "The Imaginary Cuckold" take a bow.
Hayley Greenstreet, seated, and Mara McCaffray star in the UniversityTheatre production of the farce "Noises Off."
The backstage comes to the main stage in the farce Noises Off.
Wake Forest students run through the final dress rehearsal of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."
Professor J.K. Curry directed 30 cast members in the production of the musical "Hairspray."
Eli Bradley stars as Pseudolus in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."

I laughed, i cried

From outrageous comedies to lighthearted musicals to intense dramas, the University Theatre offers something for everyone each year.

Mara McCaffray and Kristen Bryant explore the magical realism of "Marisol."
Zac Pierce-Messick tries to get the attention of Marisol, played by Mara McCaffray.
The UniversityTheatre performs "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder.
Erich Jones and Dowd Keith perform the climactic scene in "Romeo and Juliet."
Professor Brook Davis directed The Laramie Project on the mainstage theatre.
Justice von Maur, Anne Peyton Brothers, and Lillie Burrow star in "Spark."
Lillie Burrow and Suna Guo star in "The Waiting Room."
Anne Peyton Brothers is a soldier home from the war and Branden Cook is an old-timer in "Spark."


They have the best – and worst – seats in the house. Performing from the orchestra pit just feet from the stage, the conductor and musicians rarely see the actors above them. But live orchestra music creates an almost palpable energy in the theatre, and these hidden performers are the invisible stars of every production.

Professor David Hagy directs the pit orchestra for City of Angels.

all call

When the University Theatre held open auditions for “The Grapes of Wrath,” they envisioned a kind of community theatre production. Not only were students cast in the play, but members of Wake Forest’s staff, faculty and extended University family were offered roles as well and invited to perform in the orchestra. The unique production had an impact beyond the stage, launching an interdisciplinary campus-wide discussion about the economic, social and political issues raised by Steinbeck’s Depression-era story.

Worn farm shoes symbolize the plight of he Judd family in "The Grapes of Wrath."
Bill McIlwain (MAEd '94) leads an old-time string band of  Wake Foresters to accompany the production.
The Judd family sets off for California to escape the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma during the Great Depression of the 1930s.


Or props for that matter.

Taking promotional photos weeks in advance of opening night - before costumes have been sewn, sets have been completed or props have been made – can be a challenge. But with some ingenuity and the natural creativity of the director, actors and University Photographer Ken Bennett, the publicity shots always seem to capture the essence of the production.

Junior Aleshia Price plays Esther Mills in the UniversityTheatre production of "Intimate Apparel."
Alyssa Gera, Johanna Beach, Natalie Brashear, and Hayley Greenstreet star in "These Shining Lives," directed by Professor Cindy Gendrich.
Michael Whatley and Abby Suggs star in the University Theatre production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "Doubt."
Charl Coetzee, left, and Jake Graham star in the University Theatre production of "City of Angels."
Emily Nedvidek, Sarah Davis, and Clint Blumenberg star in "Embers and Stars: The Story of Petr Ginz."
Zac Pierce-Messick is Vladimir and Philip Kayser is Estragon in the University Theatre production of "Waiting for Godot" by Samuel Beckett.
Phil Kayser and Ashton Smalling star in the UniversityTheatre production of "Honk, Jr."
Eli Bradley, Lyndsey Hannah, Anne Peyton Brothers, Jay Buchanan and Branden Cook star in "Collidescope 3.0" by Ping Chong.

dramatic pause

Preparation for Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” took a tragic turn when the king was hospitalized with mono just five days before opening night. A sophomore at the time, Branden Cook (’17) recovered in royal fashion, but University Theatre Director Jerf had to scramble to find a last-minute replacement to play King Ferdinand. Follow the drama behind the drama as Wake Forest Magazine documents the 74-day journey from auditions to closing night.

Director John E.R. Friedenberg -- who everyone calls "Jerf" -- watches an early run-through from the seats.
Alyssa Gera, right, cuts out patterns in the costume shop inside Scales Fine Arts Center.
Set designer Mary Wayne-Thomas paints one of the backdrops on stage.
Eli Bradley is Don Adriano de Armado, and Jessie Wagner is Holofernia.
The sound and lighting crew work on timing during a rehearsal.
Jerf shares a laugh with legendary Wake Forest theatre professor Harold Tedford, right, before the opening.
Alyssa Gera gets ready to play Rosaline, a lady attending the Princess of France.
Backstage on opening night.
Orion Goodman is Longaville, Clint Blumenberg is Dumaine and Taylor Hagely is the King of Navarre.
Brian Spadafora steals the scene as the clown, Costard.
Footnote: Photos by Ken Bennett, ©Wake Forest University