‘Venture Into the Unknown’: NAU Theatre takes its 2020-21 season online

Northern Arizona University’s Department of Theatre announced this season’s slate of productions, with the intention of keeping those events mostly, if not entirely, online. The season, entitled “Venture Into the Unknown,” includes performances that will introduce patrons to new ideas and also bring them some classic stories.

“With the gathering sizes being so small, and really uncertain, it feels best to create an experience that we know we can deliver on with our students and faculty and staff artist educators,” said department chair Kathleen McGeever.

The first two shows will incorporate a variety of techniques such as puppetry and voice-over in order to allow students to maintain physical distance while rehearsing and performing, a technique McGeever calls “COVID staging,” which will be live-streamed from the Clifford E. White Theater.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon flierThe first in this season’s line-up, taking place Oct. 1-4, is “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” by award-winning playwright Tina Howe. This adaptation of a Norwegian folktale thrusts its main character into the bitter winter with a mysterious polar bear.

The season continues Nov. 5-8 with the classic whodunit comedy “Clue” by playwright Jonathan Lynn. Join the usual suspects: the butler, Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock and Colonel Mustard as they race to find out who killed Mr. Boddy.

The spring semester shows begin with a special adaptation of “Fefu and Her Friends” Feb. 22-26. This production of Maria Irene Fornes’ play will be adapted for a special live-streamed performance. The show is a preconception-busting story of a group of women rehearsing for a charity event in a New England country home.

The season wraps up with a performance of Qui Nguyen’s “She Kills Monsters” April 8-11. The play is a comedic romp into the world of fantasy role-playing games that takes people to a world of ogres, fairies and pop culture. Performances will be live or live-streamed in the Clifford E. White Theater.

“The shows we are doing might help us to laugh, escape or take us down the path of other questions we need to ponder as we navigate this new reality,” McGeever said. “Theatre has survived pandemics, plagues and challenges over the thousands of years because it is essential.”

Showtimes for events live-streamed from the Clifford E. White Theater will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with a 2 p.m. show Saturday and Sunday. The online performance of “Fefu and Her Friends” will occur each night of its run at 7:30 p.m.

NAU Theatre also plans to continue other performances, including a festival of student acted and directed one-acts Nov. 12-14, which will be live-streamed. The department also will hold its annual theatre expo, showcasing student research April 14-15, and host The Great Survival Debate on March 26, where Lumberjacks from across campus will debate the merits of their discipline in a world rebuilding after a disaster.

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Zachary Ziegler | College of Arts & Letters