WMU News

Theatre students win praise at festival in Scotland

Aug. 27, 2004

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University theatre students recently returned from Edinburgh, Scotland, where they staged a well-received production at the 2004 Fringe Festival, Scotland's internationally known gathering for the arts.

The trip marked the University Theatre's first appearance at the annual festival. Students made the most of it by staging a critically acclaimed production of "Women of Troy: Women of War," while also taking advantage of the festival's many learning opportunities. Students presented the play Aug. 7-14.

"Every once in a while, you leave a theatre feeling completely drained," wrote a reviewer in the festival newspaper Three Weeks. "A case in point is Western Michigan University's immaculate ensemble production, which seamlessly fuses the classic Greek tragedy with personal accounts of 20th century war victims.

"Their relentless energy and faultless timing make their performances deeply affecting. It is a very long show, and it makes no excuses for its brutality, but this is a professionally polished performance, which aims to hit hard and certainly succeeds."

Three Weeks gave "Women of Troy: Women of War" a grade of four out of five stars.

"Women of Troy: Women of War" is a frighteningly relevant update of Euripides' tragedy, "The Trojan Women." Working under directors Joan Herrington and Lyda Stillwell, the text and staging evolved through improvisation and experimentation by the cast.

"I don't believe I've ever worked so hard or been so rewarded in my life," says junior Katie Duthler, of Holland, Mich.

There was no established audience for performances, requiring performers to drum up attendance on the streets of Edinburgh between rehearsals and shows, points out Tara Matkosky, of Clarkston, Mich., a member of the play's original cast who graduated in December, but continued on with the project.

"Working and living as a company member helps me understand the importance of creativity, collaboration and cooperation," says junior Larry Heron, of Mattawan. The cast and directors all point out that they could not have participated in the festival without the extensive support of WMU President Judith Bailey, the University Theatre Guild, the Gilmore Foundation and numerous donors.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival attracts some of the most diverse and prestigious talent in the world. Founded in 1947 as a means to make culture thrive in post-war Europe, it has grown from eight participating companies to well over 600.

Holland's Duthler says she left the event "with a tremendous sense of purpose, history and place, knowing that I have so much yet to learn."

For more information, call Patrick Donnelly at (269) 387-3227 or visit the festival Web site at <www.edfringe.com>.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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