Transformative power of live theater will be hallmark of PAD’s 2009-10 season

Live performance has always been a multidisciplinary event, its three great streams — theater, music and dance — forever shifting and combining in new and unpredictable ways.

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San Francisco-based choreographer Rulan Tangen will serve as a visiting distinguished professor this fall and will set a work for “Transmotion” at the Dance Theatre concert in December.

For its 2009-10 season, the Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences will present a handful of works that together highlight both the boundless possibility and the transformational power of the stage.

“Great art does not merely copy human experience,” said Robert Henke, Ph.D., chair of the PAD and professor of drama in Arts & Sciences. “It transforms it, quite literally, by concentrating and distilling experience through pre-existing but always changing forms.”

The season will open with the annual A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Festival, which will showcase four new plays written by Washington University students. Named in honor of alumnus A.E. Hotchner (A.B. and J.D.), the festival consists of a two-week workshop — led by Liz Engelman, a former president and current board chair of Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas — followed by two evenings of staged readings.

The first evening, Sept. 25, will feature “Razor Love” by Max Rissman and “Steps” by Margaret Stamell. The following evening, Sept. 26, will feature Jonathan Baude’s “Match or Kasparov Never Played Black” and Jessica Atkin’s “What Will You Tell Your Children?”

The PAD season will continue Oct. 16-Nov. 1 with the musical “Ragtime,” Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning adaption of the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow. Jointly produced with the St. Louis Black Repertory, “Ragtime” intertwines the lives of three families at the dawn of the 20th century but centers on jazzman Coalhouse Walker Jr., a successful piano player who turns to violence after a white mob destroys his custom Model T.

Ron Himes, founder of the Black Rep as well as the PAD’s Henry E. Hampton Jr. artist-in-residence, will direct the show, which includes music and lyrics by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens.

Next up is Martin McDonagh’s “The Pillowman” Nov. 19-22. Directed by Annamaria Pileggi, senior lecturer in drama, this haunting and darkly funny tale — winner of the 2004 Olivier Award for Best New Play — is set in a Kafkaesque police state and centers on a writer, Katurian, who must sacrifice his life in order to save his fiction.

“Transmotion,” the 2009 Washington University Dance Theatre concert, will run Dec. 4-6. Directed by Cecil Slaughter, senior lecturer in dance, the performance will feature dozens of student dancers in professionally choreographed works by both faculty and guest artists.

Highlights will include settings by adjunct instructor Mary Ann Rund and by visiting choreographers Rulan Tangen, director of San Francisco’s Dancing Earth—Indigenous Contemporary Dance Creations; and Paula Weber, chair and professor of dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The season will continue Feb. 19-28 with Eric Overmyer’s “On the Verge (or The Geography of Yearning)” — a kaleidoscopic comedy following three Victorian women as they trek through time, space and pop culture — directed by Andrea Urice, senior lecturer in drama.

William Whitaker, senior lecturer in drama, will direct Lynn Nottage’s “Fabulation,” a satiric morality tale about a Manhattan publicist whose life begins to spiral out of control March 25-28.

From April 9-11, the PAD will host its fourth biannual Young Choreographers Showcase, featuring original works — selected by audition — by student choreographers.

Concluding the season April 23-May 2 will be “Metamorphoses,” the acclaimed play by MacArthur “genius award” winner Mary Zimmerman. Based on ancient Roman myths drawn from the works of Ovid, this inventive evening is neither musical nor drama nor dance concert but instead fuses elements of all three forms to create a unique epic at once modern and timeless. Henry Schvey, Ph.D., professor in the PAD, will direct, with choreography by Slaughter.

The A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Festival is free and open to the public. Tickets to “Ragtime” are $20, or $15 for faculty and staff and $10 for children, students and seniors.

All other events are $15, or $10 for students, seniors, faculty and staff.

Subscriptions to three or more events are available for $12 per show. In addition, the PAD offers a special “season pass” for $58. A current WUSTL ID is required; registration deadline is Oct. 2.

For more information about the PAD season or to order tickets, call the Edison Theatre Box Office at 935-6543.