Brecht’s story of abandoned child opens new Theatre UAB season

Theatre UAB opens its new season with Brecht’s “The Caucasian Chalk Circle,” featuring 22 actors, puppets and original music by students.

Theatre UAB’s new season begins with Bertolt Brecht’s “The Caucasian Chalk Circle,” a masterful retelling of an ancient Chinese tale and the biblical judgment of King Solomon, in a new translation by Alistair Beaton.

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Theatre UAB presents "The Caucasian Chalk Circle"
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The play opens Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011, with shows at 7:30 p.m. nightly through Saturday, Oct. 8, and a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, Oct. 9, in UAB’s Alys Stephens Center Sirote Theatre, 1200 10th Ave. South. General admission tickets are $12 and $15; student tickets $6; UAB employees and senior citizens $10. Call 205-975-2787. Visit the UAB Department of Theatre at www.uab.edu/theatre.

The story of “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” is a simple one, says director Jack Cannon, M.F.A., assistant professor in the UAB Department of Theatre. A peasant woman, Grusha, finds an abandoned child of privilege, the heir to the seat of power, during the overthrow of the provincial government where Grusha lives and works. Grusha takes the child to raise, only to have the original mother return and demand her child and the child’s substantial inheritance. Grusha is brought to court to determine who is the rightful mother — the woman who gave birth to the child or the woman who nurtured it.

“The Caucasian Chalk Circle” is a large, complex show, with a cast of 22 actors playing nearly 100 characters in myriad scenes and locations, Cannon says. Masks and puppets will be used in the production, and songs are used to stop the narrative of the play and make social, political, economic and moral comments about the character’s predicaments. Theatre UAB has collaborated with the UAB Department of Music for the show’s music. Student composers Natalie Kinsaul, UAB theatre major, and Kevin Peek, UAB music major, have worked for months composing original music for the words and lyrics in Brecht’s songs, Cannon says.

“As student composers, they were given a monumental task of creating music for more than 20 songs. They ended up creating a roving band of Gypsy musicians that play the accordion, guitar, bass guitar, banjo, mandolin, piccolo, tambourine and a variety of drums,” Cannon says. “The music they created bridges the theatricality of the play’s dialogue and the complexity of the music contained within the play’s songs.”

The near all-Alabama cast is Trey York, Tim Simmons, Allison Shackelford, Muhammed Al-Kahlout, Kat Burcham and Sophia Wells, all of Birmingham; Bradley Foster of Vestavia Hills; Byron King of Prattville; Jared Funderburg of Pell City; Lee Murphy of Gardendale; Rhonda Erbrick of Corner; Rebecca Harper of Valley Head; Catie Cole of Demopolis; Leah Huebner of Huntsville; Leah Hudspeth of Hoover; Kyle Hulcher of Fort Worth, Texas; with singer Elliot Cleverdon of Irondale and musicians Ronnie Moore of Birmingham; Josh Vintson of Sumiton; Ellis Oswalt of Oxford; Alora King of Boonsboro, Md.; and Kirstie Crumly of Centreville. All cast members also are part of the show’s ensemble.

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