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From Martin Luther King and Shakespeare to a romantic comedy and the classic “Raisin in the Sun,” UofL Theatre Arts‘ 2018-19 season spans the gamut of theatre experiences and brings fresh relevance to critical moments of history.

The theme this year is “Stories of the Past: Lessons for the Future.”

Kevin D. Gawley
Kevin D. Gawley

“As directors were proposing titles for the season, remembering major events which shaped the country over 50 years ago emerged,” said Kevin Gawley, Theatre Arts chair. “These stories are as relevant today as they once were. As we present this season to audiences, I hope we can explore the lessons we have learned over the past 50 years and learn how to bring more positive change over the next 50.”

The season opens Sept. 20 with “The Mountaintop,” by Katori Hall, which is a fictional telling of the night before Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination at the Loraine Motel. 

“In the play, MLK Jr. explores his personal struggles with the civil rights movement and helps the audience understand the lessons of his legacy in context of today’s Black Lives Matter movement,” Gawley said.

“The Mountaintop” commemorates the 50-year anniversary of the assassination of King in 1968.

The second show of the season, starting Nov. 8, is a modern take on “The Taming of the Shrew” by William Shakespeare. Looking through the lens of a Make America Great Again supporter, the main character dreams about life in 1963. 

“From this viewpoint, we are able to clearly see the evolution of society in the past 50 years when it comes to women’s rights and the #MeToo movement,” Gawley said.

“Almost Maine,” starting Jan. 21, by John Cariani, is a contemporary romantic comedy, which aims to remind audiences of the various ways we can all love and nurture each other in today’s society.

“With all the struggles and challenges the world faces, sometimes just sitting next to a friend, family member, or significant other and letting them know how much they mean to us is a way to affect positive change,” Gawley said.

In late February, Theatre Arts presents a look back at the Vietnam war through the true stories of women, five nurses and a country singer, who served the country in Shirley Lauro’s “A Piece of My Heart.” The play considers the challenges faced by women in a war-weary country and examines the true cost of war, which endures for generations.

The season closes in April with Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” which is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its Broadway debut. Audiences meet a middle-class African American family wanting the American Dream: to buy a home and create a better life. The story follows the family’s struggles as they attempt to move out of a small, segregated apartment into a middle-class white neighborhood.

“Unfortunately, this story could easily be re-told by many families in Louisville today, especially for those hindered by the persistent 9th Street divide,” Gawley said. 

UofL’s award-winning African American Theatre Program is producing the “The Mountaintop” and “Raisin in the Sun.”

The AATP – the first and only program of its kind in the United States offering advanced coursework and a Graduate Certificate in African American Theatre – is also celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a fundraising gala Nov. 3 at the University Club. Money raised will be used to fund travel and participation for students and faculty in 2019 to theatre festivals, such as the National Black Theatre Festival, Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Comparative Drama Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Theatre Festival. Contact Jessica Key for ticket information. 

Show tickets are on sale now including season subscriptions, which features all five mainstage shows plus departmental events for $75, which equals a $25 savings.

Theatre Arts is also auditioning for roles for the season Sept. 4 and 5 with callbacks on Sept. 6. Click here to sign up or here to request more information. Theatre Arts is offering a free audition workshop for undergrads 2-3:30 p.m. Aug. 24. Dr. Ari Calvano, assistant professor of acting and movement, will lead discussions on choosing the right monologue, audition etiquette and other helpful topics. All levels of acting experience are welcome.      

Niki King
Niki King Jones is positive she has the best job at the University of Louisville, serving the communication needs of the departments of fine arts and theatre, the School of Music, University Libraries and Alumni – all the fun, creative stuff. Before coming to UofL in 2015, Niki held communication positions in both private and nonprofit sectors in Louisville, Ky., including at Heaven Hill Distilleries and the Jewish Community of Louisville. For 10 years prior, she was a reporter at various newspapers across the country, most recently The Courier-Journal. Niki graduated from the University of Memphis with a BA in journalism and has a masters degree in community and leadership development from the University of Kentucky.