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Linfield Theatre and the Lacroute Arts Series Present
UMW
A World Premiere by Rob Urbinati

 

UMW Poster

Directed by Michelle Seaton

March 19-22 at 7:30 p.m.
Marshall Theatre in Ford Hall

Associated Events
About the Play
About the Playwright
About the Director
About the Production
Ticket Information
Marshall Theatre
Notes from the Playwright

The Lacroute Arts Series at Linfield College

 

 
Associated Events

Meet the Playwright Reception
Tuesday, March 19th, 6:30 - 7:20 p.m.
Lobby of Ford Hall

Post-show Discussion: "Reactions to the Play: A Discussion with the Director, Playwright, Actors, and Production Team"
Tuesday, March 19th, following the performance
Marshall Theatre at Ford Hall

Post-show Discussion: "Diversity, Social Media, and Perception: Life on a Small College Campus"
Thursday, March 21st, following the performance
Marshall Theatre at Ford Hall

About the Play

UMW was commissioned by Ronni Lacroute through the Lacroute Arts Series at Linfield College and the Department of Theatre and Communication Arts.

The play is set at a small, private university, far from the nearest city, where the student population is “mostly white.” In an effort to increase diversity, the school has recruited minorities from across the globe. When one of the students posts a racist YouTube video, the forced melting pot comes to a boil. UMW is an incisive, up-to-the minute social satire about stereotyping, bigotry and college life.

According to Urbinati, the production was written to explore contemporary issues relevant to the growth of diversity on college campuses nationwide. During research for the play, he stumbled upon a YouTube video posted by a student as an anti-Asian rant. “We wanted the play to address a multicultural theme,” said Urbinati, who also incorporated social media and other contemporary methods of communication. “The tone of the play started with this video and the reactions it stirred.”

His research progressed to include the experiences of Linfield students. “I met with students so they could speak openly about their encounters with racism,” said Urbinati. “Gradually, step-by-step, the play became about the dynamics of a small school with mostly white students and the complications that creates for minority students.”

The play includes a cast of 12 characters, with more than half representing minority students. “I wanted to write the play to include the experiences of the different minorities on campus,” said Urbinati. “I wanted the play to be funny and outrageous while still addressing the serious issues.”

According to the director, Michelle Seaton, the play also explores "how we find ways to form human connections with one another, especially in a culture dominated by social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube."  How do we push past the perceptions, assumptions, and labels we place on each other through social and other media to really talk to one another and to celebrate the joy of each individual, no matter one’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, economic class, age, or ability?

 UMW contains mature language and subject matter and may not be suitable for all audiences.

About the Playwright

Rob Urbinati is a freelance director and playwright based in New York City, Director of New Play Development at Queens Theatre, and Literary Manager for The Private Theatre. In NYC, he has directed for The Public Theatre, Classic Stage Company, The Culture Project, Abingdon Theatre, New York Music Theatre Festival, New York University, York Theatre, Pearl Theatre and Cherry Lane Theatre, as well as theatres and universities across the country. His plays as a writer include Hazelwood Jr. High and West Moon Street, both published by Samuel French; Rebel Voices, Shangri La, and Death by Design, all of which will be published by Samuel French in 2013. His adaptation of Cole Porter’s Nymph Errant opened in New York City in July 2012, and his new play, UMW, opens at Linfield College in March 2013. Rob is an alumnus of the Drama League, and a member of the Dramatists Guild and Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. He received an M.A. from the University of Nebraska and a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.

About the Director

Michelle Seaton, guest director, graduated from Linfield in 1994, with a major in theatre. Following graduation, Michelle worked as an actor and director for several Portland theatres, including, Stark Raving Theatre, Theatre Vertigo, H.A.R.T. Theatre, Portland Actors Ensemble, Triangle Productions, and Portland Actors Conservatory. She has also appeared in featured roles in film. In 2008, Michelle attended Rutgers University where she earned an M.F.A. degree in Directing. In addition to Portland, Michelle has directed in professional theatres in New Jersey and New York, including three Off-Off Broadway shows with Dark Luna Productions. As a director Michelle has worked with playwrights to develop numerous new plays resulting in world premiere productions. In addition to guest directing, Michelle is teaching Acting for the Linfield Theatre Program. She also teaches at the University of Portland and the Portland Actors Conservatory.

About the Production

The cast of twelve includes Pendrey Trammell, a first-year student majoring in general science with a theatre minor, senior communication arts major Takahiro Ishizawa, Mariko Kajita, a sophomore working toward a theatre major and a business minor, first-year student and history major Sarai Utley, Monterill Anderson, a junior communication arts major, and Kristin Castanera, a junior majoring in creative writing with a theatre minor. Rounding out the cast are junior Madison Sanchez, an environmental studies major and communication arts minor, first-year student and theatre major Travis McKenna, Special Lovincey, a first-year student majoring in exercise science with a sports management minor, junior Colton Wright, who is working toward a studio art major with a theatre minor, first-year student and theatre major Lukasz Augustine, and Daphne Dossett, a senior philsophy major and theatre minor.

The design team includes scenic & lighting designer Ty Marshall, sound designer Rob Vaughn, costume designer Rebecca Meredith, and hair and make-up designer sophomore theatre major Jasmine Cobb.

Production team members include stage manager Amanda Maxwell, a junior anthropology major and theatre minor, senior theatre major and political science minor Chris Forrer, assistant director and properties master, Jeremy Odden, an elementary education major and theatre minor and the assistant multimedia designer, Jenny Layton, junior theatre major and psychology minor who is the assistant sound designer, and assistant costumer designer Meagan Gear, a senior theatre major.

Ticket Information

Tickets are $9 for full price; $7 for seniors (62+) and Linfield faculty and staff (two tickets per ID); and $5 for students (any age, any school, one ticket per ID); with a $2 discount on all tickets on opening night. Seating is reserved. Tickets are available at http://www.linfield.edu/culture, by phone, or at the Marshall Theatre Box Office. Located just inside the lobby of Ford Hall, the box office is open Monday through Friday from 3 to 5 p.m., and until 7:30 p.m. on performance days. For more information, call 503-883-2292. The Marshall Theatre is fully accessible.

 UMW contains mature language and subject matter and may not be suitable for all audiences.

Marshall Theatre at Ford Hall

To reach Ford Hall from Highway 99W, turn east on Keck Drive at the McMinnville Market Center in south McMinnville. Turn right on Lever Street and right again on Ford Drive. Ford Hall is located at the west end of the parking lot. Click here for a campus map. Ford Hall is number 58B on the map.

Notes from the Playwright

When Brenda Devore Marshall first approached me about a commission, she mentioned that she was interested in a play on “multicultural themes” which could be performed by the Linfield Theatre Program. The Program had very few minority students – in fact, only two Asian women. I was intrigued by the idea of exploring racism toward Asians on campus, and researching, I came across a YouTube video posted by a UCLA student , an “anti-Asian rant “ which went viral, with all sorts of repercussions. The video is outrageous and wildly inappropriate, but it’s so extreme that I found it hard not to laugh.  A lot of the “parody” videos posted in response used humor as a way to challenge this strange rant.  It was then that I decided that the play would be a satire. It’s a little risky to write satirically about such serious issues, but the video and responses to it inspired the tone of the play.

I asked Brenda if I could speak to some of the minority students on campus to hear first-hand accounts of what it was like to attend a school where most of the kids were white. This discussion was fascinating; the students were open and honest, and their stories were compelling - and at times, strangely funny. I asked these students, who were not theatre majors, if they would be interested in being involved with the production. When some of them said “yes,” I approached Brenda and asked if I could write the play with roles for a fully diverse cast. This meant that students outside the Theatre Program would have to be recruited, which is pertinent to the themes of the play, but can prove a challenge. Brenda agreed without hesitation, saying, “The Theatre Program routinely opens acting and crew roles to all Linfield students.” Consequently, many minority students auditioned.  For financial reasons, a lot of contemporary plays are written for small casts, so I was thrilled to have a chance to write a play for a large, multicultural cast.  And that’s how “UMW” (University of Mostly Whites) took shape – a social satire using an offensive video as a catalyst, which would explore racism, stereotyping and bigotry on a “mostly white” campus. By the way, I didn’t invent the acronym “UMW” – I found it on the web. It’s not commonly known, which I preferred.

Because the inspiration for the play was the YouTube video, I considered ways in which social media could be used in the play – not only by incorporating videos, text messages, emails, comments and tweets, but by using these contemporary methods of communication to inform the dialogue, style and structure of the play. I wanted UMW to reflect the culture that grew up on these technologies, which suggested that the characters, even in conversation, would express themselves in “social media” style - fleeting, unexamined, impromptu comments, with little regard for the consequences. I wanted to fully exploit the “ensemble” nature of the cast, rather than focus on a few principal characters and explore them in depth. So I chose to show the “surface” of all of the twelve characters - their public personae, the way they communicate when adults are not present  - and to find ways to hint at the pain, the insecurity and the confusion that was happening beneath their social veneer.

UMW has been a complete delight to write. The commission provided the time and resources to explore the style, tone and content of the play without pressure.  Visiting Linfield over the past two years allowed students to become actively involved in the development of the play. If the dialogue sounds authentic, it’s due almost entirely to their input. I want to thank Brenda for her passionate belief in this project. Linfield College has produced two world premieres this season, which speaks to her sincere commitment to new play development, and by extension, to the future of American theatre. I also want to thank Ronni Lacroute for her support, and her insightful comments on earlier drafts of the play. Janet Gupton, Ty Marshall and Michelle Seaton have worked tirelessly to bring this play and production to fruition. It has been a tremendous opportunity, and I am extremely grateful to everyone involved. I would love to hear your comments on the play. Email me at roburbinati@gmail.com.
Rob Urbinati