Western Carolina University’s School of Stage and Screen will launch its new Josefina Niggli New Works Reading Series with staged readings of “Resident Alien” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1.
Both productions will be held in WCU’s Niggli Theatre. As staged readings, the events will include actors reading and singing with scripts and scores in hand, but without costumes or sets and with much of the dramatization left to the audience’s imaginations.
“Resident Alien” is a new musical written by Katya Stanislavskaya, assistant professor and director of WCU’s Musical Theatre Program. It is the fictional story of a family of three who are part of the third wave of Soviet and post-Soviet immigration to the U.S. in the 1990s.
The family – a professor stuck in the past, a musician willing to adapt and a teenager whose culture shock coincides with her coming-of-age – represents the full spectrum of the successes and failures of the immigrant experience, said Jayme McGhan, director of the School of Stage and Screen. “ ‘Resident Alien’ is about the personal choices every ‘alien’ faces in a new world – which parts of himself or herself to retain, and which to jettison in order to succeed,” McGhan said.
The readings of “Resident Alien” will be directed by Terrence Mann, a star of Broadway and WCU’s Phillips Distinguished Professor of Musical Theatre. The performances will feature both student and faculty actors, including WCU first lady Susan Belcher.
Earlier this year, Stanislavskaya found out that “Resident Alien” had won the New Musical Award from the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company in Weston, Vermont. She said she is thrilled to have an opportunity to hear her latest draft of her work performed on stage.
In most cases, it takes several years for a playwright to finish a musical, and part of the purpose of the staged reading is to identify needed revisions, Stanislavskaya said. “Storytelling issues that may not be obvious on the page become obvious once the piece is seen and heard in a workshop, and so the author gets an invaluable experience to propel the show forward,” she said.
Stanislavskaya will be wearing two hats for the readings – as author and musical director. She is teaching the music to the cast and will be providing piano accompaniment at the productions while also working with her student participants to help them grow as musicians and actors.
“I am especially excited to be working with my students and fellow faculty who are providing not only artistic support but emotional support as well,” she said. “And we are incredibly lucky to have Broadway veteran Terrence Mann at the helm. With his vast experience workshopping new musicals on the highest level, Terrence has been an invaluable part of this process.”
Both the Josefina Niggli Series and the theater in which they will be presented are named in honor of an accomplished playwright and screenwriter who taught English, drama and poetry at WCU from 1956 to 1975. The series is designed to develop and showcase new plays and musicals and will feature works by WCU faculty members and regional and national playwrights, McGhan said.
Admission to the Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 readings is free, but $5 donations are suggested that will go toward student scholarships.
For more information, contact the School of Stage and Screen at 828-227-7491.
By Randall Holcombe