Wichita State University, Friends University and Newman University students and staff are poised to bring the classics, avant-garde works and even some original pieces to the stage this fall.
Each university will offer a variety of vocal, instrumental and theatrical performances, from full-staged operas to jazz concerts. In some cases, tickets already are on sale.
“There’s nothing like live performance,” said Marie Allyn King, director of opera at WSU. “It’s a communal event.”
WSU opera will stage the satirical “Pirates of Penzance” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18 through 20 and 2 p.m. Oct. 21.
Along with their dynamic dancers, WSU is bringing in college dancers from across the Midwest for its annual Kansas Dance Festival Nov. 16 and 17. The event also will include choreographed pieces by faculty and will feature the showing of Gordon Parks’ ballet film “Martin,” based on Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The strength of the event is in the eclectic quality,” said Nick Johnson, director of dance at WSU. Dance is an expanding art form, he said, “and we’re able to show the crest of the wave.”
WSU also is debuting an original drama — “Fleeing Blue” by Milta Ortiz, winner of WSU’s Original Play Competition. Performances will be Nov. 7 through 11 at the Hughes Metropolitan Complex’s Welsbacher Black Box Theatre, 5015 E. 29th St. North. The play is an exploration of the effects of war, politics and paranoia on relationships.
Friends’ Singing Quakers will perform with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra at Century II on Nov. 16 and 17 to present Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.” The symphony added the Nov. 16 performance — an extra Blue Jeans concert — to its lineup this season.
And Friend University’s dance department is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
“We’re celebrating with our classics,” Stan Rogers, director of Friends’ ballet department, said about the fall show. He said he is excited to bring some favorites back. Friends’ Fall Ballet is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 and 6 and 2 p.m. Oct. 7.
Friends jazz students will attend the Havana International Jazz Festival in December. To raise money for the trip, they will put on a fundraiser Oct. 27 at the Crown Uptown Theatre — the musicians perform while the audience dances. Tickets for the Crown Swings Again event are $20 at the Crown Uptown box office or by calling 316-612-7696.
“We wanted to bring dance back,” said Lisa Hittle, the director of jazz programs at Friends. “There used to be places all over town where people could dance.”
The universities all will showcase instrumentals in performances this fall, including those that highlight symphony, band and ensemble groups, as well as organ and percussion.
Some of Wichita’s holiday favorites — Friends’ annual Nutcracker and the Friends, Newman and WSU holiday choir events — consistently draw sold-out crowds and are already on the university’s calendars for later this year.
“You never know when you’re looking at a star of tomorrow,” said Deanne Zogleman, director of music at Newman. “I think people don’t realize the amount of talent we have at the university level until they attend a performance — and then they’re an audience member for life.”
In addition to producing high quality performances, the students, of course, are expected to learn.
“Our focus is on training our students,” said Bret Jones, director of theater at WSU. “The students are giving their very best because they want to pay their food and electric bills when they leave here.”
Looking ahead even further, the universities already are planning some exciting events for the spring semester.
Friends’ jazz department, for instance, is celebrating its 20th anniversary by bringing in the acclaimed Count Basie Orchestra and the New York Voices. The show will be 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 16 at The Orpheum, 200 N. Broadway. Tickets go on sale Sept. 1 through Select-a-Seat outlets, by calling 316-755-7328 or by visiting www.selectaseat.com.
Also in February, Newman will host “Lot o’ Shakespeare,” a one-man show performed by Timothy Mooney, author of “Acting at the Speed of Life.”
And Newman is celebrating its second year of theater by adding a new production to the performance schedule — William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” in April — and continuing with its 24-hour-play festival in which participants write, produce and perform a play within 24 hours in January.