Thursday, April 4, 2013

Music and Drama at Ave Maria University

Vanessa Tompkins as Desdemona singing the Ave Maria from Verdi's Otello

Despite limited resources and institutional investment, with fewer than a thousand students, Ave Maria University has displayed some remarkable artistic talent.

Last month, the Ave Maria University Chamber Choir combined with the Philharmonic Chorale in brilliant performances of “Carmina Burana” at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples.

AMU has no drama department, yet has produced extraordinary work under the leadership of Renaissance man and Shakespeare scholar, Travis Curtright - author of the new book that definitively rescues St. Thomas More from his revisionist detractors, The One Thomas More.

Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Curtright, begins April 11, 2013. The T-shirt carries the play's title on the front and, on the back, the line from it, "The world must be peopled!" Curtright also organized a Homerathon, a 24-hour reading of Homer's The Iliad in its entirety, concluding with a reading of the final book by Stanley Lombardo, whose translation the students used.

Michael Novak reviewed last year's extraordinary production of As You Like It. which he and I and others who saw it rated the most thoroughly enjoyable and engaging production of a Shakespeare play we had ever seen in our long lives.  Not bad for one section (the only one) of an undergraduate class on Shakespeare in Performance at a very small Catholic college in southwest Florida.  Novak wrote:

Last night it was my turn to see the show, and I am still exhilarated. The actors and actresses came from a single class, Professor Travis Curtright’s, in Shakespearean Performance. The cast simply adapted a large classroom into a “Theater in the Round” (well, three sides). They wrote and adapted their own music, in the spirit of the play, while the audience assembled, during the intermission, and (not a little) throughout the play.  Marvelous music, sprightly, with some haunting new love songs familiar to the students in the audience (but not to me), who joyfully sang along.  The music, arranged by Philip Barrows of Frederick, Md. (a veteran of high school musical comedies, like several others in the cast, plus a few from big city Children’s Theaters), was emblematic of the performance – it was developed by the students in their own idiom and their marvelous talents (male and female) for flirtation with the audience.

Read the whole review on the outstanding website of AMU’s Shakespeare in Performance. Novak's verdict is in the headline: More Artistic Talent per Student Than Any Other Campus in America.

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