NHCC amping up for its theatre season

Four shows scheduled for the 2016-17 school year

by CHRISTIAAN TARBOX

Sun POST Newspapers

A new school year at North Hennepin Community College heralds a fresh slate of theatrical productions for the Brooklyn Park campus’ theatre department this season.

Theatre professors Michael Ricci and Kathy Hendrickson are prepping for four shows starring NHCC students this year, all of them featuring timely and provocative social themes and story lines.

The first production, which will run Oct. 28 to Nov. 5, will be a unique adaptation of classic Greek playwright Aristophanes’ comedy “Lysistrata,” which originally chronicled one woman’s efforts to put an end to the Peloponnesian War.

“We’re calling it, ‘A Lysistrata’ … and putting a very modern twist on it, but still using it in original scan,” said Hendrickson. “A lot of it is about women in power, and I decided to pick it because of the election. Being a woman, I decided to go with ‘Lysistrata’, and we’re having a great time with it.”

The original story of “Lysistrata” featured the women in the story withholding sex from their husbands to end the war.

“They decide that how to end the war is to stop having sex with their husbands, and it works ultimately,” said Hendrickson. “(What) we decided to do is to have that sexual urgency not only be from a man’s perspective, but also from a woman’s perspective. We re-wrote the entire beginning.”

The second play on NHCC’s slate is a production of former television writer and current playwright Aleks Merilo’s “Exit 27,” which runs Nov. 30 to Dec. 4. The show revolves around the true story of the real-life phenomenon of “lost boys” in the world of Mormon fundamentalism, particularly the controversial Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

“There’s this insidious practice of abandoning these young adolescent boys who have sinned against the church on the side of a highway,” said Ricci. “They’re basically taken out by the community members and left there to fend for themselves. All they want to do is get back to their home, but they’re not allowed to. They’ve been basically excommunicated for sinning, and most of their sins are fairly minor.”

Ricci said that the play focuses on the struggles these young men face in terms of their faith and how they’ve been indoctrinated in extreme religious belief systems, and how it affects their sense of reality.

“It’s about religious extremism, and how that affects people,” said Ricci. “There’s a lot of ramifications of that behavior: indoctrination, and the fallout of the effects from that, and what we can do to combat that.”

Ricci mentioned that Merilo himself will be present for the performances of “Exit 27,” and will be present to speak to audiences about the show’s themes.

The third show will be a production of New York playwright Joe Roland’s union drama “On the Line,” which runs March 1- 5. Hendrickson was a former associate of Roland’s during her time in New York, and Roland wrote the play during their association.

“It’s about the power of unions and friendship,” said Hendrickson. “There’s one person that becomes part of the administrative side of the union, and then a couple friends decide to stay and picket a union. It’s the bonds of friendship juxtaposed against the union.”

The final NHCC production of the year will be “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” which is an adaptation of the film of the same name by Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar. The show will run April 7-15.

“It’s kind of a bright, sassy, but ultimately very moving story of women who are coming of age in a country that is just discovering its democracy,” said Ricci. “It has come out of a fascist regime, so the country itself is sort of redefining itself. Everybody is rediscovering what it means to just be alive.”

In addition to the four main shows at NHCC, the theatre department will also host the 10,000 Things Theatre troupe, with a performance of Shakespeare’s “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” in the fall, as well as a production of “Fiddler on the Roof” in the spring. Ricci also revealed that a new musical director has been hired in the form of a collaborator of the late music legend Prince.

But considering the heavily political content of this year’s slate of shows, the theatre directors are excited about the prospect of their shows encouraging dialogue between the performers and the audiences.

“We’re an educational theater institution. We have to put education first,” said Hendrickson. “Unlike a lot of other campuses, (North Hennepin) is a very special place in that we talk about stuff. Racism? Let’s talk about it. We have this amazing, beautiful, diverse population … and we just talk about (stuff).

“And it doesn’t threaten who everyone is,” Hendrickson continued. “Someone in the cast (of “A Lysistrata”) is disabled, and he was also raised in a very Christian fundamentalist family. So I’m like, ‘How are you feeling about all of this?’ And he’s like, ‘It’s gonna be all right.’ It’s in the spirit of the theatre.”

For more information on the upcoming slate of performances by the North Hennepin Community College Theatre, visit nhcc.edu/theatre.

Contact Christiaan Tarbox at [email protected] or follow the Sun Post on Twitter @ecmsunpost.