SUU to present 2 plays: ‘Speech & Debate’ and Noel Coward’s ‘Private Lives’

Students in Southern Utah University's theater department rehearse a scene from "Speech & Debate," Cedar City, Utah, date of photo not specified | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University’s department of theatre arts and dance is pleased to announce the presentation of two upcoming theatrical productions. “Speech & Debate” and “Private Lives” will both be presented at the Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre starting this week.

“Speech & Debate,” written by Stephen Karam, is based around three high school students who are each involved in a scandalous situation involving men of power who hide their homosexual tendencies. The production contains mature content and strong language. It will be presented on selected dates between Feb. 27 and March 9 (see event details below).

“This is a poignant show with incredibly relevant, taboo, and emotionally heavy subject matter,” cast member and SUU classical acting major Megan Bishop said in a press release. “It’s also by far one of the most hilarious plays I’ve ever read. Finding the balance between these two has certainly been a hurdle, but I think we’ve found the sweet spot. When people ask how rehearsals are going, I usually tell them they end in tears – sometimes from laughter, sometimes from sympathy and pain. There are some pretty extreme highs and lows, and it took time to find both.”

Bishop said all audience members will be able to relate to some aspect of “Speech & Debate.”

She said:

We understand Howie’s insecurities and desire to keep under the radar. We feel for Solomon and his struggle to express himself and accept who he is. We laugh along with Diwata and her ability to speak her mind and keep things light. We all have an adult in our lives (like my characters the teacher and the reporter Jan Clark) that would rather leave things unsaid. In a conservative community, we all need to learn more about the world around us and the people in it. When we understand, we sympathize. And when we sympathize, we can make the world a better place to live in.

The second play being presented by SUU is “Private Lives,” written by noted playwright Noel Coward in 1930. Director Richard Bugg explained the play as follows:

‘Private Lives’ explores the sometimes volatile nature of our passions for one other. The great love affairs in history have been filled with warring passions and heartaches. Why do our infatuations and passions for someone so often overcome our logic and wisdom, allowing us to return to a lion’s den from which we once escaped? While the demands of life often force the ordinary man or woman to reject such folly, there are those with disposable income (and therefore disposable time) who like to wallow in it. That makes for great comedy.

Students in Southern Utah University’s theater department rehearse a scene from Noel Coward’s “Private Lives,” Cedar City, Utah, date of photo not specified | Photo courtesy of SUU, St. George News / Cedar City News

Kenna Funk, a senior at SUU and cast member said that “Private Lives” will be presented “in the round,” which means there’s an audience on every side of the stage.

“There are a lot of little details to remember but I’ve really loved the opportunity to perform in this set up,” Funk said. “I have enjoyed discovering my character, Amanda, and playing around with her spontaneous and independent personality. In some ways she’s quite different from myself so figuring out how she would move or how she would feel about this moment in the show has been really fun!”

Fellow senior and cast member Maxwell Kunz noted the play is not often produced nowadays.

“‘Private Lives’ is a difficult play to produce these days, particularly because of what has changed in the way relationships are perceived between men and women from the time it was written, as well as some other delicate content issues,” Kunz said. “To overcome these problems we tried to focus on the theme that will be most palatable to the audience: love. We want to tell a story of people who are in love and how messy, painful, beautiful and hilarious that can be. Every one of these characters has an incredible arch that could be interpreted as a very dramatic progression; however, Noel Coward wrote some of the finest comedy into these lines to give the audience a wonderful roller coaster of laughs.”

For more information about the theatre arts program at SUU, please visit the program’s website.

Resources

  • What: Plays produced by SUU’s department of theatre arts and dance.
  • When:
    • ‘Speech & Debate,’ Feb. 27 and March 1, 2, and 7 at 7:30 p.m. and March 9 at 2 p.m. Advisory: contains mature content and strong language.
    • ‘Private Lives,’ written by Noel Coward, Feb. 28 and March 4, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. and March 2 at 2 p.m.
  • Where: Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, 101-199 W. University Blvd., Cedar City (click here for map).
  • Admission: Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for alumni with card, and $5 for youth. SUU faculty, staff, and students can get in free with a valid
    ID card. Tickets can be purchased at the America First Event Center Box Office, at the door the night of the performance, or online.

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