UW Theater and Dance opens season with ‘Other Desert Cities’

(Photo taken from Pixabay)

The University of Wyoming Department of Theatre and Dance will open its 2017-18 production season on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

“Each year, we produce six main season shows, including four theatre pieces and two dance concerts,” said Kathy Kirkaldie, University of Wyoming Fine Arts coordinator. “Each season offers a mix of contemporary plays, the classics and Shakespeare, musicals and operas.”

The first play of the new season is “Other Desert Cities,” a dark comic family drama, directed by Patrick Konesko, UW Department of Theatre and Dance assistant professor. The play, by Jon Robin Baitz, was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The play follows Brooke, a New York magazine writer, who returns home to Palm Springs after a six-year absence to celebrate the holidays with her politically influential family. After revealing her plan to publish a memoir regarding a past, tragic, event in the family’s history, hostility arises.

In their attempts at escape, the family members rely on their own techniques for dealing with grief and regrets. The family’s failed attempts at evading their shared history reveal the danger in blocking out meaningful discussion and debate.

“’Other Desert Cities’ is a play about our relationship to the past, our attempts to escape those events and decisions that haunt us, and our inability to appreciate the choices and politics of those in the opposition,” Konesko said.

“One of the strengths of this script is the fact that it sets up both sides as strawmen, each one has elements of the extreme,” Konesko said. “It turns out, however, that neither side has the whole story, and that the truth is subjective and contingent. Once family members stop pursuing their own ‘divergent truths,’ they have a chance for real connection and understanding, and healing can begin.”

This show has a particular relevance to the current socio-political environment of the country. It was part of the reason why the committee selected this show as the premiere.

“Today, we are in a difficult place in the American society. Left and right are reluctant to talked to each other to reach a common ground. I think part of the reason is the generational gap of liberal and conservative ideas” said Konesko. “In this play, they have the same problem we have, they don’t talk to each other and have their own opinions. But, finally, they understand the only way forward is to have an open conversation and share their secrets with each other.”

“We decided to open it up, so people in the community and the university students could submit plays they might want to see. And this play was suggested by one of our students of the department if Theater and Dance,” Dr. Konesko continued about how the play was chosen. “Once the committee chose the play, I volunteered to direct it, and the student who chose the show is the assistant director”.

According to the department website, each season has a unique theme, and the theme of this season is “Finding Freedom.” The season consists of six shows.

The play will run Tuesday to Saturday, Oct. 10-14 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 15 at 2 p.m. in the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts Thrust Theatre.

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