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Mercyhurst presents 'Clothes for a Summer Hotel'

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Mercyhurst Theatre Program, under the directorship of Brett D. Johnson, Ph.D., concludes its 2014-2015 season with a production of Tennessee Williams’ Clothes for a Summer Hotel.

The last of Williams’ plays to come to Broadway in his lifetime, Clothes for a Summer Hotel dramatizes a visit by F. Scott Fitzgerald to his wife, Zelda, at Highland Hospital, an asylum on a windy hilltop near Asheville, North Carolina, where she is being treated for mental illness. Their meeting is deeply disturbing, and as Scott realizes that Zelda will never recover, the action shifts to a series of flashbacks, which illuminate the cause of their sad plight. Williams used material from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald’s novel Save Me the Waltz, Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, and Nancy Milford’s biography Zelda to create this ghost play.

Johnson, who directs the production, notes connections to Williams’ own life: “He identified with Scott as a writer who had enjoyed commercial and artistic success as a young man but later fell into disfavor. Both were alcoholics, both had experienced emotional ‘crack-ups,’ and both had sexual problems. Williams also empathized with Zelda as someone yearning for artistic expression. Furthermore, her emotional problems and confinement in a mental institution had resonance for himself and for his sister Rose, who was diagnosed as "schizophrenic and lobotomized.”

To date, Johnson has directed three other plays by Williams – Vieux Carré, The Gnadiges Fraulein, and Confessional – all of which are from his “late” (i.e., post-1961) period. He hopes to introduce audiences to these rarely produced works by America’s greatest playwright and, in doing so, redeem their critical reputation. “Clothes for a Summer Hotel is a much better written and more powerful play than critics have suggested. It deserves to be produced more often, and I feel fortunate that we’re able to do it here at Mercyhurst,” he said.

Clothes for a Summer Hotel features 14 Mercyhurst students, including Brianna Carle (German Sister), Tonya Lenhart (German Sister), Michael Rowe (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Jordan Strange (Gerald Murphy), Ashley Poletto (Becky), Claudia Rose Cauchi (Zelda Fitzgerald), Katie Kruszynski (Boo Boo/Mrs. Patrick Campbell), Luke Ballantyne (Intern/Edouard), Sarah Creighton (Sara Murphy), Nam Nguyen (Dr. Zeller/Singer), Matt Sprague (Ernest Hemingway), Lauren Basting (Nurse/Hadley Hemingway), Jennie Cross (Dancer) and Matt Marucci (Dancer).

The creative team includes assistant director Bethany Sulecki, dramaturge Kimberly Kuehl, lighting designer Madeleine Steineck, production stage manager Kathryn Schmitt and assistant stage manager Leah Miori.

Performances are Thursday through Saturday, April 9-11, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, April 12, at 2 p.m. in Taylor Little Theatre on the Mercyhurst campus. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and students, and $5 for youth and Mercyhurst students with ID. All performances are general admission, with doors opening 30 minutes prior to curtain.

Reserve your tickets today by calling 814-824-3000 or by visiting the box office, located in the lobby of the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center (cash and credit cards accepted). Tickets will also be on sale at Taylor Little Theatre beginning one hour before curtain (cash only).

For more information on the production, visit miac.mercyhurst.edu or contact Johnson at bjohnson@mercyhurst.edu or 814-824-2663.