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22 student actors playing 100 characters = a lot of costumes for new Theatre UAB play

Posted Oct 03 2011 5:12pm
Theatre UAB opens its new season with Bertolt Brecht’s “ The Caucasian Chalk Circle ,” and while the show opens Wednesday, students have been working on it for quite some time.

The show has a cast of 22 student actors playing nearly 100 characters—yes, you read that correctly—in myriad scenes and locations happening on stage, says director Jack Cannon . That means an astounding number of cloaks, coats, frocks, hats and uniforms—more than 250 pieces—have been created, constructed or “pulled” from the vast wardrobe in the UAB Department of Theatre 's costume shop.

To pull off the constant role changes, student performers must use a base costume, then add and take away elements to become different characters. Much of the work was done by students in the department’s Intro to Costume Technology classes, says UAB Theatre Associate Professor Kimberly Schnormeier . The play is set in the Caucasus, which lent an Asian and Russian influence to the show, “creating a flavor of the region,” she says.

The subject of the play is serious: A peasant woman finds an abandoned child of privilege, the heir to the seat of power, during the overthrow of the provincial government. She takes the child to raise, only to have the original mother return and demand her child and the child’s substantial inheritance. A court will determine who is the rightful mother — the woman who gave birth to the child or the woman who nurtured it? But “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” is really a political, economic and social satire. "It is infused with broad humor that lampoons governmental leaders, lawyers, judges, doctors as well as the everyday working poor,” Cannon says.

Masks and puppets made in the costume shop help propel the action, as do several songs, which stop the narrative of the play and make social, political, economic and moral comments about the characters' predicaments. UAB student composers Natalie Kinsaul, a theater major, and Kevin Peek, a music major, have worked for months composing original music to go with the words and lyrics in Brecht’s songs, Cannon says.

The video above offers a peek backstage narrated by junior Leah Huebner, 21, of Huntsville. The play opens Wednesday, Oct. 5, and shows at 7:30 p.m. nightly through the week; a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, Oct. 9 ends the run. Call 205-975-2787 for tickets. Break a leg!
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