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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The U Department of Theatre Presents the World Premiere of Brighde Mullins's RARE BIRD Directed by Elizabeth Williamson and Starring Anne Cullimore Decker (SLC: March 9 - 18)

February 21, 2012

CONTACT:       Amy Oakeson
    Communications Specialist, Department of Theatre
    801-897-0732 or amy.oakeson@utah.edu

The U Department of Theatre Presents
the World Premiere of Brighde Mullins's
Directed by Elizabeth Williamson
and Starring Anne Cullimore Decker
March 9-18, 2012 in the Babcock Theatre

A special event to raise funds for student scholarships and financial awards.

The U Department of Theatre proudly presents the world premiere of internationally renowned playwright and poet Brighde Mullins's new play, RARE BIRD. The professional production is directed by Elizabeth Williamson, Associate Artistic Director of the Pioneer Theatre Company, and stars the incomparable Anne Cullimore Decker as Harriett, the "Oldest Living Former Showgirl."

             In her heyday, Harriet was one in a flock of beauties that could be found in every respectable casino on the strip. But now she's a dying breed, a species on the edge of extinction and on the brink of bankruptcy. Her newly acquired "Just-The-Facts Ma'am" Certified Financial Consultant, Phoebe, is a psychiatric casualty of her Las Vegas upbringing. An erotic triangle emerges when Professor Donald Kroodsma, an Ornithologist who is pursuing Harriet for the rare plumage in her costumes, arrives on the scene. Set in Las Vegas, Nevada, RARE BIRD explores a crisis of faith, the saving grace of glamour, and the appearance of love and mystery in life.

            RARE BIRD is not a student production, it is a professionally produced special event to raise funds for undergraduate student scholarships and awards. U Department of Theatre Alumna Anne Cullimore Decker is donating her performance for this special benefit performance, giving her time and talent to help ensure that future theatre artists have the support they need to complete their training and pursue their art against considerable financial obstacles. Other members of the cast include professional local actors Tobin Atkinson (also a graduate of the University of Utah MFA Directing program) as Donald Kroodsma and Tracie Merrill as Phoebe, and Department of Theatre students Jaron Barney and Jeff Skiba.

            Director Elizabeth Williamson is a seasoned professional, having previously worked at some of the most illustrious theatres in the country including Steppenwolf and Theatre de la Jeune Lune. Elizabeth is also a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. Three years ago she was hired by Pioneer Theatre Company, and one of her primary tasks was to launch the New Plays Initiative. She is largely responsible for bringing RARE BIRD and playwright Brighde Mullins on board for this special event. Brighde Mullins is currently under commission with Pioneer Theatre Company. She and Elizabeth are working together on developing a new piece, supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which will receive a workshop reading next season at PTC.

            "Last year, Gage Williams (Department of Theatre Chair) asked me if I would be interested in directing a special benefit production to raise money for student scholarships starring Anne Cullimore Decker. He also asked if any plays sprang to mind for the purpose. I immediately thought of Brighde Mullins's RARE BIRD. I had admired Brighde's work for many years, and she was the first playwright we commissioned to write a play for the New Plays Initiative at PTC. I saw the first workshop reading of RARE BIRD exactly ten years ago at the New York Theatre Workshop. Brighde had written the play for a residency with Mabou Mines, which had begun in the early fall of 2001. I loved its wild beauty, and its unexpected humor. The lead character in the play is the "Oldest Living Showgirl"— an exotic, glamorous, beautiful woman with a mysterious past. Who could be more perfectly cast for this role than Anne?"

            Brighde Mullins' plays have been produced in London, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco and include such titles as Monkey in The MiddleThose Who Can, DoFire EaterTEACHTopographical Eden; and Meatless Friday. She is the recipient of a United States Artists Award (2010), a Whiting Foundation Fellowship (2001), a previous NEA Fellowship (1990), and many others. She has held residencies at New York Stage and Film, Mabou Mines, and the Institute for Art and Civic Dialogue (with Anna Deavere Smith). She is a Usual Suspect at New York Theatre Workshop, and a Core Member of the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis. Brighde is currently the Director of the Master of Professional Writing Program at University of Southern California, and also a Studio Professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara Department of Theatre (Playwriting).

            Anne Cullimore Decker is one of the best-known actors in the Salt Lake Valley, and she's performed on nearly every stage in Utah. From her tour-de-force performance as Maria Callas in Master Class at Salt Lake Acting Company, to her witty portrayal of Madame Armfeldt in the Utah Symphony and Opera's production of A Little Night Music, Anne has proven herself a consummate performer. She has taught for the University of Utah Department of Theatre and Honors programs, and often performs at University of Utah venues including the Babcock Theatre, Kingsbury Hall and Pioneer Theatre Company. She is also devoted advocate for all the performing arts in the Salt Lake community.

DATES: The U Department of Theatre's production of RARE BIRD will be presented in the Babcock Theatre March 9-11 and 14-18 at 7:30 PM with additional matinees on March 10 and 17 at 2:00 PM.

TICKETS: Tickets are $20 for General Admission. As this is a special fundraising event, student tickets are only available for the student previews on March 7 and 8 at 7:30 PM. For the previews, tickets are free for University of Utah students with a valid U Card under the new U and the Arts initiative, and $7.50 for all other students with valid ID. Individual tickets and Season Flexpasses for the U Department of Theatre’s season can be obtained now by calling 801-581-7100, online at www.kingsburyhall.org, or at the Performing Arts Box Office, located at Kingsbury Hall.

DONATIONS: Individuals or corporations interested in production sponsorship or giving the U Department of Theatre Scholarship Fund can do so by calling Janine Sheldon in the College of Fine Arts Development Office at 801-585-9699, or donating online at www.theatre.utah.edu.

LOCATION: The Babcock Theatre is located on the lower level of the Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre at 300 South 1400 East on the campus of the University of Utah. Free parking is available in the lot directly south of the theatre and at Rice-Eccles Stadium across the street, which is connected to the theatre lot by a pedestrian underpass. The theatre is also accessible from the Stadium Station on the University Line of TRAX light rail.

PHOTO EDITORS: High-resolution digital images of the U Department of Theatre's productions are available for download at www.theatre.utah.edu/press-information.


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