By Joel Pierson H-T Theater columnist
It’s just barely spring, and already we’re thinking about summer — for today, anyway, because Indiana University has announced their summer theater season, and once again, we have four plays to enliven Bloomington’s off season. Details are still being finalized, but I’ll provide more information before each show opens. Today, I can share an overview what’s in store.
From the department of “titles that would never fly in today’s society,” we have George Haimsohn and Jim Wise’s “Dames at Sea” (June 2-18). Premiering back in the 1960s, it’s a parody of big 1930s musicals, where the chorus girl comes to New York for her big break and gets a shot at stardom in the show of her dreams. Very self-aware as it tells its tale, “Dames at Sea” is having a good time, inviting the audience to do so as well. Beyond mere parody, it’s become a popular franchise that’s revived for national tours every few years.
Next up is another Jane Austen adaptation (following in the tradition of last summer’s “Sense and Sensibility.)” This season offers us Jennifer LeBlanc’s stage version of Austen’s “Persuasion” (July 8-23). It’s the story of Anne Elliot, a 19th-century woman in her late twenties. Her family decides to cut expenses by moving, and they rent out their home to a military man who’s just come back from war. By coincidence, this man is related to Anne’s former fiance, opening up the second chance for a relationship for the pair.
What would summer be without Shakespeare? OK, true, it would still be summer, but a bit less Shakespearean. Filling your Elizabethan needs this time is Jonathan Michaelsen’s production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” (July 7-22), featuring three Ls, an extra u, and an apostrophe I always forget to put in. One of Will’s first comedies, it is the story of a king and three of his male friends who decide to avoid women for three years, in favor of studying and taking care of their health. What are the odds that they’ll meet four women who totally turn their heads and throw their plans off the rails?
Finishing up the season, we have another musical, a bit more contemporary than the first: Brett Ryback’s “Joe Schmoe Saves the World” (Aug. 16-19). Set in 2011, it’s the story of an American indie rock band and also the story of two Iranian students living in Tehran. It uses actual people and events to tell a fictionalized story about the similarities and differences between life in America and life in Iran. This musical, with its rock-and-roll score, pushes the envelope a bit and explores important themes of national and international significance. I’m calling it my one to watch for this summer season.
As I said, I’ll have more details on each individual show about a week before it opens, so keep watching this space. I’ll also be back with details on Shawnee Theater’s summer season.
Contact Joel by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Pierson” in the subject line.
If you go
Tickets to IU Summer Theatre shows are $10-$20 at the IU Auditorium Box Office, 1211 E. 7th St., Bloomington. You can also visit theatre.indiana.edu or call 812-855-1103.
• “Dames at Sea”: 7:30 p.m. June 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17; 2 p.m. June 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18 at Wells-Metz Theatre, 275 N. Jordan Ave.
• “Love’s Labour’s Lost”: 7:30 p.m. July 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 19 and 21; 2 p.m. July 16 and 22 at Wells-Metz Theatre.
• “Persuasion”: 7:30 p.m. July 8, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 and 22; 2 p.m. July 9, 15 and 23 at Wells-Metz Theatre.
• “Joe Schmoe Saves the World”: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 16-19 at Wells-Metz Theatre.