New play “Prospect Hill” by Bruce Walsh, a story of faith, hope, and redemption, comes to IU Theatre in March

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb 28, 2017

Bloomington, Ind –  Indiana University Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance will bring M.F.A. playwright Bruce Walsh’s new play Prospect Hill to the IU mainstage in March as a continuation of the At First Sight festival of new works.

Indiana University typically recruits only one M.F.A. playwriting candidate per year, committing to support the development of that writer over a three-year period and, crucially, to produce their work on IU Theatre’s mainstage.

Under the tutelage of Head of Playwriting Peter Gil-Sheridan, playwright Bruce Walsh has utilized readings and workshops to develop Prospect Hill over the last year. The production will be Walsh’s second IU main stage production after last year’s Berserker, and will serve as his 3rd year M.F.A. thesis project.

Walsh came to IU from Philadelphia, where he worked as a playwright, journalist, and site-specific theatre maker. Past plays for the stage include Far Country and Whiskey Neat, and site-specific plays Holly’s Dead Soldiers, co-written with Douglas Williams and Chris Davis (FringeArts), Chomsky vs. Buckley, 1969 (Philly Fringe), and The Guided Tour (Philadelphia Live Arts Festival). “Before deciding on an M.F.A. track, I strongly considered Episcopal seminary. My fascination with sacredness infuses all of my writing, but not in the ways people often expect. I have no interest in prescribing moral codes. My characters are bold, queer, angry, ridiculous, joyous, deeply sexual beings,” says Walsh.

Prospect Hill centers around three men living in the titular neighborhood in Bloomington, Indiana. Jacob (3rd-year M.F.A. actor Chris J. Handley, in his final role at IU), is a recovering alcoholic – as well as a recovering Mennonite; his partner Rex (Joshua Robinson) is looking for atonement after a lifetime of rage-fueled competitiveness. When Rex takes a peculiar interest in mentoring Ethan (Josh Smith), Jacob’s former client, Jacob’s sobriety is pushed to the breaking point. Surprisingly, the resulting jealousy actually generates a newfound spark between Jacob and Rex.  But, as the reconciled couple attempts to rescue Ethan from a lifetime of toil and disappointment, the three men must confront the emptiness they have been avoiding in the fires of their addictions.

“I am endlessly fascinated by people that seek the ‘courage to be’ – a great meaning or purpose – even amidst a culture and economy with very little capacity to foster those needs,” says Walsh. “These are three men seeking something deeper and truer between each other than their financial and cultural differences. They’re each looking for respect and dignity, in an extremely bottom-line culture. They’re looking for a more sacred, gentler part of themselves in a divided and angry America.”

The production will be the IU directorial debut of Ansley Valentine, who joined the acting and directing faculty this year. Valentine is a seasoned actor, director, and choreographer who accrued professional credits throughout the country before returning to IU, where he received his M.F.A. in Directing in 2000. “We have to create new plays to keep the theatre alive. It’s vital for us to keep creating new work, and as a director it’s a fun challenge… nobody has told this story before, so you don’t have a lot of preconceived notions or tropes. We have to discover the right way to tell the story,” Valentine says.

The design team includes Jennie Fischer (Scenic Design), Aaron Wardwell (Costume Design), Qi’er Luo (Lighting Design), and original music by Jacobs School of Music PhD composer Kimberly Osberg, who also composed music for last season’s Macbeth.

Along with the mainstage production of Prospect Hill, the 2017 At First Sight festival will include a staged reading of a new full-length play from 1st year M.F.A. playwright Aaron Ricciardi and selected works from undergraduate student playwrights.

IU Theatre’s At First Sight serves as an important vessel for emerging theatrical voices, and this year’s Prospect Hill follows in a series of challenging, provocative, and exciting new works for the stage.

WHATProspect Hill, presented by IU Theatre

WHEN: Mar. 24 – Apr. 1, 2017

WHERE: Wells-Metz Theatre, Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave.

TICKETS: Regular admission is $25 for adults, $15 for students, $20 for seniors. 812.855.1103 or theatre.indiana.edu. For group discounts contact Abby Miller (millabby@indiana.edu).

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