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UWSP drama ‘Red Velvet’ puts hidden history in the spotlight

Metro Wire Staff

A drama that asks if we are as far removed from history as we think will be performed Oct. 8-10 and 14-16 by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Department of Theatre and Dance.

“Red Velvet” will be staged in the Studio Theatre of the Noel Fine Arts Center, 1800 Portage St., Stevens Point, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8; Saturday, Oct. 9; Thursday, Oct. 14; and Friday, Oct. 15. Matinees will be offered at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 10, and Saturday, Oct. 16.

Face coverings will be required at each performance.

The story begins at a London theatre in 1833, as the famous lead playing “Othello” has collapsed on stage. His replacement is a young black American actor, causing tension as the public riot in the streets over the abolition of slavery in the United Kingdom.

Lecturer Parke Fech, acting, and senior acting major Kendra James, Madison, are co-directing the show, written by Lolita Chakrabarti and based on the real-life of Ira Aldridge. A professional actor who performed throughout Europe from 1824 until his death in 1867, Aldridge is the only black actor honored with a bronze plaque at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon.

“We loved the history of the play, and the fact that it has been hidden from public knowledge,” said James. “It was a story we wanted to tell.”

Both hope that audiences think about their own experiences within the play’s themes of betrayal, love, change, and revolution, as well as ask how history may have been rewritten for comfort’s sake. Fech also praised his student cast as they tackle sensitive material.

“Gage McKnight is phenomenal in the lead role,” said Fech of the sophomore acting major from Reedsburg. The cast has been taking care of each other, he added. “We have a sense of community, and we are using strategies to help the actors leave their characters on the stage.”

A thrust stage in the Studio Theatre puts the action right in front of the audience, and costumes blend contemporary and historical styles to add to the idea that history is not too far removed from today.

Tickets are $27 for adults, $24 for seniors, UW-Stevens Point faculty and staff members, and $16 for youth. UW-Stevens Point students with I.D. may get tickets for $10 in advance or $7 day of the show. Purchase tickets online at tickets.uwsp.edu, by calling 715-346-4100, or by visiting the Information and Tickets Office in Dreyfus University Center in Stevens Point.

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