Theatre UCF took audiences on a journey through works by contemporary American playwrights that tackled a wide range of topics — the complexities of adolescence, the ups and downs of adulthood, loss and finding love in unexpected places. After a year where performances were disrupted and reimagined by the pandemic, UCF students and faculty were excited to once again perform in person and to bring people together again through theatre.
Theatre UCF returned to the stages in fall 2021 with heightened safety protocols to ensure the health of patrons and performers. The season “kicked” off with a critically acclaimed show that dives into the lives of the women on a competitive high school soccer team. “The cast and crew were incredibly eager to practice their artform and their passion to return became a driving force for the production,” says director David Reed.
To prepare for The Wolves, Theatre UCF performers warmed up, ran drills and learned to execute soccer moves under the guidance of graduate student Giuseppe Pipicella. “Never would I have thought that teaching the cast how to play soccer and relate it back to acting would be the basis for my graduate thesis,” said Pipicella.
The fall semester continued with First Date, a hilarious, quirky musical comedy that took patrons on a journey set to relive all the angst, humiliation and surprises of a first date. The audience was thrown headfirst into the ups and downs of a mismatched blind date accompanied by a pop-rock music score.
“Working on First Date was an incredible experience,” says director Earl D. Weaver. “Everyone on the production team, cast and crew worked within one voice and one vision, and it showed in the final product. During the process, I battled some major health problems, which created a situation where the whole rest of the team had to step in and take over additional workload and everyone did it without any question. It was so comforting to know I was working with a team of extraordinary artists, and I will forever be grateful to them for their commitment to the project.”
Theatre UCF closed the fall semester with a collection of six stories by John Patrick Shanley about people reaching out to find love, blending humor, poetry and truth into each vignette. Acting faculty member Mark Brotherton, who passed away in March 2021, was originally slated to direct Welcome to the Moon and Other One Acts. After his passing, Theatre UCF reached out to his former students to direct the performance in honor of his incredible contributions to the UCF School of Performing Arts.
“It was such a pleasure to work with my co-directors, Joshian Morales ‘13 and Tara Kromer ‘15MFA,” says director Peter Cortelli ‘10MFA. I felt like we truly connected with our pieces, our actors and each other. We were very collaborative and ultimately, we made decisions together that focused heavily in honoring our dear friend and professor Mark Brotherton, in relation to the pieces we were responsible for. Even though we directed separate scenes, I never felt that any one piece stood alone. Every idea and scene we brought to the table was significant to the result and I hope we made Mark and our UCF theatre program proud.”
The costumes in this production were designed by Theatre UCF’s costume shop manager of more than 15 years, Dan Jones, who passed away in October 2021.
In the spring semester, Theatre UCF performers and technicians returned to maskless productions.
“Getting to be on stage maskless after having gone through the worst of a pandemic was the best gift this season could have given me,” says Giuseppe Pipicella. “Thankfully, UCF provided us resources to continue being safe, and fully express ourselves on stage.”
The first spring show was Indecent by Paula Vogel, a deeply moving and liberating story based on the true events in 1923 surrounding the play The God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch, where the producer and cast were arrested and convicted for obscenity for showing love between two women on stage.
“My experience in Indecent was one of the most creatively stimulating and simultaneously enlightening projects I’d worked on at UCF,” says performer Paul Pelletier. “Working with members of the Jewish community at UCF to make sure that the piece was as authentic as possible, while also having everyone in the room get to be a part of building the show was truly inspirational.”
Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine, shared the story of Undine, a successful Black woman who was a top publicist in New York City. This satirical tale of struggling to understand what it means to be a black woman amidst the constructs of society, and the trials of returning to family roots gave audiences the opportunity to explore the idea of what “Black success” looks like in a predominately white society.
For UCF Celebrates the Arts 2022, seniors in the musical theatre program lit up the stage of the brand-new Steinmetz Hall with their senior showcase. The main event was Shrek the Musical in the Walt Disney Theater. With five healthy houses and a field trip performance in collaboration with the Orlando Repertory Theatre, this hilarious musical adventure kept the audience laughing and dancing in their seats.
Pegasus PlayLab, a festival dedicated to developing works by emerging playwrights, returned this year with three staged readings and a full production of a new play first workshopped at Orlando Shakes’ PlayFest 2021. The staged readings included a mystery thriller, a musical tale for young audiences and a play written by a UCF student playwright. Theatre UCF brought a new play to the Main Stage with the first full production of Affinity Lunch Minutes.