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Director's Vision Supported by Student Designers in Catawba's Production of "Dead Man's Cell Phone"

January 26, 2012

Category: Academics, Events, Students, Theatre Arts


By Verity Pryor-Harden, Class of 2015

Dead Man's Cell PhoneTechnology's unique ability to continue a man's life after his death and to bring unexpected strangers together is explored in Catawba College's production of "Dead Man's Cell Phone." The production, directed by Theatre Arts adjunct faculty member Craig Kolkebeck in the style of Japanese Noh theatre, plays in the Florence Busby-Corriher Theatre 6:55 p.m. Tuesday, February 7 and Wednesday, February 8, and at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11. ;

When Kolkebeck first accepted the responsibility of directing "Dead Man's Cell Phone" and read the script, he says that playwright Sarah Ruhl's contemporary play "jumped out at me" and, in a way, directed itself. After spending more than a year living and working in Japan, Kolkebeck was influenced by the Japanese style of theatre and wanted to introduce aspects of its fluidity and respectfulness to the American stage.

"I hate scene changes and seeing stage hands move scenic elements. Why not dance the set pieces on and off?" And so, Kolkebeck decided to bring Japanese Noh into the picture and invited student choreographer Sydney Berk, a junior from Encino, Calif., to invent the movement that would enable a show without scene changes.

"I experienced a lot of excitement and a lot of fear," recalled Berk after first agreeing to choreograph "Dead Man's Cell Phone." Never having choreographed a show before, she was thrust into the task of using a hodge-podge of musical styles while still keeping the influence of Japanese Noh throughout the play.

Similarly, costume designer Sara Coon, a junior from Dallas, Texas, and set designer Chris Speer, a junior from Hamptonville, were also presented with unique first-time experiences in design, while creating under the Noh influence."This will be a lot like "As I Lay Dying" ... we're creating a prerequisite for someone else to do this kind of thing," said Speer.

"While the show itself will be very different and unlike anything an audience has seen in a Catawba production," Coon says."I hope that people will take away the true magic that is theatre and acting. It's truly going to be a magical experience for anyone who sees it."

Dead Man's Cell PhoneWhile some may find it surprising that Kolkebeck entrusted such big responsibilities in a production to students, Kolkebeck said, "The bottom line is: I like people to do what I think they do best. It's all part of building an ensemble. I trust them as individuals more than a matter of seeing their work. They're in a nurturing environment with great people above them to encourage and guide them, so let them do their jobs."

Cast members include junior Kylie Beinke of Cary as a Koken dancer; junior Gabriella Bressi of Villanova, Pa., as Mrs. Gottlieb; junior Tyler Burkett of Gainesville, Fla., as Gordon; junior Katie Carpenter of Salisbury as a Koken dancer; junior Leana Guzman of Charlotte as the Other Woman; junior Sean Henderson of Concord as Dwight; junior Katie Higgins of Durham as Jean; senior Annabelle Prince of Charlotte as Hermia; freshman Katlyn Shaw of Mount Airy as a Koken dancer; and freshman Lara Williams of Wellington, Fla., as a Koken dancer.

In addition to those aforementioned, crew members and designers include sophomore Jerry Archer of Asheville, assistant lighting designer & master electrician; junior Ashley Jackson, stage manager; senior Zach McRae of Hendersonville, assistant director; freshman Maggie Saunders of Huntington, W.Va., assistant stage manager; junior Donna Steele of Charlotte, hair & make-up designer; and Theatre Arts professor and department chair Christopher Zink, lighting designer.

Tickets for "Dead Man's Cell Phone" are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and non-Catawba students. For more details, please call the Catawba College Theatre Box Office at (704) 637-4481.

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Please be aware that the final two performances of Dead Man's Cell Phone are SOLD OUT. A waiting list will be created in the lobby of the Florence Busby Corriher Theatre each evening beginning at 6:30pm for that night's performance on a first come-first served basis. Any reservations not called for or released at the door will be distributed to the waiting list in the order requests are received that evening. If you have questions, please call the Theatre Arts Box Office at (704) 637-4481.
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