The University at Albany Department of Theatre is pleased to present Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July as its first production of the 2011-12 season.  The show will run for eleven performances in the Lab Theatre at the UAlbany Performing Arts Center on the uptown campus from November 10 to 19, 2011.    

Through the reunion and turmoil of one family, this Broadway hit examines the plight of a returning veteran through the prism of the Vietnam War.  The story follows Kenneth Tally, whose body was broken as a soldier but whose mind remains quick, as he returns to his home in Missouri to sort out what his “new normal” might be with his closest friends and family.  The play examines serious issues in a light-hearted setting, finding strength in the struggle of ordinary lives in this Midwestern setting.  It also reveals how the playwright’s vision continues to resonate within our culture. With the current returning veterans’ unemployment far outweighing the national average of the jobless and more veterans surviving war with severe injuries, this play has never been more relevant than to this generation.

The Theatre Department is honoring the memory of Wilson, who died last spring, with a revival of this play, one of a trilogy centering on the Tally family.  Often regarded as the “American Chekhov,” Wilson wrote comedic scenes with powerful underlying themes.  He was among the first playwrights to depict a gay relationship as part of the fabric of the community, well ahead of this current era of gay marriage.  Fifth of July features a gay partnership, less than a decade after the Stonewall riots, yet presents the struggles within it as normal to any committed relationship. The play also echoes the free style sexual attitudes of the era in which Wilson wrote.  While the audience can laugh at some of the silliness of the generation of the seventies, they will not be able to ignore the struggle of the main character to come to terms with his life which has been gravely altered by his injuries and memories of war.

The production is directed by adjunct faculty member Marnie Andrews.  A professional actor and director for more than forty years, Andrews has directed Steven Wolfson’s adaptation of Trojan Women which was chosen for an international theatre audience at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.  She was dramaturge Randy James Dance Works’ View from the Hudson which was awarded a Geraldine Dodge Foundation grant. At UAlbany, she directed Family: Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them in the 2008-09 season.  A union actor of almost forty years through Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio and Actors Equity Association, Andrews performed in regional theatres in such diverse roles as Guenevere in Camelot, George in The Killing of Sister George and Charlie in Goodbye Charlie.  On television, she has guest-starred in on E.R, Murder One, Jag and Wonder Years as well as had a recurring role on Reasonable Doubts with Mark Harmon and Marlee Matlin.  She recently played God in the independent film Love is Hell.

Fifth of July will open November 10 at the beginning of Veterans’ Day weekend. The complete schedule includes performances on Thursday & Friday, November 10 & 11 at 8pm; Saturday, November 12 at 2pm & 8pm; Sunday, November 13 at 2pm; Wednesday thru Friday, November 16-18 at 8pm and Saturday, November 19 at 2pm.  There will be a talk back after the Sunday matinee on November 13 which will include some veterans who are currently students at UAlbany.

In conjunction with the performances and to focus on the reality of the world for returning veterans, the Department of Theatre is hosting an exhibit of works by Eugene Richards from his most recent book, War is Personal (Many Voices Press, 2010), a documentation in words and pictures of the human consequences of the Iraq war. Richards is a photographer, writer and documentary filmmaker who is best known for his books and photographic essays on such diverse topics as drug addiction, poverty, breast cancer and emergency medicine. Among numerous honors, Richards has won a Guggenheim Fellowship, the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for coverage of the disadvantaged.  The exhibit will be located in the Futterer Lounge on the second floor of the Performing Arts Center. It will be available for viewing before each performance and during intermission.  There is no admission charge for the exhibit.                          

Tickets for the general public are $12 for all performances.  Tickets for students, seniors and UAlbany faculty/staff are $8 from Nov. 10-13 and $10 from November 16-19. Tickets may be purchased through the Performing Arts Center Box Office.  For further information, contact the Box Office at (518) 442-3997.

There will also be two special morning matinee performances of the production for high school groups. These performances are scheduled for Tuesday & Wednesday, November 15 & 16 at 10am. Information and reservations for these matinees are available by calling the Performing Arts Center office at (518) 442-5738.