History, Politics and "Rock 'n' Roll" Collide at SSU

Stoppard's "Rock 'n' Roll" Plays at Person Theatre, March 25-April 2

rocknrollphoto2.jpgThey say timing is everything. Just ask Paul Draper, chair of the theatre arts and dance department. It was in the spring of 2010 when Draper was searching for a play for his acting students to present in the Spring of 2011.

Draper was searching for a play that would engage his students on a cultural and political level. He decided on Tom Stoppard's "Rock 'n' Roll."

Draper obtained the rights to produce and present the North Bay Premiere of Stoppard's critically acclaimed play which incorporates history, politics, social and cultural commentary. With a timeline of rock and roll classics, "Rock 'n' Roll" contrasts a young Czech student and his British Marxist professor against the backdrop of Prague Spring leading to the Velvet Revolution.

"It's incredible to me that on the first night of our rehearsals Jan. 31, 2011, the Egyptian protests were just heating up. And look what happened," said Draper. "In 1968, one of the means of connecting was bootlegged rock music smuggled across borders. Today its Tweets that communicate the message. It's is faster now, but the power of bringing the outside into a closed society through music or the internet or whatever, is still very real."

"Stoppard is an amazing writer for actors. He has a great ear for the rhythm of spoken language and is wonderfully complex in his use of language to express ideas," said Draper.

"Stoppard offers a good training tool for actors in our program as part of their on-going development here at SSU. I thought it was time to broaden the field a bit with this play," said Draper.

" 'Rock 'n' Roll' begins in 1968 and ends in 1989. If you were born after World War II and are part of the Baby Boomer generation, you know the music and the bands from this era and the culture they represented," said Draper.

"Audiences may also remember the protest culture in America including protests here at SSU and in Berkeley led by Mario Savio as well as the cultural and political revolutions in Europe. Most notable would be the revolution of Prague Spring in 1968, shut down by the Soviets. And then there was the Velvet Revolution in 1989 when Gorbachev visited Prague and the Berlin Wall was opened. These events frame Stoppard's 'Rock 'n' Roll,' " said Draper.

"The play also features a great long-term love story. There is so much love in this play and then, there's the music including the Velvet Underground, the Doors, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Stones, Pink Floyd. It's just really great music which serves as an important, impact backdrop for this great piece of time-traveling theater," said Draper.

The SSU production will feature the two contrasting worlds of Cambridge, England and Prague, Czechoslovakia before the split and the Czech Republic was formed. Audiences will know what year and city they are visiting in each scene and the cultural moods will be further shaped through lights and costumes. There will also be projections screens that float above the set so images from these places and events will illustrate the action on stage between scenes.

"The timing of our 'Rock 'n' Roll' production couldn't be better for our students and the community audience," said Draper. "In the 1980's a lot was said about how the protest of the 1970's were failures and that protesters either dropped out or sold out. But really, Prague Spring was a prototype for non-violent protest--showing the world that if you stick with your beliefs and keep up the pressure, you can bring down a tyrannical regime through peaceful protest."

"Rock 'n' Roll" plays in SSU's Person Theatre the following dates:

• Friday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m. - Opening Night

• Saturday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m.

• Sunday, March 27 at 2 p.m. - Stay for the post-show discussion!

•Tuesday, March 29 at 7:30 p.m.

• Wednesday, March 30 at 6:30 p.m. - Faculty and Staff Night (open to the public) and 5 p.m. pre-show presentation with music professor John Palmer, featuring live music and more!

• Friday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m.

• Saturday, April 2 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are FREE for SSU students, $9 for non-SSU students and senior citizens, $14 for SSU employees, and $16 general admission.

To purchase tickets, contact the School of Performing Arts Box Office at (707) 664-2353, or order online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com. Tickets are also available at the door one hour prior to curtain.


"Rock 'n' Roll" promo video:


"Rock 'n' Roll" Facebook Photo Album:


SSU Performing Arts website:


Theatre Arts and Dance Facebook page:


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