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Northwestern's Mainstage Season Continues with Bernstein's "MASS"

Nov. 12 to 15 public performances to feature rock, jazz, Broadway, blues, opera and hymns

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November 5, 2009 | by Judy Moore

Listen to an interview between TIC Artistic Director Henry Godinez and Grace Craddock Nagle Chair in Catholic Studies Robert Orsi on the social and religious relevance of the production

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Leonard Bernstein's seldom-performed "MASS" will be presented at Northwestern University's Cahn Auditorium for five public performances. Subtitled "A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers," the production of the controversial work fusing sacred and secular music will feature 200 performers.

"MASS" will be staged at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, and Friday, Nov. 13; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15. Cahn Auditorium is located at 600 Emerson St., on the University's Evanston campus.


In consultation with Bernstein's lyricist daughter, Jamie Bernstein, the production will feature new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, composer and lyricist of "Godspell" (1971), "Pippin" (1972) and "Wicked" (2003). Schwartz will visit the campus in mid-November to see the production and spend the day with Northwestern students.

"MASS" will be directed by Joseph Jefferson ("Jeff") Award-winning director Dominic Missimi, director of Northwestern's Music Theatre Certificate Program and executive director of the American Music Theatre Project. Music direction will be provided by Northwestern music performance faculty member Ryan T. Nelson, with choreography by Northwestern Dance Program faculty member Jeffrey Hancock.

Presented by the Theatre and Interpretation Center and Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, the cast will include members of the Northwestern Music Theatre Certificate Program and students from the Bienen School of Music, the Red Rose Children's Choir of Lake County and boy soprano Henry Griffin, a member of the Oak Park and River Forest Children's Chorus.

"MASS" was originally commissioned in 1971 by Jacqueline Kennedy for the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Based on the Tridentine Mass of the Roman Catholic Church, "MASS" examines one celebrant's crisis of faith.

Missimi is directing "MASS" for the third time in his professional career. He first directed the work in Detroit in 1975 before leaving the University of Detroit and Marygrove College to teach at Northwestern. In 1991, he directed it again to celebrate the inauguration of Northwestern's certificate program in music theatre. He felt there could be no more fitting work to celebrate the new collaboration than "MASS."

Now, nearing his retirement from Northwestern, Missimi has come full circle to direct the work he calls "near and dear to my heart."

Northwestern senior Andrew Howard, a School of Communication theatre major, will sing the role of the celebrant for four performances, and senior Seth Dhonau, a vocal performance major at the Bienen School of Music, will sing the role for the Saturday matinee.

"MASS" also will feature the work of students in Northwestern's M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts) Design Program, with set design by Scott Davis and Sarah Watkins, costume design by Mekey Guberinic and lighting design by Mike Stanfill. Northwestern theatre faculty member Josh Horvath will provide sound design.

Single ticket prices for "MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers" are $25 for the general public; $22 for seniors 65 and older, Northwestern faculty and staff and area educators and administrators; and $10 or full-time students. Single tickets may be purchased through the TIC Box Office at (847) 491-7282 or online at www.tic.northwestern.edu.