February 5, 2021

Purdue University Department of Theatre to open 'Nell Gwynn'

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Purdue University Department of Theatre is pleased to present “Nell Gwynn” by Jessica Swale and directed by William W. Lewis. This production will be available virtually, livestreamed on Feb. 19-21 from the Nancy T. Hansen Theatre in Pao Hall in the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Design, Art, and Performance.

The first production on the mainstage 2020-21 season, “Nell Gwynn” reflects the department’s commitment to train theatre artists of the future and to explore new forms of theatre-making for these extraordinary times.

With required social distancing and restrictions on gatherings and live events due to COVID-19, the department has reshaped its original production plans to explore new digital formats that deliver innovative educational and professional training opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students, as well as audiences. The opening-night performance will be livestreamed at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19, followed by three subsequent broadcasts of the live recording at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20, and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 21.

This will be the first livestreamed stage production for the Department of Theatre, created using a three-camera setup by Hall of Music Productions with support from students in the Film and Video Studies program in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, housed in the College of Liberal Arts.  

Winner of the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2016, “Nell Gwynn” is a comedy set during the Restoration period in England in 1660, with the return of King Charles II to the throne after a period of Puritan rule, during which all theatres were closed. Returning from exile in France, King Charles brings the extravagance and flamboyance of French culture back to England, including the outrageous fashion of having women on stage. The play tells the story of the rise of Nell Gwynn from a Drury Lane orange seller and prostitute to London’s brightest stage star. Scenic design is by guest artist Charlie Calvert, associate professor at the College of Charleston; costume design is by Allison Jones (Purdue Master of Fine Arts, costume design ’21); lighting design by Denisse Chavez (Purdue MFA, lighting design ’22); and sound design by Adam Lewis (Purdue Bachelor of Arts, sound for the performing arts, ’21).

Ann M. Shanahan, chair of the Department of Theatre, says, “This play is even more timely now than when we chose it for our season a year ago. It celebrates the unique innovations that come with unexpected interruptions, the opportunities for greater equity and inclusion that come from being forced to change the status quo. ‘Nell Gwynn’ celebrates women on the stage for the first time in England after a period when the theatres closed for many years. The closure of theatres for the pandemic has coincided with the movement for Black lives and work for racial justice, in which theatres professionally and in higher education are examining methods that are unjust and exclusionary, and making change. These are potent moments to innovate in artmaking and in life. This play shows how we can do so with humor, joy and love.”

Tickets can be purchased at the campus Loeb Playhouse box office, by phone at 765-494-3933, or online, and are $17.50 (livestream) and $12.50 (digital recording). Theatre 2020-21 season membership passes also are still available in place of a traditional season subscription. These passes provide members with virtual access to all workshops and productions that can be produced safely, and invitations to interactive webinars for in-depth discussions with actors, designers, directors, dramaturgs, and technicians. Membership passes for the year, including three upcoming productions, are $50 for the general public, $45 for adults 62-above, and $35 for students.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://purdue.edu/. 

Source: Jodi Taylor, Department of Theatre Marketing and Outreach Specialist, joditaylor@purdue.edu  

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