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Drama department presents an ill-fated dinner party in “Rancho Mirage”

  • Playwright Steven Dietz.
    Playwright Steven Dietz.
  • Senior Amanda Venable will direct the premiere of Rancho Mirage.
    Senior Amanda Venable will direct the premiere of Rancho Mirage.

Location: Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts

February 28, 2013
Amanda Venable’s senior-thesis production brings Steven Dietz’s new comedy to the stage for the first time March 1 and 2.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—The Washington College Department of Drama will present the premiere of Steven Dietz’s play Rancho Mirage as a senior thesis production directed by Amanda Venable ’13, on Friday and Saturday, March 1 and 2, at 8 p.m. in the Gibson Center for the Arts. 

Venable describes the play as a “hilariously ill-fated dinner party” that takes place when three couples gather in a seemingly picture-perfect upscale housing development named Rancho Mirage. She was drawn to the play’s themes of trying to articulate and then live up to expectations and found the struggles of the characters to be  “fascinating, heartbreaking, and hysterical all at the same time. I think everyone can connect to something that each one of these characters is feeling,” she says.

Drama Department chair Michele Volansky is a longtime friend of playwright Dietz, and that connection led to Washington College being able to present the first full staging of Rancho Mirage. “When I was teaching a dramaturgy class two years ago, I asked Steven and several other playwrights for a play that my students could look at that was still in process,” Volansky explains. “He sent Rancho, and Amanda, then a sophomore, was immediately smitten. Since then, the play has had several developmental readings—at Trinity Rep, City Theatre Pittsburgh and Tennessee Repertory. It just so happens that Amanda gets the first production. We are awfully proud that the playwright has trusted us with this work.”   

Steven Dietz is one of America’s most widely produced and published contemporary playwrights. His 30-plus plays have been seen at more than 100 regional theatres in the United States, as well as Off-Broadway and in nearly 20 countries. A professor of playwriting and directing at the University of Texas at Austin, he has won numerous awards, including two from the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays and an Edgar Award® for Drama for his widely-produced Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure.  He has received commissions from the Steppenwolf Theater, Actors Theatre of Louisville, ACT Theatre in Seattle, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, the Denver Center Theatre Company and others. Recent work includes A Year Without Summer, commissioned and developed by the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and Mad Beat Hip & Gone, commissioned by the College of Fine Arts at University of Texas and scheduled to premiere in Austin at ZACH Theatre’s new Topfer Theatre this April. 

Amanda Venable, the director of the Washington College production, is a double major in drama and history. Her cast includes Melody Bishop ’15 as Diane, Zach Briglia’16 as Nick, Emily Robart ’13 as Louise, Drew Beardmore ’16 as Trevor, Ellen Huffman’13 as Pam, Harris Allgeier ’14 as Charlie and Charlotte Cugnini ’16 as Julie. 

Amanda Klute’16 is Stage Manager, and Adam Bechtold ’16 is Assistant Stage Manager. Kristen Hammond ’14 designed the set, and Lauren Tucker ’14 designed the lighting. 

Rancho Mirage will be staged in the Tawes Theater of the Gibson Center for the Arts, which is located on the College’s main campus, 300 Washington Avenue. Reservations are encouraged; call 410-778-7835 or email drama_tickets@washcoll.edu.  Tickets will be available at the door. Admission is free, but a suggested donation of $1 will go toward fighting hunger in Kent County. For more information: http://drama.washcoll.edu/.

Last modified on Mar. 1st, 2013 at 9:19am by .