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UT Students Bring New Set of Characters to Life


This past Spring, the speech, theatre, and dance department concluded the school year with the last showing of the musical Dogfight. The department said goodbye to another graduating class and are now back at it again preparing for another year full of productions to entertain UT students. This Fall, they will introduce the play The Children’s Hour, the musical Nice Work If You Can Get It, and Live Radio Play City of Emeralds.

Set in the 1930s, The Children’s Hour is a play written by Lillian Hellman that chronicles the struggles of Martha Dobie (Beth Botkin) and Karen Wright (Amanda Franz), two friends that run an all girls boarding school. They are thrown into a web of lies strung together by Mary Tilford (Kathleen Duke), a student at the boarding school, after Tilford accuses Dobie and Wright of being involved in a lesbian relationship.

The lie spreads like wildfire throughout the community. Students are pulled out of the boarding school by their parents and both women lose everything they’ve worked for forcing a strain in their relationship. Wright must deal with the added stresses of her fiancé who is also Tilford’s cousin, Doctor Joseph Cardin, played by senior theatre and marketing major Casey Rich.

“[My] character begins from a state of relative happiness and ends in a place of desperation and sorrow,” Rich said, “I really look forward to exploring his way of dealing with the circumstances that surround Karen and Martha later in the play.”

According to senior theatre and journalism major Amanda Franz, The Children’s Hour illustrates how powerful a lie can be. Through the intense nature of the production, UT Students will be given a performance that incorporates abnormal psychology, themes regarding sexuality, and mild violence.

“Most people would think it’s the fun loving teacher side of her, but I’m actually excited to see how I’m going to pull off her downfall,” said Franz, “She pretty much gives up both physically and mentally once everything she’s worked for is stripped away from her and I’m looking forward to seeing how that comes across.”

In contrast to the dark matter of The Children’s Hour, broadway musical comedy, Nice Work If You Can Get It features the work of George and Ira Gershwin and Joe DiPietro. According to assistant professor of theatre and director of the musical Professor Paul Finocchiaro, this musical set during the prohibition era of the 1920s is a traditional Broadway Musical that has been designed in a new way for a modern audience.

“It’s a farce which means there’s a lot of fast action, running, mistaken identity and a surprising ending.” Finocchiaro said, “It’s going to be a blast to watch.”

Main Character Jimmy Winter (Sean Royal) comes across the feisty bootlegger Billie Bendix (Bri Mooney) and her two partners in crime, Duke and Cookie, in the midst of his bachelor party. According to senior musical theatre major Bri Mooney, Bendix has admirable attributes like being independent.

“[Bendix is] very tough on the outside, which is why she doesn’t believe in love and has never had the opportunity to crack open her tough outer shell to ever experience it,” Mooney said.

With the Duchess of Woodford Estonia Dulworth, who is played by senior Musical Theatre major Marissa Volpe, trying to rid society of alcohol, the group of bootleggers are constantly on their toes as they must keep out of Dulworth’s sight.

“This character is so grand and proper and I’m very excited to portray her over-the-top personality and how utterly dramatic she is about everything,” Volpe said.

Last in the semester, is an all spoken production that puts focus not on the acting, but the voice of the actors and actresses. City of Emeralds is based on the Wizard of Oz classic  with the memorable characters that many all know and love.

This twelve member cast will bring the production to life and provide a more unique approach to this well-known story.

“[The production] is all done with the voice,” junior theatre and public relations major Spencer Hubbard who is playing the Wizard of Oz said, “We will have little costuming and some sound effects, but it will be done the way classic radio plays are done.”

The Children’s Hour will be showing October 13-15 at 8 p.m. and October 16 at 2 p.m. Nice Work If You Can Get It will be showing November 17-19 at 8 p.m. and November 20 at 2 p.m. Both shows are at Falk Theatre and are free to UT Students and $15 for general admission. City of Emeralds, also in Falk Theatre, will be playing December 9 and 10 for free.

Katelyn Massarelli can be reached at

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