Popular family favorites highlight SummerStage season at SFA

The SummerStage Festival at Stephen F. Austin State University will present a fun and funny children’s musical and an emotionally powerful American classic play in its 2017 summer theatre season.

This year’s SummerStage Festival is slated for June 27 through July 15 with performances in W.M. Turner Auditorium and the Downstage Theatre. Both venues are in Griffith Fine Arts Building on the SFA campus. This year’s plays are “Ivy + Bean the Musical” and “The Miracle Worker,” and the festival is sponsored in part by Tipton Ford Lincoln.

Launched in 2014 to take the place of the traditional Summer Repertory Theatre season, SummerStage is designed to provide less formal, fun and easy-going live theatre experiences for East Texas audiences, according to Dr. Rick Jones, interim director of the SFA School of Theatre.

“Our summer season is designed so that people in the community not only can bring the entire family, but that they’ll want to do so,” Jones said. “The ‘Ivy + Bean’ series of books is extremely popular in elementary schools, and the musical promises to be, as well. ‘The Miracle Worker’ is one of the most beloved plays in American theatre, having been staged by hundreds of professional companies, community theatres and academic theatres.”

“Ivy + Bean the Musical,” with book, music and lyrics by Scott Elmegreen and based on books by Annie Barrows as illustrated by Sophie Blackall, invites the audience to come meet quiet Ivy, who has amazing ideas, and outgoing Bean, who loves to put ideas into action. The mischievous second-grade heroines of The New York Times best-selling stories will be plotting their exploits onstage in this lively musical, according to Angela Bacarisse, SFA professor of theatre and the play’s director.

Known as the director of the smash hit “Spamalot” and the summer kids’ favorites “The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Musical,” “How I Became a Pirate” and last year’s “A Year With Frog and Toad,” Bacarisse said that when “Ivy + Bean the Musical” comes to life on Turner stage, there’s “mischief and laughter at every turn – along with lessons to be learned about the challenges and joy of family, friendship and love.”

“We are working with local libraries to feature readings of the ‘Ivy and Bean’ book series to go along with the performances,” Bacarisse said. “It has always been important to me that reading be incorporated in the summer children’s musical, beginning with ‘How I Became a Pirate.’ Each story is an adventure on its own, and then the kids get to see them come to life on the stage.”

The festival also features “The Miracle Worker,” a three-act play by William Gibson based on Helen Keller’s autobiography, “The Story of My Life.” Keller, a young deaf and blind girl trapped in a world of darkness and silence, meets Annie Sullivan, an unorthodox and brilliant teacher. Despite the numerous challenges both face, Annie ultimately becomes the miracle worker who helps Helen unlock a world of possibilities, according to Dr. Inga Meier, assistant professor of theatre and the play’s director.

Meier made her directorial debut at SFA with last summer’s hilarious “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” a witty comedy by actor, screenwriter and stand-up comic Steve Martin. “The Miracle Worker” will have a very different effect on this year’s SummerStage audiences.

“Most people today, a century and a half after her birth, have heard of Helen Keller, a deaf and blind pioneer in the worlds of disability rights and social justice,” Meier said. “We know who she was. What ‘The Miracle Worker’ shows us (and what makes the play so timeless) is how, with the help of Annie Sullivan, she persevered in the face of those challenges to become that person, and that story is one that continues to inspire.”

“Ivy + Bean the Musical” will be presented in Turner Auditorium at 10 a.m. July 1 and 6; at 2 p.m. July 5, 8 and 13; and at 6:30 p.m. July 1, 8 and 14. General admission tickets are $7.50.

“The Miracle Worker” will be presented in the Downstage Theatre at 7:30 p.m. June 27 and 29 and July 6, 7, 11, 12 and 13; and at 2 p.m. July 15. General admission tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7.50 for students/youth.

Ticket sales begin Monday, May 15. For tickets or more information, visit www.finearts.sfasu.edu or call (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS.

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