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“The Beggar’s Opera” Performed April 21-25 at Appalachian

BOONE–The Department of Theatre and Dance at Appalachian State University will present “The Beggar’s Opera” April 21-25 in the Valborg Theatre. Curtain time is at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Tickets are $10 general admission and $6 for students. For reservations or more information, call the Valborg Theatre box office at (828) 262-3063.

Written in 1728, John Gay’s “The Beggar’s Opera” combined comic dialogue with popular tunes from the time to create a new genre of theatre–the ballad opera.

The play has been called the prototype for musical productions as seen on Broadway today. When it opened in London, the play ran for a remarkable 62 performances, making it one of the most popular and successful productions of the 18th century.

The characters are part of the play’s appeal. Gay wrote about rogues, pickpockets and highwaymen,treating the “common folk” as if they were courtesans and peers.

Gay turns London society upside down in an attempt to satirize human behavior of the time. Many of the digs Gay makes in songs like “When You Censure the Age” and “The Modes of the Court” reflect defects in today’s society.

The plot includes a hero with roguish qualities as its central figure. The dashing highwayman Captain Macheath is involved in a love triangle with the play’s two heroines, Polly and Lucy. He spends much of his time on the run in the company of his gang, a collection of perhaps the most comic robbers ever assembled on stage. Add to the plot a pair of comic villains and enough ladies of the evening to fill a dance hall, and it creates a comic period farce set to music.

The Department of Theatre and Dance production of “The Beggar’s Opera” will feature a new adaptation of the play created by director and faculty member Derek Gagnier.

Student actors in the production not only face the task of singing and dancing, but also the challenge of tackling 18th century dialogue. There are a number of dialects involved, including Cockney, Scotts and Cornish to give the production the flavor of 18th- century London.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the production is the potential for audience participation. The production begins with a beggar and a player singing praises for the opera. From there, the actual musical play begins with lots of theatrical elements and comic dialogue. Characters actually speak to the audience and will adjust what happens on stage according to the audience’s responses.

Theatre and dance faculty member Dr. Frank Mohler designed the set and lighting for the production. He was assisted by student designer Amanda Sutt.

Faculty member Martha Marking designed costumes. Theatre and dance student Aliza Mendelewicz assists with makeup.

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