“The Collegiate Sisterhood of Lake Pawtuckaway,” a newly created play by New York playwright Peter Ullian, will enjoy its premiere performance Friday night, April 24, at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
The five-show run also includes performances Saturday, April 25, and Thursday through Saturday, April 30-May 2. Curtain time is 7:30 each night in the University Theatre, located in Theatre Hall on the campus at 2420 Nicolet Drive.
Ullian has spent the spring semester as artist in residence at UW-Green Bay with the Theatre and Dance academic program. He collaborated with students and faculty in finishing a script he had started previously.
“The student actors were essential to the development of the play,” Ullian says, who is the production’s director. “The details have grown and deepened thanks to the input of the young men and women playing the parts, as well as those on the production team.”
“The Collegiate Sisterhood of Lake Pawtuckaway” is described as a comedy-drama about identity and the nature of love. It tells the story of a group of college friends who gather for a Fourth of July weekend at a secluded lake house.
The host, Honoré, chose the date because she wanted company as she marks the one-year anniversary of the loss of her spouse, Sammie, whose mysterious disappearance was believed to be a swimming accident. One of the friends, Delia, is writing a screenplay and cajoling her friends to play parts written for them in a movie she hopes to record and edit on her iPhone, and another, Lindsey, can’t understand why the others are upset she has brought her boyfriend, who happens to make great sandwiches. The very nature of reality is brought into question when Honoré reveals she has experienced a supernatural encounter, and when unexpected visitors bring startling revelations.
Ullian says he wanted to write a play with characters approximately the same age as the student actors at UW-Green Bay.
“In both professional and academic theatre settings, we often have actors playing characters much older or much younger than they really are,” Ullian says, and that’s fine, “but sometimes it’s nice when actor and character provide a closer fit, and it creates that authenticity.”
He resisted the temptation to set the action in his own college years — although one character does have sort of a 1980s sensibility — and instead chose a voice closer to the millennial-generation students who will perform the play at UW-Green Bay.
“I have my own set of references that undoubtedly date me, but I’m bombarded by the same media onslaught that my students are,” Ullian says, “so Taylor Swift and Yoko Ono have become part of one big smorgasbord of pop culture we all share.”
Ullian’s residency was made possible by the Forward Phoenix Play Project supported through private donations by the UW-Green Bay First Nighters theatre support organization. Prof. Laura Riddle, chair of the academic program and managing director of Theatre, says the experience has given students a window into the creative process and the opportunity to work under the direction of a playwright/director. Additionally, students took part in staged readings of two other new works by Ullian, “Fair City” and “Pan American.”
A member of The Dramatists Guild, Ullian’s work includes the book for the musical, “Flight of the Lawnchair Man,” directed by Hal Prince and nominated for a Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play. His play “Big Bossman” has just been published by Broadway Play Publishing, Inc.
The ensemble student cast at UW-Green Bay for “The Collegiate Sisterhood of Lake Pawtuckaway” features Stephanie Frank as Honoré, Kate Akerboom as Delia, Ashley Wisneski as Allie, Katelyn Kluever as Lindsey, Cherran Dea Rasmovicz as Pippa, Daniel Taddy as Rand, Andrew Delaurelle as Baz, and Emily Ahrens in multiple roles as Sammie/Caitlin/Jocelyn. Student Elizabeth Kierin Barlament is the set designer.
Tickets are $17 for adults, $14 for seniors and youth. Order online at www.uwgb.edu/tickets or by calling (920) 465-2400 or (800) 328-tkts. More information about UW-Green Bay Theatre and Dance is available at www.uwgb.edu/theatre/.