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MASTER CLASS (article first published : 2007-07-20)

A centrepiece of The Playhouse Company’s upcoming South African Women’s Arts Festival will be a new production of US playwright Terrence McNally’s acclaimed play, Master Class. Directed by Ralph Lawson, one of South Africa’s leading stage luminaries, the production stars multi-award winning Durban actress, Clare Mortimer, in the play’s pivotal lead role of the legendary 20th century opera star, Maria Callas.

Winner of the 1996 Tony Award for Best Play, Master Class has been described as “pyrotechnical theatre, fireworks in a contained space”, where Maria Callas is brought tempestuously back to life. Inspired by a series of master classes the great diva conducted at the Juilliard School of Music in New York towards the end of her career, the drama puts Callas at centre stage again, as she coaxes, prods, and inspires students (victims as she calls them) into giving the performances of their lives while revealing her own.

As she slips off into memories, we experience Callas’s long-gone days at la Scala, her marriage to Meneghini, and her great, doomed love for Aristotle Onassis. But the dazzling theatricality comes from Callas’s emotional exploration of her own cutting wit, and from the soaring music as each student sings an aria that exposes La Divina’s vulnerabilities and her genius.

During the play’s premiere seasons in the United State, on Broadway, the Kennedy Centre and in other leading venues, The Philadelphia Enquirer hailed the work as “a play of notable wit, humanity and insight which captures the transcendent expanses that enable you to share for a moment in the making of art.”

The Wall Street Journal called the piece “McNally’s best script so far, sparkling, rich, mercurial”, while The Los Angeles Times opined that “McNally’s love letter succeeds brilliantly.”

Casting for the play’s upcoming production at The Playhouse includes, among others, soprano Lwazi Ncube, Robert Petersen and pianist Andrew Warburton.

Master Class will be performed in the Loft Theatre on August 7 and 8 at 19h00 and on August 11 at 15h00 and 19h00. Tickets R70. The production will be subject to an age restriction of 16 years. Book through Computicket, or Mala Govender at the Playhouse Company’s Marketing Department, on 031-369 9456.




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