Zimmerman Zaps Student Theater in Festival

Mary Zimmerman visits with students during rehearsal for the upcoming musical, “The Odyssey,” set to be performed April April 27 – 29 and May 4 – 6.

Magic filled the air last Tuesday during rehearsal for Theatre NDSU’s “The Odyssey,” as the student actors huddled in a close circle. This rehearsal was unlike any other: Tony Award-winning director, playwright and adaptor of “The Odyssey,” Mary Zimmerman, joined the students.

The actors read passages of the show aloud, receiving feedback from Zimmerman with her interpretations of the text and her reasoning for including certain passages from Homer’s original “Odyssey” into her staged adaptation.

As the actors performed, Zimmerman often closed her eyes and affectionately mouthed many of the words with them, demonstrating her fondness of language and love of literature.

Throughout Zimmerman’s visit to NDSU, she hosted workshops for artists in the community where she offered insight in to her artistic process and gave advice to aspiring theater makers.

Zimmerman’s visit to NDSU is part of a tri-college festival — the Mary Zimmerman Festival — with MSUM and Concordia College. This month, each theater department will be performing one of Zimmerman’s famous works.

Concordia performed “The Secret in the Wings” from March 30 – April 2, MSUM will perform “Metamorphoses” from April 5 – 8, and Theatre NDSU will conclude with “The Odyssey” from April 27 – May 6.

Jess Jung, artistic director of Theatre NDSU, played an integral role in coordinating the Mary Zimmerman Festival and facilitating Zimmerman’s visit to the Fargo-Moorhead community.

When asked about the initial tri-college decision to produce Zimmerman’s work, Jung said, “The tri-college has been trying to collaborate for years with our theater seasons.”

Once the decision was made to produce three productions by the same playwright, Jung stressed the importance of choosing a female playwright, as she has a “personal charge for our (Theatre NDSU) season that we have a female playwright and female story each season.”

Jess Jung (left), Artistic Director for Theatre NDSU, was crucial in collaborating with tri-college universities to create the Mary Zimmerman (right) Festival.

Jung, along with the MSUM and Concordia theater departments, decided to produce Zimmerman’s plays because “her voice is inherently female” and her work is “epic.”

The unexpected occurred after this decision — Zimmerman agreed to travel from Chicago to Fargo-Moorhead to collaborate with the colleges, attend rehearsals and host workshops. As an internationally acclaimed (and incredibly famous) artist whose work has been produced all over the globe, this visit was significant in more ways than one.

As rehearsal concluded and the cast said their final farewells to Zimmerman, she reminded them of a message that rang true for the theatre and beyond. Zimmerman said, “These stories have been passed down, and you are the next voices of the legacy of the story.”

WHAT: “The Odyssey” | Mary Zimmerman Festival

WHERE: Askanase Hall

WHEN: April 27 – 29 & May 4 – 6 | 7:30 PM

TICKETS: Free for NDSU students. To reserve your tickets, please stop by Music Ed 107 or call 701-231-7969.

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