Lights, lobotomies, and cannibalism will invade your senses and play on your emotions in the School of Performing Arts' first Mainstange Theatre production of the season, "Suddenly Last Summer."

This one-act play by Tennessee Williams will be performed in the Squires Haymarket Theatre on Oct. 1-4 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

"Suddenly Last Summer" follows a wealthy New Orleans society matron, Violet Venable, who attempts to lobotomize her niece Catherine in a struggle to cover up the truth about her son Sebastian's sudden death. Venable temps a young doctor with the promise of a million dollar grant if he will perform the radical surgery. The doctor tries to unravel the mystery of Sebastian's death as the play explores the themes of guilt, destructiveness, and the search for truth.

Faculty member Susanna Rinehart, who teaches Introduction to Theatre, will play the role of Sebastian's mother.

"It is an exhilarating, horrifying experience to climb inside the head of this woman ... it is dark in there! I love getting to work with my students and colleagues this way," said Rinehart. "Bob's expressionistic vision as a director combines so powerfully with Williams' language and lyricism. As we (the cast) seek to climb inside these characters, Bob and his team of designers are doing the opposite: extracting our internal psychic landscapes and splashing them aurally and visually across the stage and throughout the theatre. It is going to be a multisensory experience for our audiences."

The original production was performed off-Broadway in 1958, and a film version with additional scenes and characters followed in 1959 starring Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, and Montgomery Clift.

As with many of Williams' works, "Suddenly Last Summer" has autobiographical elements. His sister Rose underwent a lobotomy to control her schizophrenia. This production reflects his immense guilt and the deep resentment he felt toward his mother for permitting the procedure. 

Based on these experiences, Williams introduces deceptively charming characters whose dark secrets force the audience to question society's definition and perception of insanity. The play highlights the control those with money and social status may exert over the mentally ill to avoid shame and embarrassment.

Faculty member Bob McGrath directs this 21st century re-imaging of Williams' classic tale utilizing unexpected projections and sound to tell this disturbing story. McGrath is a co-founder and the artistic director of Ridge Theatre in New York. He received three Obie Awards and directed and directed at many highly regarded venues, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall.

The production is recommended for mature audiences.

Tickets are $10 general, $8 senior and student, and may be purchased at the Student Centers and Activities Ticket Office on the first floor of Squires Student Center, online, or by calling 540-231-5615. Tickets will also be available at the box office beginning one hour prior to the performance. Discounted seats are available with the purchase of 5 or more tickets to any combination of performances in the School of Performing Arts 2013-14 season. The season includes the Visiting Artist Series, Ensemble Performance Series, and Mainstage Theatre productions. Remaining performances in the Mainstage Theatre Series include "Three Sisters" by Anton Chekhov Nov. 12-20; "Three Days of Rain" by Richard Greenberg Feb. 25-Mar. 5; and "Spring Awakening" April 13-27. 

Haymarket Theatre is located in the Squires Student Center at 290 College Ave. on the campus of Virginia Tech. Free parking is available on weekends and after 5 p.m. weekdays in the Squires Lot, located at the corner of College Avenue and Otey Streets, in the Architecture Annex Lot on Otey Street, and the Perry Street/Prices Fork lots. Find more parking information online or call 540-231-3200. Alternative parking is available in the Kent Squire parking garage and the Farmers Market metered parking lot, both located on Draper Road. Additional downtown Blacksburg parking information can be found online.



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