Actors take the stage at SOU

Two plays will run in repertory this month at Southern Oregon University.

"Johnny Johnson: The Biography of a Common Man," with book and lyrics by Southern playwright Paul Green and music by Broadway composer Kurt Weill, is set for the Center Stage Theatre, and "The Story of Opal," Gale Childs Daly's adaptation of a six-year-old girl's dairy, will be presented in the Center Square Theatre.

The theaters are located in the SOU Theatre Arts Building.

"Johnny Johnson" will run Thursday, Feb. 11, through Sunday, Feb. 28. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Matinee performances are at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Feb. 20-21 and 27-28.

"Johnny Johnson" is the story of an idealistic young man who leaves home to fight in Europe during World War I. Randall Stuart directs, Jennifer Schloming is the music director and Jim Giancarlo choreographs the production.

"Johnny Johnson" opened on Broadway in 1936.

Green was raised in North Carolina and taught philosophy and drama at the state's university. In New York City, Green and Weill created a theatrical form that is more of a historical piece, with elements of music, pantomime, dance and dialogue. Green and Weill also created the three-act "Johnny Johnson" with the first act as a comedy, the second a tragedy and the third a satire.

In 1927, Green was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for drama for "In Abraham's Bosom," his symphonic drama depicting the plight of an African-American man living in the South.

Weill fled Nazi Germany in 1933, producing works in Paris and London before coming to America. In 1936, his score for "Johnny Johnson" established him as a leading composer, and, in 1946, he won a Tony Award for his original score for "Street Scene," with book by Elmer Rice and lyrics by Langston Hughes.

The role of Johnson is played at different periods of the character's life by Chris Carwithen, Blaine Johnston and Scott Scholes at SOU.

"The Story of Opal," a play for young audiences, is set for the smaller Center Square Theatre. Performances are set for 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 12-13, Feb. 19-20 and Feb. 26-27; 2 p.m. Saturdays, Feb. 13 and 20; 2 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 21 and 28; and 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27.

The play is based on the childhood diary of naturalist and writer Opal Whiteley. Whiteley's early years were spent exploring the forests surrounding a logging community outside of Cottage Grove.

As a young girl, her imagination conjured the magic of animal and plant characters, singing creeks, talking trees and invisible fairies. Her homespun journal was recorded on scraps of butcher paper, grocery bags and envelopes with crayons and pencils. The journal was first published in 1920 as "The Story of Opal" in serialized form, then later as a book.

Daly has adapted Whiteley's journal into a theatrical account of Whiteley's journey as she moved hopefully into her world and her future.

Deltra Ferguson directs. Ferguson is coordinator for the Women's Resource Center at SOU. She directed "Big Love" at SOU in 2005. The show's ensemble includes Hannah Gassaway, Elsbeth Poe, Maire Murphy, Heath Koerschgen and Zach Myers.

Tickets to the shows cost $20, $17 for seniors and $5 for students. Subscribers to three or more plays receive a discounted rate of $16 per ticket, $14 for seniors. Tickets are available at the door or by calling the SOU Theatre Arts Box Office at 541-552-6348. More information is available at

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