"War Horse" Leads Wharton Center 2012-13 Schedule

Apr 15, 2012

The Wharton Center for Performing Arts at Michigan State University has announced its schedule for the 2012-13 season.

The Broadway series gets most of the attention.

Executive Director Michael Brand tells WKAR’s Scott Pohl that a stage production that became a hit movie leads the way.

MICHAEL BRAND: We have the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain and Lincoln Center’s production of War Horse here in its first year (of touring the nation). It starts this fall. I think we’re third or fourth on the national tour, so we’re very excited to have this new European hit, which has become over the last year and a half, a major hit in the United States.

SCOTT POHL: Especially considering the fact that a Steven Spielberg film version was out in the last year and won a Best Picture (Academy Award) nomination. That also, if nothing else, increases the visibility of War Horse.

BRAND: You’re right. There’s more people in the country now, and in our trading area, that are much more aware of this story. Talking to people who have read the book, seen the play, and seen the film, all say they’re each very different and they each help create a complete story. A lot of people, quite frankly, like the play better. It’s quite an event.

POHL: The rest of the Broadway Series includes Anything Goes, the musical of Billy Elliot, Sister Act, and Catch Me If You Can.

BRAND: That’s right. It’s a nice layout for our season ticket holders. We’re adding to that two specials. We’re having the new theatrical version of the Blue Man Group’s show here, which has become very successful, and we’re bringing in another hit musical which we wanted to make as a special not on our season ticket series, American Idiot. We’ll have those in addition to the subscription series.

POHL: Let’s talk about the theater schedule. We mentioned War Horse, which is not a musical, but there’s also a theater schedule within the Wharton Center plans for next year. The Aquila Theatre will be doing The Taming Of The Shrew, and The Acting Company will be performing Of Mice And Men.

BRAND: For the last couple of years, we’ve been trying to develop the spoken word in the Pasant Theatre, which is a great venue for this art form. We’ve been extremely successful. Our audiences have been very responsive, and we’re almost doubling the inventory for next year.

We’re very excited to bring back The Aquila Theatre Company from New York City, which is made up of British and New York actors, and we’re bringing back some old friends of the Wharton Center that have been here on and off for the last three decades, The Acting Company. And, a new addition, a production from The Stratford Shakespeare Festival called Shakespeare’s Will. So we have three productions and they run throughout the year. We’re very excited about this opportunity to develop the spoken word. As this grows, we’re going to hopefully be bringing in productions for longer runs.

POHL: Tell me about the Worldview Lecture Series this year.

BRAND: We do the Worldview Lecture Series in collaboration with a number of colleges. We normally work with about nine deans in other departments on who we should be engaging on the series. One of the selections we picked with a number of us involved in the visual and performing arts is Peter Gelb, because as the instigator of this hi-definition broadcast for the Metropolitan Opera, he’s changed how arts organizations are marketing themselves and how they’re approaching attracting new audiences. He’s going to come and talk about that.

POHL: And the others?

BRAND: Including with Peter Gelb on this season is Abraham Verghese, who’s going to be discussing his major book Cutting For Stone, and Jeremy Rifkin, who’s the author of The Third Industrial Revolution. So, it’s quite a diverse collection of speakers we have this year, and we’re excited about all three of them.