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Epic tale of human conflict given world premiere at William Jewell College
Contact: Rob Eisele816-415-7574
February 27, 2008

“A Circle of Grandmothers,” an epic theatrical tale exploring the reasons humans fight, will be given a world premiere production at William Jewell College’s Peters Theater beginning April 3.

The original play by Kim Bradford Harris, professor of theatre and director of the William Jewell College Theatre, grew out of a 2004 sabbatical trip that took Harris to Reykjavík, Iceland. The trip allowed the director and playwright an opportunity for in-depth study of the Icelandic Sagas, the heroic accounts of the country’s heritage passed down from generation to generation and eventually recorded in texts written between the 12th and 13th centuries.

For Harris, the Icelandic Sagas offered a way to pursue his lifelong interest in basic human conflict. “From the time I was a child, I’ve never understood why people fight and go to war,” Harris said. “It’s such a huge question, and the Icelandic Sagas provide a microcosm for studying those issues. This is a group of Viking-farmers who came together and created the first modern parliament in 930. That tension between blood vengeance and the law was fascinating to me.”

What emerged from Harris’s study was a cycle of five interconnected plays brought to life under his direction by a cast of 23 actors playing multiple roles. “It is massive,” said Harris, a graduate of Carson-Newman College and Southern Illinois University who joined the William Jewell faculty in 1979. “It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”

The physically demanding play involves numerous sequences of stage combat, including the use of heavy broadswords. Jewell students Dacus Bowles and Philip Meece are serving as fight directors for the production.

“All the actors have to be in top-notch physical shape,” Harris said. “These actors truly must also be athletes. I have paired them up, and they work out together and run lines together. It is really quite strenuous.”

Nathan Wyman, associate professor of communication, has transformed Peters Theater into an environment that will allow for total immersion into the world of the play. Student costume designer Amanda Brasher has been charged with creating costumes from natural materials that reflect the look and feel of the time period and the physical setting.

The first three plays of the cycle will be performed at 7:30 p.m. April 3 and 10; the second two plays will be performed at 7:30 p.m. April 4 and 11. The entire cycle will be performed beginning at 2 p.m. April 5 and 12, with a dinner break between sections. An optional Icelandic dinner will be prepared and served to interested theatergoers in Yates-Gill College Union during the dinner break. Prices for the dinner are to be announced.

General admission tickets for Sections I and Section II are priced at $6, with seniors and students admitted for $5 or $10/$9 for the whole cycle. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance by contacting the William Jewell College Theatre at 816-415-7590, or emailingwjctheatre AT william.jewell DOT edu

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