Audition Post – Gem of the Ocean

GemoftheOceanCoverLehigh University Department of Theatre announces open auditions for Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson. This production will be a rare opportunity to perform with two esteemed Theatre faculty and to be directed by the 2016 Artist in Residence, Akin Babatunde.

Auditions: Monday, February 1 – Tuesday February 2. Call Backs: Wednesday, February 3.

About the play

Pittsburgh, 1904. Aunt Ester, a 285-year-old former slave and fiery 285-year-old matriarch, welcomes into her Hill District home Solly Two Kings, who was born into slavery and scouted for the Union Army, and Citizen Barlow a young man from Alabama searching for a new life.


Aunt Ester – this role will be played by Professor Kashi Johnson.
Rutherford Selig – a traveling peddler who is a frequent visitor of the house.
Caesar Wilks – Black Mary’s brother and local constable.
Eli – Aunt Easter’s gatekeeper and longtime friend of Solly.
Citizen Barlow – A young man from Alabama who is in spiritual turmoil.
Black Mary – Aunt Ester’s protégé and housekeeper.
Solly Two Kings – this role will be played by Professor Darius Omar Williams.

How to Audition

Sign up for a time to audition on the sheet posted outside the theatre office, room 301 in Zoellner (#rd floor, north side). Auditions will consists of reading from the script and perhaps some improvisation.

Perusal copies of the script may be requested by contacting Deb Laub.

Students cast are eligible to enroll in THTR 35 Performance (2.0 credits)

About the director, the Theodore U. Horger ’61 Artist-in-Residence for the Performing and Visual Arts, Akin Babatundé

Akin Babatundé is an internationally recognized award winning African American director, actor, writer, teacher and coach whose artistic career spans well over forty years in the theatre industry. Babatundé’s directing credits include Gem of the Ocean, The Piano Lesson, Manchild in the Promised Land, From the Mississippi, and Fences. A winner of the AUDELCO Award for Best Director of a Musical, Babatundé has been a resident company member of prestigious theatrical institutions throughout the country. As an actor, Akin Babatundé has appeared on major network television drams, including the two-part season premier of Law & Order: Criminal Intent in 2010. Babatundé’s off-Broadway bio-musical, Blind Lemon Blues, was nominated in four categories for the 2010 New York AUDELCO Awards for Excellence in Black Theater. The play received nominations for Best Director, Best Choreographer, Best Ensemble and Best Musical Production.

Spring Semester 2016 PREVIEW at Zoellner Arts Center

Listed chronologically, the performing arts events of Spring 2016 to consider for course connections, or cultural exploration. Each event or production is linked to page with program information and performance details. Future posts will provide background reading or music review lists for each.

Please note:

  1. Those with * are free and open to the public
  2. Those with ^ are free to LU students with ID
  3. Dept. of Theatre offers “pay what you will” for the Wednesday show during their production.
  4. We can work with faculty or program directors on tickets for group sales.

January 23 M-PACT (on-stage seating, 2 shows)

January 31 TAO: Seventeen Samuriai

February 6 Billy Childs: Map to the Treasure-Reimagining Laura Nyro

*February 11 Documentary Film: The Winding Stream

^February 12 LU Jazz Faculty

February 13 Larry Harlow & The Latin Legends of Fania

February 14 (1 & 4pm)Moon Mouse: Lightwire Theater

February 16 (4:30) and 19 (7:30) Raphael Xavier: The Unofficial Guide to Audience Watching Performance

February 20 NY Jazz Repertory Orchestra

February 21 Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra – All Tchaikovsky

February 26 – March 5 Department of Theatre: boom 

^February 26 & 27 LU Philharmonic Concerto Marathon

^March 4 The Branderson Duo

March 5 Avner the Eccentric: Exceptions to Gravity (1PM Sensory-Friendly & 4PM)

^March 6 East Winds Quintet: Celebrating Creative Lehigh

*March 8 Documentary Film: Rebel

March 10 STOMP

March 19 Moscow Festival Ballet: Giselle

^March 20 Michael Jorgensen Violin Recital: A Classical Romance

*March 23 Notations: Jennifer Whitaker

*April 1-2 LU Choir, Dolce & Glee Club: If Music Be the Food of Love

April 3 Mnozil Brass: Yes, Yes, Yes

*April 5 Notations: Dennis Lehane

April 8-16 Department of Theatre: Gem of the Ocean

*April 14-15 Notations: Michael Milligan – Side Effects

^April 16 LU Jazz Repertory Orchestra and Nicole Henry

*April 19 Documentary Film: Deaf Jam

^April 23 LU Jazz Ensemble, Funk Band and Combo

April 24 Compagne Finzi Pasca: La Veritá

^April 29-30 LU Philharmonic: Dramaville

^May 1 LU Wind Ensemble: From the Past to the Future

^May 6-7 LU Choral Arts: Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem

May 8 Bullets Over Broadway

Michael Jorgensen featured on next LU Philharmonic program

pic1Faculty member and violinist Michael Jorgensen will be featured on the first Lehigh University Philharmonic Orchestra concert this coming Friday at Saturday at 8pm in Baker Hall.

He will perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with Lehigh University Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Eugene Albulescu. The concert Autumn Romantics will also feature works by Schubert and Tchaikovsky on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 25 and Sept. 26 at 8 pm.  Tickets are $18; LUstudents free with valid ID; Available online at  WDIY is the Lehigh University Music Department media sponsor.

“The orchestra is performing Schubert’s incomplete eighth symphony, and although it contains only two movements, the composition is considered one of the greatest and one of the most unique of the genre.  Our concert also features Beethoven’s significant Violin Concerto performed by Lehigh music department faculty member Michael Jorgensen and we are performing the always popular Romeo and Juliet overture by Tchaikovksy,” said Albulescu.

LU Philharmonic conductor, Eugene Albulescu

LU Philharmonic conductor, Eugene Albulescu

Lehigh University Philharmonic Music Director Eugene Albulescu is an award-winning performer and conductor who has led the Lehigh University Philharmonic for the past five years. Among his conducting accomplishments are a stint as director of the French Chamber Orchestra while on tour during 2008-2010, as well as several performances and recordings with top orchestras including the Romanian NationalPhilharmonic, New York Chamber Orchestra, as well as the New Zealand Symphony, which released his recent recording of Jenny McLeod’s “Rock Concerto” on the Naxos label. As a pianist, Albulescu is Steinway Artist who combines a blazing technique with the artistic integrity and originality to express musical emotions at their most personal level. He started his piano studies in Romania at the age of six, at the Enescu Music School in Bucharest. His family moved to New Zealand in 1984 to escape Romania’s Communist regime.

Albulescu completed his musical studies at Indiana University where, at 19, he was the youngest person ever to reach the level of assistant instructor. He emerged on the international scene in 1994 when his debut CD was awarded the International Grand Prix Liszt, adding Albulescu’s name to the list of winners which include Brendel, Arrau, Horowitz and Bolet.  Since then Albulescu has performed worldwide, including concerts at the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts in Chicago, Bargemusic in New York, the Purely Piano series in Auckland, New Zealand, the Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall in New York, as well as the International Liszt Festival of the American Liszt Society. Having been invited to the White House to perform for the Millennium celebrations, he also performed at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Celebrated critic Harold C. Schonberg hailed Albulescu’s “power and infallible fingers of steel,” declaring that “nothing anywhere has any terrors for him.”

Described as an “exceptional” player by Maestro Lorin Maazel, violinist Michael Jorgensen is the Professor of Practice in Orchestral Strings at Lehigh University, where he serves as the concertmaster of the Lehigh University Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also taught violin at Middle Tennessee State University, Covenant College, and the Wyoming Center for the Arts in their Touchstone program for at-risk youth. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music, a master’s from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and a doctorate from Florida State University.

A dedicated recitalist and chamber musician, Jorgensen has performed recitals at the London School of Contemporary Dance, the Taft Museum of Art Chamber Music Series, and has been a returning guest artist to Middle Tennessee State University. As a string quartet performer, he founded the Frequency String Quartet, a new music group with an education and community building mission that was described as “a gifted and stimulating foursome” by Cincinnati classical music reviewer Mary Ellyn Hutton. He has also played first violin in the Chanticleer String Quartet which holds an annual rural residency in Richmond, Indiana.

The highly acclaimed Lehigh University Philharmonic is a group of talented musicians, most of whom are undergraduate students majoring in disciplines outside of music. They regularly perform at their home in Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University, and have performed at various international venues in Europe, Asia and South America and Africa. The orchestra celebrated the Mahler centennial year (2011) with a memorable rendition of his first symphony, a performance that was cited by The Morning Call as “one of the ten best performances of the year” in the Lehigh Valley. The orchestra also champions student achievement, presenting each February a marathon of concerto movements where orchestra members have a chance to play a solo.  The orchestra’s programming focus is the historically important main orchestral repertoire, ranging from Bach to Barber and everything in between. New multi-media presentations of such works as Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite have earned the orchestra a reputation for originality.  Pioneering new music is also a focus.  In the past few years the orchestra presented several North American as well as world premieres and a yearly concert featuring works of Lehigh University student composers.

Tickets for the September 25 and 26 performances are $18; LU students free; Senior, student, group and LVAIC discounts are available.  For more information, call 610-758-2787, ext. 0; visit Zoellner Ticket Services, Tuesday 12-6 pm, Wednesday – Friday 12-5 pm, and 2 hours before curtain, or order online

Open Auditions for Violet

Violet Auditions copy

These auditions will be for the characters of Monty, Flick, Father and the Six Ensemble Members (3 men, 3 women)

Please visit the bulletin board outside Zoellner Arts Center room 301 for detailed character descriptions and audition information. [The same information is added to the bottom of this post: WHAT TO PREPARE FOR THE AUDITION, PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS, & ENSEMBLE]

Contact Pam Pepper or Bill Whitney


Music by Jeanine Tesori
Book and Lyrics by Brian Crawley
Based on The Ugliest Pilgrim by Doris Betts

Directed by Pam Pepper
Music Direction by Bill Whitney

Straight from the Broadway production of 214, Violet is the story of a woman’s search for beauty and her place in the world. Physically scared by a tragic childhood accident, Violet fervently desires the healing powers of an Oklahoma revivalist preacher. Her journey by Greyhound bus toward physical healing becomes so much more as she befriends two soldiers and discovers the true meaning of beauty, courage, and love. With a musical score equally influenced by bluegrass, gospel and Broadway, and a backdrop of the American south during an era of great social change, this musical will inspire, challenge and uplift.

Critically acclaimed, the original 1997 off-Broadway production of Violet was nominated for 7 Drama Dest awards and won the Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle and Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Musical. The 2014 Broadway revival was nominated for 4 Tony awards and 3 Drama Desk awards.

Here are some resources: fuller synopsis, additional facts, and clips of the music:


Please come to Zoellner 121 prepared to sing approximately 32 bars of a song which you feel best shows your range and vocal ability. Any style is acceptable, as long as it is a song you are comfortable with – it does not have to be from musical theatre. You may sing a cappella (without accompaniment), or you may bring sheet music or a recorded accompaniment to sing with. Your song should not be from VIOLET.

In addition to singing, we’ll also be doing some reading from the script. Please read the libretto before auditioning if at all possible.

Father – Young Violet: pp. 12-13
Flick-Violet – Monty: pp. 22-25, 30-31
Violet – Flick: pp. 36-39, 56-58
Violet – Father: pp. 78-80

Sign up for one 10 minutes audition slot. Reading copes are available in the Department of Theatre office, 301 Zoellner.

Questions? Contact Pam Pepper or Bill Whitney


VIOLET: 25. (Violet Karl from Spruce Pine, N.C.) She is stubborn and prickly, but filled with equal parts hope and obsession that she may be healed and be made beautiful. She’s direct with people who stare at her scar (which is quite prominently located on her face, although not literally visible to the theatre audience). Violet has a sarcasm and toughness to her. She was tortured by other children, especially the Elum brothers who said the axe accident was God’s way of punishing her because she and her father didn’t go to church. Violet has high expectations of God when it comes to being healed. After her father died, she tried doctors, snake handlers and a Catholic church to be healed. Strongly influenced by movies – idealizes the glamour actresses. Flick is the first black person with whom she has spoken. She’s a good poker player, which translates to living her life. Mezzo, belt. Range: G3 – F5

YOUNG VIOLET: 13. Mezzo Soprano. Not quite as guarded or prickly as her older self, but still tough and stubborn. She has a keen curiosity and the rough edges of being brought up solely by her father. Range: A3 – E5 (Should we not find a college student appropriate for this role, we will cast a local teenager.)

FLICK: Late 20’s. Baritone. Real name: Grady Fliggins. An African-American soldier who looks for the positive in life – a dreamer and a go-getter. “You do what you gotta’ do, but in the end you do it alone. You choose your road, then you walk it, one step at a time.” He doesn’t enjoy the army, but enjoys the respect it garners him. There is something gentle and good about him, not to be interpreted or confused with weakness or lack of authority. He is not moved much by Violet’s scar. Flick carries a flask with him most of the time. He was in basic training with Monty. Range: C4 – E6 Gospel and blues.

MONTY: Mid 20’s. Tenor. Real name: Montgomery Harrill (from Raleigh, N.C.). A white paratrooper and corporal. Believes himself to be fearless and irresistible to most – especially women. He is a bit full of himself. Although self-consumed, it is not necessarily purposefully so. As described by Violet, he’s “a boy in the skin of a man.” He’s rough around the edges and he’s fighting his own demons. Monty was in basic training with Flick, and now he trains young men to jump out of airplanes. Range: A3 – G5 Country Western

FATHER: Late 30s – mid 40s. Baritone. A simple, widowed man who lovingly raises his daughter, Violet, alone, doing the best he can with the little knowledge and resources he has to do so. Stern but friendly, smart but uneducated. He accidentally scars 13 year-old Violet’s face while he is chopping wood. Can be stern with her. Protects and toughens her. Teaches her to hide from others so she won’t be tortured by them. He took Violet to see doctors in Charlotte for her 18th birthday. He died of a heart attack when Violet was 22 and left her a little money. Range: A3 – F5


E1-FEMALE: 55-65 yrs old Old Lady, Hotel Singer, Old Lady 2. Range: F3 – E5
OLD LADY: A former beauty in her heyday, now tired and frustrated with life. She’s gossipy, pushy and nosy and fellow passenger, Violet, is the unwilling recipient of her boldness. Not a huge fan of boys or men. She’s on her way to Nashville to see her son Harvey, who works in a cellophane plant. Although she had eight children of her own, she’s not eager to be in a house full of children. Stevie, her youngest, died in Korea. She believes her daughters to have been beautiful brides.
HOTEL SINGER: Memphis. Sings with/counterpoint to Flick.
OLD LADY 2: Passenger, Tulsa to Fort Smith. Sure that whomever is supposed to pick her up forgot. (still a man hater)

E2-FEMALE: 35-45 yrs old Music Hall Singer, Mabel, Woman with Fan. Range: A3 – G5
MUSIC HALL SINGER: Memphis. Has an eye for Flick, but loses interest as soon as she sees him with Violet.
MABEL: Passenger Tulsa to Fort Smith. Talkative. Tired of sitting. A bit man crazy. Three straight husbands tried to teach her to drive before she figured out how to do it. She once hit a traffic cop and subsequently married him after he got out of the hospital. She loves gray eyes.
WOMAN WITH FAN: Fort Smith to Tulsa?

E3-FEMALE: 50-70 yrs old. Landlady, Woman Knitting, Gospel Soloist (Lula). Range: F3 – G5
LANDLADY: Almeta. African-American. Flick’s friend. Runs boarding house in Memphis. Agrees to let them stay when Flick pays her $20. Tells Flick to use the back alley exit if they leave the premises. Has a point of view that is reminiscent of Violet’s father’s.
WOMAN KNITTING: A quiet woman.
GOSPEL SOLOIST: Lula Buffington. Seen in the Hope and Glory Bldg as a member of the volunteer choir that sings for the Preacher’s telecast. Sings for God with passion and power. African-American.

E4-MALE: 30-40 yrs old. Bus Driver 1, Rufus, Radio Singer, Bus Driver 4. Range: B3 – G5
BUS DRIVER 1: Johnson, aka Mr. Wallace Weatherman. Thin lips, flat cheeks, bent nose, small ears, Cherokee black straight hair. Looks forward to Sal’s Barbecue and greasy food. Gets off at Nashville.
PREACHER: In Violet’s fantasy. Talks in tongues. TV preacher. An impassioned, theatrical man who preaches with all the bravado he can muster. Once had a true healing touch but has lost it in his quest to become a showman. Dismissive and egotistical.
RUFUS: In Memphis. A mechanic. Along with the other mechanic, accosts Flick.
RADIO SINGER: Memphis boarding house radio singer.
BUS DRIVER 4: Tulsa to Fort Smith. Johnson, aka Mr. Wallace Weatherman. Wants Dan’s Irish Stew, blackberry pie and beer when he gets to Fort Smith.

E5-MALE: 50-70 yrs old. Radio Soloist, Waiter, Leroy Evans, Mechanic, Bus Driver 3. Range: B3 – F5
LEROY EVANS: Has a dog named Roscoe. Not too smart. Won’t look Violet in the eye because of her scar.
WAITER: In Kingsport. Blunt about Violet’s scar. Racist.
MECHANIC: In Memphis. Gets into fight with Flick.
RADIO SOLIST: Memphis. Part of the boarding house radio trio.
BUS DRIVER 3: Memphis to Fort Smith. Sings “Lonely Stranger.”
EARL: Tulsa to Fort Smith. Overweight? (clothes too tight). Flea circus owner, former midway barker. A strange character on the Greyhound bus who sneaks smokes in the bathroom and is carrying a smelly suitcase he claims holds a flea circus.

E6-MALE: 20-25 yrs old. Billy Dean, Creepy Guy, Radio Singer, Bus Driver 2. Range: B3 – B5
CREEPY GUY: Tulsa to Fort Smith. A “Jesus freak.”
BUS DRIVER 2: On the Nashville to Memphis leg.
RADIO SINGER: Memphis. Part of the boarding house radio trio.
BILLY DEAN: Violet’s first sexual encounter – on a $5 bet. An Elum brother.
VIRGIL: The preacher’s assistant. Knows the smoke & mirrors of the Preacher’s show and must begrudgingly deal with anyone who might derail it.

Foreign Puzzle – screens Sept 8, Zoeller Arts Center – Baker Hall

TUES SEPT 8 at 7:00PM
Foreign Puzzle follows dancer and choreographer Sharon Marroquin through her breast cancer treatments and explores her anxieties and challenges as she creates a dance titled, “The Materiality of Impermanence.” The dance becomes Sharon’s only outlet, allowing her to escape the daily pressures of the disease and life as a single working parent, and shapes her perceptions about life as she fights to heal her body and mind. The subject of the film may support courses in the following programs:

Health, Medicine & Society
Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies
Latin American Studies
Mellon Digital Humanities Initiative

Co-curricular interest:

Lehigh University Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority – National Philanthropy; breast cancer education and awareness
Art & Healing
SPECIAL NOTE: We are pleased to announce a partnership with the SouthSide Film Festival. People who attend 5 out of the 7 free screenings on the On Screen/In Person series will receive 50% off an all-access pass to the next SouthSide Film Festival, June 14-18, 2016.

Foreign Puzzle is the first of seven documentary film in Zoellner Arts Center’s new film series, On Screen/In Person.

Zoellner Arts Center has been selected as a host site for the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation’s On Screen/In Person program. “On Screen/In Person” is designed to bring some of the best new independent American films and their respective filmmakers to communities across the mid-Atlantic region. The filmmakers will tour with their films are are available through the host sites to develop community activities that provide audiences context and greater appreciation for their respective work and the art of film.

Lehigh Unviersity is the only stop for the films in Pennsylvania. The documentary film series tour will travel to seven venues in seven states during fall 2015 and spring 2016.

Musicians needed for VIOLET pit band



Musicians WANTED!!!


Looking for students, staff or faculty willing and able to play in the pit band for VIOLET, a musical production being produced by the Department of Theatre in November 2015. Rehearsals for the band would begin in early October 2015, and all members must be available on evenings and weekends from November 7-21.
Instruments needed:
2 keyboardists
2 guitarists (acoustic and electric), doubling on banjo & mandolin

For more information or questions, please contact Bill Whitney, Music Director/Conductor, at