GORHAM — The University of Southern Maine Department of Theatre will present an innovative and enlightening six-show season for 2014-2015, replete with skirt-chasing dames, lonely love-torn souls, original dance, a production at the Portland Stage Studio Theater featuring a satirical southern belle and her hypochondriac son, followed by a pistol-packing nun, and the Maine premiere of the sensational new musical, “Catch Me If You Can,” as well as one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies “shadowed” by American Sign Language interpreter-performers.

“The USM Theatre Department has a history of presenting both educational and groundbreaking productions, and our ambitious lineup for this season will continue that tradition,” said Joan Mather, USM assistant professor of theatre and department chair. “This season, you’ll see comedy, satire, drama, dance, a high-flying Maine premiere musical, and a cutting edge Shakespearean production.”

The season kicks off Thursday, Sept. 25, with the naughty side of noir. Meghan Brodie, USM assistant professor of theatre, will direct an Actors’ Lab concert reading of “The Well of Horniness,” Holly Hughes’ farcical radio play written as a response to the 1928 anti-homosexual novel, “The Well of Loneliness.”

In the next production, eight strangers, stranded by a snowstorm at a roadside diner outside Kansas City, are compelled to examine their loneliness and their longing for love and companionship. “Bus Stop,” William Inge’s classic 1950s comedic drama will be directed by Thomas Power, USM professor of theatre, opening Oct. 31.

“Dance USM!,” the bi-annual celebration of music and movement, directed by Maria Tzianabos, USM adjunct lecturer in theatre, will be presented in early December. The performance will feature USM students performing the choreography of faculty, students and guest-choreographers. It will include numerous genres of dance, including contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, ballet and musical theater.

The USM department once again will present a production in downtown Portland; in Feburary 2015, it’s a double dose of satire with An Evening with Christopher Durang, directed by William Steele, USM professor of theatre. Two of Durang’s one-act comedies will be featured at the Studio Theater at Portland Stage: “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls” (a twisted reincarnation of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie”), and “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You,” which features an evangelizing, pistol-packing nun and a few of her former students who have some pretty strong opinions to share.

The Maine premiere of “Catch Me If You Can,” opening March 13, 2015, is a collaboration of the USM Department of Theatre and School of Music. Wil Kilroy, USM professor of theatre, will direct, and Edward Reichert, USM lecturer in musical theatre, will serve as musical director. Vanessa Beyland will choreograph the astonishing real-life story — first retold in the hit film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks — of Frank Abignale Jr.’s cross-country adventure of forgery, womanizing and FBI-dodging. The musical premiered on Broadway in 2008 and features a score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the team behind the Tony Award-winning musical, “Hairspray.”

Closing the season in April, Assunta Kent, USM associate professor of theatre, will direct Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy “As You Like It,” which will feature American Sign Language shadow-signing interpreters. ASL shadow-signed productions offer deaf and hearing-impaired audience members the experience of theater without having to watch a sole interpreter to the side of the stage. In Kent’s production, the roles of the ASL “shadows” will be equal to those of the actors, and they will be integrated seamlessly into the story, offering an innovative manifestation of a story brimming with comedy and romance. Where “all the world’s a stage,” two female cousins (one daringly disguised as a wise-cracking boy) escape the tyranny of civilization for the Forest of Arden, where they meet lovelorn shepherds and disdainful shepherdesses, wise country folk and foolish yokels and discover the pleasures and pains of young love.

All performances take place on the main stage of Russell Hall, USM Gorham campus, with the exception of An Evening with Christopher Durang, which takes place in The Studio Theater at Portland Stage. For more information, visit www.usm.maine.edu/theatre or call 207-780-5151.

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