February 17, 2009

Guest director bring special talents to 'Noises Off'

by Vince Rhomberg

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois University Carbondale theater department's production of "Noises Off" is getting the one-two punch from special guest director, Richard Raether.

Raether, who received his bachelor's degree from SIUC in 1976, loves to fight. Not barroom brawls, mind you, but the sort you see on stage and in movies. He fell in love with stage combat the first time he picked up a rapier in a class, and quickly became one of the first Society of American Fight Directors certified teachers, attaining the status of Fight Master in 1988, one of only 10 in the country.

"Noises Off," written by Michael Frayn (who also penned the popular "Copenhagen"), runs Wednesday, Feb. 22, through Sunday, Feb. 26, in the McLeod Theater in the Communications Building.

The play, which opened in London in 1982, received the Evening Standard Award and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy. The New York production received a Tony Award nomination when it opened to smash reviews in 1983.

"Noises Off" tells the story of a group of seedy actors trying to mount a new comedy, called "Nothing On," intended for the West End Theater District in London. Through the course of rehearsals and performances, decaying relationships, bitter romances and back-stage bickering find their way to the stage and into the play they are presenting.

As a fight director, Raether brought the talents of his well-trimmed six-foot frame to such well-known theaters as the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, The Roundabout in New York City, The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and The Guthrie Theater In Minneapolis. He also staged fights for such television shows as "The Guiding Light", "One Life to Live" and "All My Children."

In addition to his love for stage combat, Raether also teaches, acts and directs. He taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Carnegie Mellon University, Southern Methodist University and at 11 annual SAFD National Stage Combat Workshops.

He also served as artistic director at New American Theater and is the artistic director of Artists' Ensemble, a small professional theater in residence at Rockford College.

The play performs at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22 through Feb. 25 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 26. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $6 for students and are available by calling the box office at 618/453-3001 between noon and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tickets can also be purchased for each performance one hour before the performance begins.

A special pre-show lecture about the play and playwright is set for 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26, in the Christian H. Moe Laboratory Theater. The pre-show lecture is free to the public.

Coordinating and expanding major cultural outreach programs is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.