July 24, 2007

Tony Award-winning director visits SIUC this week

by Andrea Hahn


CARBONDALE, Ill. — With stars on stage and a star in the audience, McLeod Theater at Southern Illinois University Carbondale might resemble a constellation on Thursday, July 26, the opening night of "Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida."

The stars on stage, of course, are the high school actors from all over Southern Illinois who will participate in the 11th Annual All Southern High School Theater Project, sponsored by Carbondale Community Arts (CCA) and, for three years, hosted by McLeod Summer Playhouse.

The star in the audience on this opening night is Robert Falls, the director who turned "Aida" into a Tony-winning Broadway show with a four-and-a-half year run. But no pressure, kids. Falls isn't here to criticize. He is here to teach, at the invitation of Michael Ellis, CCA board member and an associate director of institutional advancement at SIUC.

Media Advisory

Robert Falls is available to photographers, reporters and camera crews from 3 to 3:15 p.m. on Friday, July 27, in the Altgeld Hall Opera-Musical Theater studio immediately following a workshop/master class for the public and SIUC theater students and faculty.

Falls will teach a master class for SIUC theater students and faculty from 1 to 3 p.m. on Friday, July 27, in the Altgeld Hall Opera-Musical Theater studio. The class is open to the public as a theater workshop.

The community will have other chances to meet Falls. He and his family – spouse, Kat, and three children, ages 11, 8 and 5 – are guests at a CCA-hosted dinner at the SIUC Student Center beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday. Tickets for the dinner are $25 per person.

A reception to honor Falls is set for 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Giant City Lodge. Reception tickets are $50 a person. To purchase tickets, call CCA at 618/457-5100.

The musical opens on Thursday at McLeod Theater at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students. Tickets are available at the McLeod Theater box office or by calling 618/453-3001. Tickets remain on sale up to one hour before the performance. "Aida" runs through Monday night. The Sunday performance is a 2 p.m. matinee; all other performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

"Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida" is a pop-musical version of an the tragic love affair between the captured Nubian princess, Aida, and an influential Egyptian captain, Radames, engaged to marry the pharaoh's daughter. The musical is based on the mid-19th century opera by Giuseppe Verdi.

Falls recently celebrated 20 years as the artistic director of Chicago's Goodman Theater, a position he took in 1986. His productions in Chicago and on Broadway have won dozens of Tony awards – "Aida" alone won four and was nominated for a fifth. Other Tony winners include "Long Day's Journey into Night," "The Young Man from Atlanta," and "Death of a Salesman," for which, in 1999, he won a Tony for Best Director and Best Revival. In 2003, "Time" magazine designated the Goodman Theatre, "Number One Regional Theater in the United States," an award earned under Falls' guidance. Before that, in 1992, he accepted a Special Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater on behalf of the Goodman Theater.

Falls was the 1999 Illinois Arts Council's Governor's Award winner. He is a past "Chicagoan of the Year," an award given to him in 2000 by "Chicago" magazine. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.