Michigan State University is celebrating its 60th year of presenting free, accessible theatre during the month of June. Since 1960, the Michigan State University Department of Theatre has heralded the unofficial start of summer with its Summer Circle Theatre (SCT) program, using the talents of MSU students, professional artists, and community members to offer free theatre to mid-Michigan audiences.
Each year, the Summer Circle show selection is an eclectic mix of the best of classical theatre and cutting-edge plays of today. This anniversary season will be no exception, paying homage to the decades of shows that have come before.
All SCT shows are free and open to the public.
The season kicks off on Thursday, June 4, with Showtune. Directed and choreographed by Alisa Hauser, Showtune is a musical revue showcasing the music and lyrics of Broadway’s most optimistic composer and lyricist, Jerry Herman, who wrote the Broadway blockbusters Hello Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles. Performances are June 4, 5, and 6 at 8 p.m. and June 7 at 5 p.m.
Last summer, Summer Circle Theatre audiences were asked to choose a show from the past to remount, with the majority selecting the enduring classic, Our Townby Thornton Wilder. In this newly imagined version of the play, the Gibbs and Webb families interact with other residents of Grover’s Corners – all played by one actor. With each performance, some smaller roles will be available to be played by audience members. If you would like to make your SCT debut, please contact director Rob Roznowski by emailing email@example.com. No rehearsal necessary. Performances are June 11, 12, and 13 at 8 p.m. and June 14 at 5 p.m.
Summer Circle will close its 60th anniversary season with a dark comedic retelling of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story, Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll & Hyde Play. Directed by Brad Willcuts, this fast-paced romp about men and women tightrope walking the line between aristocracy and depravity is scheduled for June 18, 19, and 20 at 8 p.m. and June 21 at 5 p.m.
Theatre for Young Audiences
In addition to the three mainstage productions, Summer Circle Theatre will offer a variety of pre-show entertainment including the world premiere of the kid-friendly show, 6, written by MSU theatre students, Brandon Drap, Taylor McPhail, Mary Claire Zauel, and MSU Head of Acting and Directing Rob Roznowski. In this body-switching comedy, which was written to celebrate Summer Circle Theatre’s 60th birthday, 6-year-old Georgina and her 66-year-old grandfather George become unexpected best friends. Performances are June 5, 6, 12, and 13 at 6:30 p.m.
Each year, Summer Circle Theatre provides a free summer camp to 60 1st through 6th grade mid-Michigan students. The camp is taught by MSU Theatre faculty and students and includes instruction on acting, design, music, and dance. The culminating performance of the SCT Kids Camp is Friday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m.
Late Night (contains mature themes and subject matter)
For those wishing to make a night of it, the late-night slot includes two performances of E.M. Lewis’ The Gun Show. Co-presented with the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, this one-woman show, directed by Rob Roznowski and starring BFA in Acting senior Jala Jackson, is a non-partisan conversation about America’s gun culture that falls evenly between party lines, seeking a way to begin a conversation – and not a debate – about guns. Performances are June 5 and 6 at 10 p.m.
Megan Mostyn Brown’s The Secret Life of Losers, directed by Ryan Welsh, is a dark but compassionate exploration of young adults struggling to break out of the traps they find themselves in. Performances are June 12, 13, 19, and 20 at 10 p.m.
The Summer Circle stage is an outdoor performance venue located on MSU’s campus between the Kresge Art Building and MSU Auditorium. Free parking is available across the street. In the event of rain, the performances will be moved to Studio 60 Theatre in the Auditorium’s lower level.
Theatregoers can arrive early to grab a Summer Circle seat next to the stage or bring their own chairs for casual lawn seating. Attendees are encouraged to bring a picnic to enjoy during the show or buy a Food Truck treat!
For a complete description of each show and schedule of all events, visit the Summer Circle Theatre web page.
See you at the circle!
Top photo taken from last years production, “Dames at Sea”: Darah Donaher as Joan, Cameron Michael Chase as Lucky, Zaria Aikens as Mona, DJ Schafer as Dick, and Jacqueline Lee as Ruby
Photo credit: Eloy Gomez Orfila