Genius Meets Envy: 'Amadeus' at Saint Joseph's

Friday, February 8, 2008

PHILADELPHIA (February 7, 2008) – Peter Shaffer's internationally renowned London and Broadway hit Amadeus will continue the 80th anniversary season of Cap and Bells Dramatic Arts Society, Saint Joseph's University's theater production program, when it opens February 14 at 8 p.m. in Bluett Theatre.

Based on the lives of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri, the court compser for Austrian emperor Joseph II, the play examines the relationship between Mozart, one of the greatest composers of all time, and Salieri, who was a major figure in the Viennese imperial court, but his compositions have largely been buried in the past. With Shaffer's deft touch, Salieri encounters his own mediocrity when he meets Mozart, whose talent he considers God-given, and sets out to ruin Mozart's chances of earning a court appointment. The action of the play takes place in Vienna in November, 1823, and in recall, the decade from 1781-1791.

Director Laura Pattillo, Ph.D., assistant professor of English and co-artistic director of Cap and Bells, chose Amadeus over other available plays for a number of reasons. "There are a lot of factors that go into choosing a play, and if a play has won numerous awards, that's a strong piece of theater," she said. "I've tried to choose very challenging pieces for our students. I thought Amadeus would be a good challenge for them, and they seem very excited by it." Student actors play all 15 roles.

Shaffer has revised the play numerous times since it first debuted in 1979 – the sixth version of the script is used for this production – and Pattillo is quick to note that it is different from the film—and even from recent stage productions.

"The movie was an adaptation of the play for the screen, so if people come see the play, they'll notice some significant differences," said Pattillo. "If you've seen the movie, you haven't seen the play."

In particular, Shaffer's continual development of the characters has created a richer play. "The more Peter Shaffer revises the play, the more nuanced Salieri gets and the more complicated his psychology becomes," said Pattillo. "It's very exciting to watch."

Amadeus sports an engrossing visual component, both in costumes and set design, according to Pattillo, who has assembled a talented design team: costume designer Mary Folino of the Walnut Street Theatre, set designer Diane Malone, lighting designer is Rob Carovillano, technical director of Bluett Theatre, and sound designer is Jason Baker, a senior computer science major.

"We don't normally produce costume dramas on this level at Saint Joseph's – huge ball gowns, petticoats, multi-layered dresses – so this production probably has the most spectacular costumes we've seen in quite some time," added Pattillo.

Set design has also been taken to a new level, which was necessitated by the complexity of the play's locations, which move from an opulent palace to an opera house to Mozart's dingy apartment. Diane Malone, a freelance designer and director based in San Antonio, Texas, with whom Pattillo has worked many times in the past, is responsible for the set.

Despite its focus on Mozart, the play is not a musical, said Pattillo. The production uses the best available recordings to supply the essential classical music.

Amadeus opened in London at the National Theatre in 1979, and was directed by Sir Peter Hall, with Paul Scofield playing Salieri and Simon Callow playing Mozart. It premiered on Broadway in 1980 with Sir Ian McKellen as Salieri and Tim Curry as Mozart, and ran for over 1,000 performances, taking home five Tony Awards. The 1984 film adaptation of the play won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Cap and Bells Dramatic Arts Society was founded in 1928 by Tim Coughlin, S.J. During its eighty-year history, the organization has mounted over 150 productions ranging from Shakespeare to Moliere and modern drama to contemporary musical theater.

The final production of the Cap and Bells season is Maurice Dallas Watkins' Chicago, directed by assistant professor of fine and performing arts and Cap and Bells co-artistic director Renee Dobson, M.F.A. It will play April 10-12 and 18-20.

Amadeus performs February 14-16 and 22-23 at 8 p.m., and February 24 at 2 p.m. For tickets, call the box office at 610-660-1181 or visit General admission is $15; students, SJU employees and senior citizen tickets are $8; and tickets for children under 12 are $5. Group rates are available for parties of 10 or more. Bluett Theatre is located in Post Hall at 56th St. & Overbrook Ave.

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