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Arts & Entertainment

Acting on the Edge

Sharon Daniels, director of the BU Opera Institute, decided to shake things up a bit at this year’s Fall Fringe Festival.

“We felt a little boxed in by themes,” says Daniels, a College of Fine Arts associate professor, who founded the festival 11 years ago. “We have these unusual opportunities to do pieces unrelated to each other. We have more freedom this year.”

The Fall Fringe Festival began October 12 and runs through November 4.

A scene from Hostage.
Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

As soon as classes began, students and faculty of the CFA school of music’s Opera Institute and school of theatre started working on the productions, including Molière’s Tartuffe, set in post-Katrina New Orleans, the one-act opera The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Hostage, by Samuel Headrick, a CFA assistant professor in the school of music.

“We pick pieces that are challenging and evocative, that are not conventional,” says Jim Petosa, director of the school of theatre. “We want to give the audience a way to explore performances they wouldn’t get a chance to see often.”

Daniels modeled the BU festival after “fringe” events held just outside the gates of Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival. The festival’s small-scale productions give CFA students more opportunities to perform and audiences the chance to see newer or rarely performed pieces.

Daniels is directing a movement-enhanced concert of Ravel’s L’enfant et les Sortilèges, featuring the BU Symphony Orchestra and singers from the Opera Institute and the school of music Opera Program. Sung in French, it tells the story of a misbehaving child reprimanded by the toys and animals he has tortured.

“We’ve been wanting to do the opera for years,” Daniels says. “We never had the timing right, with the appropriate singers and orchestra. The opportunity came this year, and we felt it was valuable to do — it’s a feast of beauty.”

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is a psychological opera about a man with visual agnosia — he sees the world in the abstract, says Petosa. Taken from an essay by Oliver Sacks and with music by Michael Nyman, the opera is seen from the doctor’s point of view.

“The classical thinking is that this particular brain lesion robs the patient’s ability to see the world normally,” says Petosa, the stage director for the piece. “It’s like looking at the world and seeing a Picasso cubist painting. It’s quite unique, getting a sense of how the character views the world.”

Sow and Weep, a play by Nitzan Halperin (CFA’07) that is entered in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of two families and their daughters.

“I wanted to show the connections that exist between them,” says Halperin. “For example, the daughters who are the key characters are played by the same actress.”

Halperin is not new to the festival; she participated as a student. “It’s incredible to have just graduated and see this play I wrote performed,” she says. “The festival shows theater that counts. It allows more people to know about the topic, which I think is very important, and to have a dialogue.”


The 11th annual Boston University Fall Fringe Festival, presented by the school of music’s Opera Institute and the school of theatre, runs through November 4. Click here for information about Tartuffe, Hostage, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Sow and Weep is Friday, October 19, and Saturday, October 20, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, October 21, at 7 p.m. at CFA TheatreLab@855. The concert performance of Ravel’s L’enfant et les Sortilèges is Tuesday, October 30, at 8 p.m. at the Tsai Performance Center. Art Song as Theatre is Saturday, November 3, and Sunday, November 4, at 2 p.m., at the Boston University Theatre, Lane-Comley Studio 210, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston. Tickets are not required for Sow and Weep and L’enfant et les Sortilèges; free tickets are available at the BU Theatre box office on the day of the performance for Art Song as Theatre. Purchase tickets online, by phone at 617-933-8600, or in person at the BU Theatre box office.

Kimberly Cornuelle can be reached at kcornuel@bu.edu.