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Stritch presents world premiere of The Emperor’s New Clothes

The Emperor's New Clothes

by Emily Czaplewski, Class of 2021

Just in time to beat the winter blues, Cardinal Stritch University’s theater department is excited to unveil the latest installment in the Once Upon a Time: Theater for Young Audiences series, The Emperor’s New Clothes. Written and directed by Stritch alumna Dianne Sposito, ’73, and Performing Arts Department chair Mark Boergers, this modern retelling is poised for a world premiere at Stritch’s Joan Steele Stein Center for Communication Studies and Fine Arts February 15-23.

What will delight audiences, young and old, as they experience this production? Mark Boergers shared his thoughts on the journey of creating The Emperor and what audiences should look forward to.

This is the third collaboration for Sposito and Boergers, following their adaptations of Cinderella (2016) and The Sleeping Beauty (2018). The genesis for the idea began during the production of The Sleeping Beauty, and Sposito has been working on The Emperor for over two years.

Once Sposito had constructed much of the dialogue, Boergers jumped in to prepare for the workshop process, which takes the play from its initial, written form to the final product audiences will see on Saturday. Since published plays cannot be altered from their scripted form, this production has offered Stritch students the unique opportunity to be heavily involved in the editing process of playwriting. The final shape of the play, as determined by the directors and actors at Stritch, will be published for future use, but you can see it here, first, in the theater for which it was created.

Sposito and Boergers turned to the earliest source material they could find for The Emperor. They wanted to share a fresh perspective while holding to the enduring elements, and their teamwork shines especially bright in this part of the creative journey, with Sposito crafting the old and Boergers bringing the modern twist. He describes The Emperor as an intersection of renaissance commedia dell’arte (an old school physical theater movement from Italy) exploded with the modern adaptation.

When asked about his favorite part of the production, Boergers cited working with the design team, which includes professionals Greg Kaye and Kristina Van Slyke.“

Letting a costume designer play with high fashion is really fun to watch! I get to be fed by the professionals I work with, as well as the students, which is very cool.”

Technical Theater and Public Relations major Jack Millane, ’22, shared that his favorite part of the process has been to watch the show evolve over time. A first time stage manager, Millane has been working on the production for about three months; longer than any other student.

“Every day in rehearsal a new element was added. As all of these elements come together, it starts to form an awesome show!”

Stritch’s Once Upon a Time series focuses in a particular way on making quality theater accessible to a broad range of audiences. While they used to focus specifically on reaching out to elementary schools, they have expanded their scope to include homeschool groups, the St. Francis Children’s Center, and local senior centers. Created by and for the Stritch community while reaching out to the larger Milwaukee community, The Emperor invites everyone to witness this timely and captivating tale of honesty, courage, and what can happen when you lose your convictions and follow the crowd.

The production will run every day throughout the week so that school groups can attend, and students as young as 4K will be able to delight in The Emperor. The directors wanted to help open the world of theater up to children while also engaging and inspiring audiences of all ages. Plus, at $6 per ticket (or free for Stritch students with a current ID) the local community can experience a high quality production at a very accessible price.

“The material ends up being for children, but the style and quality of directing remains the same,” Boergers explained.

For those who simply cannot wait for Saturday, the preview will be Friday night at 7:30 PM. The remaining performances will run February 15-23, covering two full weekends plus most weekdays in between. All performances will last approximately 50 minutes. While school groups will primarily be attending the weekday performances, the public is also most welcome for any performance. Advance tickets are recommended, and can be purchased here. For younger audience members, the Stritch website offers this enrichment guide, created by Stritch Elementary Education and Theater student Lucy Hartnell, ‘20.

A full list of dates and times can be found on the Stritch website. Grab your royal robes, summon your pumpkin coach and make plans to partake in the world premiere of The Emperor’s New Clothes at Stritch. You won’t believe your eyes!