UNCSA presents Shakespeare’s action-packed "Pericles"

William Shakespeare’s rowdy tale of a wandering prince who faces shipwrecks, would-be assassins, jousting tournaments and unscrupulous leaders, “Pericles” will be presented at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts as the final performance by the senior class of the School of Drama.

Pericles will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April 7-9, and Wednesday through Saturday, April 13-16, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 10, and Saturday, April 16, in the Patrons Theatre of Alex Ewing Performance Place on campus at 1533 South Main St. Tickets are $18 regular and $15 students and are available at uncsa.edu/performances, or by calling the box office at 336-721-1945.

For Director Matthew Bulluck, faculty emeritus in the School of Drama,Pericles presents a challenging “final exam” for the graduating seniors. “Experienced actors often say if you can do Shakespeare, you can do anything,” Bulluck said. “Pericles is a play filled with fights, storms and all kinds of action.”

Experienced actors often say if you can do Shakespeare, you can do anything.

Emma Munson plays Gower, the narrator who appears before and between scenes to advance the action of the play and offers an epilogue at the end. She said Pericles is a story about love, family and fate. “Both Gower and I love experiencing the stories that make us believe in the good, truth and beauty that's in the world,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for a better story to finish my time at UNCSA.”

Munson described her character as “an old English poet who comes back in human form to revive and retell the story of Pericles. Gower is someone who has risked everything to come back and tell one last story -- a story she loves, her favorite story, one that's changed her life -- in the hopes that it will lift people up and make their lives better, even for just a little while,” she said.

“Together, the audience and I make the story come alive before them, and I get to watch the story unfold along with them.  I came to this school because I wanted to tell stories, so it's a very fitting last role to play here,” Munson added.

I came to this school because I wanted to tell stories, so it's a very fitting last role to play here.

David Gow performs the title role of Pericles, the Prince of Tyre, who fears for his life and flees his homeland after discovering evil deeds of King Antiochus, played by Ethan Nienaber.

“Pericles is the kind of man everyone aspires to be,” Gow said. “All of the things that he holds important are valuable, honorable attributes, making him an easy character to fall in love with.”

Pericles takes to the seas upon the advice of his loyal friend and counselor, Helicanus, played by Alex Gagne. Along his seaward journey from one city-state to another, Pericles performs acts of kindness, is shipwrecked, wins a jousting tournament and the hand of a lovely princess, gets married and fathers a child, is supposedly widowed and then betrayed.

In the end, good triumphs over evil, when Pericles is reunited with the wife he assumed was dead (Monica Bell in the role of Thaisa), and the child (Emma Geer in the role of Marina) he left for safe upbringing in the hands of backstabbing Cleon and Dionyza (Morgan Hahn and Cameron Morton, respectively), whom he thought were his friends. Evil-doers are punished, and Pericles is rewarded for his generosity and virtue.

Performing the role of Pericles is a fitting capstone for his UNCSA career, Gow said. “From a technical aspect, the character calls on every piece of the training I've experienced in my four years here: stage combat, voice work, Shakespeare text, etc. So to play such an admirable, epic character has been an immensely special experience so far,” he said.

From a technical aspect, the character calls on every piece of the training I've experienced in my four years here: stage combat, voice work, Shakespeare text, etc.

The story has a universality that brings people together, Munson said. “It unites us all in a way that makes us feel like there's hope for the world we live in. Gower wants to give that empathy to other people, which is one of the big reasons I chose to become an actor,” she said.

With shipwrecks, jousting, assassins and betrayal,Pericles presents a lot of action, which might seem a tight fit for the 2,400-square-foot Patrons Theatre, but Bulluck said it works beautifully. “The talented designers from the School of Design and Production have transformed the space to fit the play,” he said.

From the School of Design and Production, Reilly Miller is scenic designer, with lighting by Wayne Marshall, sound by Andrew Jerry, costumes by Kristen Vanhessche, and wigs and makeup by Chelsea Raitor. Colin Surra is technical director, and Rinn DePizzo is production stage manager.

Bulluck retired in 2015 after teaching in the School of Drama for 18 years. He is an award-winning director, actor, playwright, teacher, and arts administrator who has worked for some of the nation’s preeminent arts institutions.  He worked on Broadway as the assistant director for the Tony Award-winning The Robber Bridegroom and the musical of the Decameron Boccaccio.  He also served in the same capacity in numerous productions for John Houseman’s The Acting Company, Beverly Sills’ New York City Opera, the San Francisco Opera, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.

In New York he was a resident director for the Direct Theatre and also directed for the Players Theatre, the Cubiculo, Carnegie Recital Hall and The Juilliard School.  Regionally he has staged productions at the Pilot Theatre in Los Angeles; Theatre in the Park in Raleigh; Thalian Hall in Wilmington, N.C.; and Festival Park in Manteo, N.C..  He also acted in New York with the Lincoln Center Touring Ensemble and the LaMama Experimental Theatre Company.

A produced playwright awarded the North Carolina Arts Council’s Playwrights Fellowship, Bulluck has seen his plays developed by the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, the North Carolina Playwrights Center, and in New York by HERE and the Hudson Guild Theatre.  He has also served as the literary manager for PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, membership manager for the Brooklyn Museum, and press officer for the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Bulluck has taught and guest directed for The Juilliard School, the Chautauqua Institute, the New York State Summer School of the Arts and the South Carolina Governor’s School of the Arts.  In 2004, he won an Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

He is a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy and the Drama Division of The Juilliard School.

by Lauren Whitaker 

March 16, 2016