Media Contact: Connie Di Grazia, 336-734-2924,




WINSTON-SALEM – What do Shakespeare and Rock and Roll have in common? The answer can be found in the Tony Award-winning Two Gentlemen of Verona – A Rock Musical, opening for a two-week run at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) beginning Feb. 18.  

Performances will be held at 8 p.m. Feb. 18-20 and 24-27, and at 2 p.m. Feb. 21 and 27 in the Thrust Theatre of Performance Place on the UNCSA campus at 1533 South Main St., Winston-Salem. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. For reservations, call the UNCSA Box Office at 336-721-1945 or visit www.uncsa.edu/performances.

UNCSA School of Drama alumnus Matt Cowart will direct members of the School of Drama Studios III and IV (college juniors and seniors) in the production. Musical direction is by guest artist Darren Ledbetter and choreography is by UNCSA School of Drama faculty member Cynthia Penn.

Pictured: On the right is Vanessa Hernandez who plays Julia and on the left is Rebecca Wolf who plays Lucetta. Photo by G.Allen Aycock

Based on Shakespeare’s play of the same name, this 1971 rock re-make keeps much of the original play’s spirit alive while investing more of it in song and music rather than poetry.   

It is a tale of two best friends (Valentine and Proteus) who leave their hometown to discover the trials and thrills of the big city. As fate would have it, both friends fall for the same girl (Sylvia). Mix in a complicated cast of characters, a live band on stage, and a set of layered scaffolding -- and this musical has the makings of a true rock experience that Shakespeare himself would love. 

Adapted by John Guare and Mel Shapiro, with lyrics by Guare and music by Galt MacDermot, Two Gentlemen of Verona – A Rock Musical opened at the Delacorte Theatre (The Public Theatre’s summertime home, Shakespeare in the Park) before touring the city as part of Mobile Theatre. The musical opened on Broadway at the St. James Theater on Dec. 1, 1971. In addition to Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical, the production also received Tony nominations for Best Director (Shapiro), Best Actor in a Musical (Raul Julia and Clifton Davis), Best Actress in a Musical (Jonelle Allen), Best Score, Best Choreography (Jean Erdman), and Best Costume Design (Theoni V. Aldredge).

In March of 2010, Guest Director Matt Cowart will be producing Sondheim: the birthday concert, a celebration of the works of Stephen Sondheim, at Avery Fisher Hall with the New York Philharmonic. Most recently, he co-directed All Fall Down at the 45th Street Theater, an official selection of the New York Musical Theater Festival. Recent credits include: On The Razzle (UNCSA); Broadway: Three Generations (Kennedy Center, co-directed with Lonny Price); Camelot,  with the New York Philharmonic, starring Gabriel Byrne, which was broadcast on PBS’s Live from Lincoln Center (associate director); My Favorite Things, a Rodgers and Hammerstein revue, starring Shirley Jones (associate director); Beautiful Girls, starring Zoe Caldwell, Patti LuPone, Marin Mazzie, Donna McKechnie, and Jenn Colella (associate director); the Broadway revival of 110 in the Shade, starring Audra McDonald (assistant director); Kiki Baby (Eugene O'Neill Music Theater Conference).

This past summer, Cowart co-wrote and co-directed the original children’s musical, Dream Machines, with collaborator Isaac Klein and composers Joshua Morgan and James Stewart, for the Open Dream Ensemble of the Thomas S. Kenan Institute of the Arts at UNCSA. Cowart is the co-artistic director of MUDasMAN productions, which he founded with Klein. Cowart has served as associate artistic director of the 78th Street Theatre Lab, and as an associate producer for PREMIERES. He was a 2004-05 Kenan Directing Fellow at the Lincoln Center Institute and is an alumnus of the 2005 Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. He is also a member of the Society for Stage Directors and Choreographers. Cowart graduated from the UNCSA School of Drama with a B.F.A. in directing in 2004. He is currently working on a new hip-hop musical with Klein and Stewart.

Guest Musical Director Darren Ledbetter has been the musical director/conductor of Dreamgirls (multiple productions); The Awakening (world premiere, cast recording); the National Tour of GREASE with Frankie Avalon; Almost Heaven: The Songs of John Denver; Flora the Red Menace; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; Oklahoma!; The Music Man; Romance Romance; The Last Five Years; Pippin; Footloose; Miss Saigon; and Sweeney Todd. As a musical director, vocal coach and arranger for motion pictures and television, Ledbetter has worked with countless recording artists and for MTV, VH1, Paramount Pictures, and The Walt Disney Company. He has music directed, arranged and supervised numerous readings, workshops and cabaret performances throughout the United States and Canada.

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is the first state-supported, residential school of its kind in the nation. Established as the North Carolina School of the Arts by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, UNCSA opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of the Arts”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. More than 1,100 students from middle school through graduate school train for careers in the arts in five professional schools: Dance, Design and Production (including a Visual Arts Program), Drama, Filmmaking, and Music. UNCSA is the state’s only public arts conservatory, dedicated entirely to the professional training of talented students in the performing, visual and moving image arts.  Internationally renowned conductor John Mauceri has been chancellor of UNCSA since 2006. UNCSA is located at 1533 S. Main St., Winston-Salem. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.