World premiere of A Jazz Dream, The Musical opens Nov. 1 at UNT

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - 14:05

What: A Jazz Dream, The Musical, based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream — Produced by the University of North Texas Department of Dance and Theatre

Adapted by Maggie L. Harrer

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1 through 3 and Nov. 8 through 10 (Thursdays through Saturdays); 2 p.m. Nov. 4 and 11 (Sundays)

Where: University Theatre in the Radio, TV, Film and Performing Arts Building on the UNT campus

Cost: $10 for adults

$7.50 for students, UNT faculty/staff and seniors

Contact: Call 940-565-2428 or visit

DENTON (UNT), Texas — The poetry of William Shakespeare's timeless A Midsummer Night's Dream is swinging to a new beat with newly composed tunes, classic jazz standards and choreographed dance numbers in A Jazz Dream, The Musical, adapted by New York guest director Maggie L. Harrer and produced by the University of North Texas Department of Dance and Theatre. UNT's College of Music is providing creative musical input, and UNT's Department of English is offering dramaturgical assistance.

A cast of 18 people — plus 10 dancers, a five-piece jazz ensemble and a 12-member jazz choir — will perform A Jazz Dream at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1 through 3 and Nov. 8 through 10 (Thursdays through Saturdays) and 2 p.m. Nov. 4 and 11 (Sundays). All performances will take place in the University Theatre in the Radio, TV, Film and Performing Arts Building on the UNT campus. Tickets are $10 for the general public and $7.50 for students, UNT faculty/staff and seniors. Box office hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; tickets go on sale starting Oct. 18 (Thursday). Call 940-565-2428 or visit for ticket information. A reception with a brief question-and-answer session will follow the Nov. 1 performance.

"Shakespeare's iambic pentameter is like jazz; it's the rhythm of the heart with the accent on the second beat – ba bum, ba bum," said Harrer, adaptor, guest artist director and choreographer of A Jazz Dream, The Musical. "Shakespeare's Midsummer is a play about passion — about loves thwarted, loves lost and loves found — and it's timeless. The rhythms of jazz make passion immediate and accessible, so the two together seemed a perfect blend of poetry, passion and music."

Under the direction of faculty member Richard DeRosa, students from UNT's renowned Division of Jazz Studies are creating musical arrangements for A Jazz Dream and will be performing as jazz vocalists and instrumentalists.

"When I looked at UNT and saw the incredible assets of jazz, dance and theater, I thought this is the perfect place to develop A Jazz Dream," Harrer said.

The play opens in present times in front of the classical Grecian architecture of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The city represents "a modern-day Athens" as the center of politics, power and freedom with Wall Street Titans and Occupy Wall Street protestors challenging society, Harrer said. In Harrer's adaptation, the fairy folks of Shakespeare's classic are free-spirited artists living in Central Park.

The set for A Jazz Dream is being designed by guest artist Bob Lavallee, who was voted the best theatrical designer in 2012 by the Dallas Observer. Lavallee is well-known for his sets for the Dallas Theater Center and PBS.

"His atmospheric designs create the magical world of A Jazz Dream, and we are so lucky to have him on this project," Harrer said.

Senior Austin Struckmeyer, who is pursuing a double major in music and theater, plays dual roles of Theseus — king of Athens in the original version and a Wall Street giant in this adaptation — and Oberon — king of the fairies in the original play and a traveling street magician in the adaptation.

"The adaptation into modern times makes it very easy to relate to," said Struckmeyer, a graduate of Naples American High School in Naples, Italy. "The beauty of Shakespeare is that the things he wrote about are universal and have endured for the last several hundred years, and the particular perspective we are taking in this show is very topical and very relevant, particularly with the upcoming election and political strife."

In addition to newly written music by UNT students, the production includes jazz standards such as Ain't Misbehavin', Jeepers Creepers and Moonglow.

After developing A Jazz Dream at UNT, Harrer said she hopes to bring the production to regional theaters and eventually to New York.

"Dallas, Fort Worth and Denton theater audiences can get in on the ground floor of a Broadway musical in the making," Harrer said.

UNT Department of English faculty member and Shakespeare scholar Kevin Curran is providing dramaturgical assistance to the cast, helping with language, pronunciation and context. Student Johnny Rodriguez is creating a behind-the-scenes documentary for NTTV showing the process of making a new musical.

About Maggie L. Harrer

Maggie L. Harrer — the adaptor, guest artist director and choreographer of A Jazz Dream — is a professional director, choreographer and producer whose work ranges from the avant-garde to the classical. Her work includes plays, musicals, opera, film, television and festivals. Harrer studied with the modern dance geniuses Alwin Nikolais, who saw movement as kinetic energy; Merce Cunningham, who used a method of chance and the I Ching to choreograph; and the classical Russian ballerina Mia Slavenska, among others.

About Bob Lavallee

Bob Lavallee — guest artist, production designer and set designer for A Jazz Dream — has designed for the Dallas Theater Center's A Christmas Carol and Cabaret, Water Tower Theatre's The Full Monty and several UNT operas. Lavallee was the designer of the Verizon Academic All-America Hall of Fame awards ceremony held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. He was the resident designer for Casa Manana Theatre, creating more than 65 productions, including musicals, comedies, dramas and children's theater. While at Casa, he also designed Chess with director Rob Marshall. Lavallee also has been the production designer for the PBS television series Barney and Friends.

About Richard DeRosa

Richard DeRosa, associate professor of jazz arranging at the UNT College of Music, serves as a mentor for arrangements and compositions for the jazz score for A Jazz Dream.

DeRosa has toured and recorded with Gerry Mulligan, Bob Brookmeyer, Susannah McCorkle, Jackie Cain and Roy Kral, Chuck Wayne and Marlene Ver Planck. He has arranged and conducted music for Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra featuring Toots Thielemans, Annie Ross, Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, Abbey Lincoln and Roberta Gambarini, among several other notable artists.

DeRosa's compositions for television, film and theater include background music cues for Another World; As the World Turns; The Guiding Light; commercials for Telex, Bristol-Myers and Kodak; various documentaries broadcast on PBS; and original music scores for the national touring U.S. theater company ArtsPower as well as orchestrations for Broadway's Frankenstein, the Musical.

About Adam Chamberlin

Lighting designer Chamberlin is assistant professor of lighting and sound design at UNT. He received a master of fine arts degree in theatrical design from the University of Texas at Austin, and a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has been an assistant professor and lighting designer for Virginia Commonwealth University's Department of Dance and Choreography and is director of production for Amaranth Contemporary Dance, resident lighting designer and technical director for the Latin Ballet of Virginia and resident lighting designer for K-Dance. Previously, Chamberlin was the resident lighting designer for One World Theatre in Austin. He has had the opportunity to design for Shakespeare Dallas, SilverStar Entertainment, River City Pops, University of Scranton, Wings Theater, The Dysfunctional Players, Sharir + Bustamante Danceworks, Dim Sum Dance, Chris Burnside and Dancers and Ground Zero Dance Company. Chamberlin has had the privilege to have designed for world-renowned choreographers Daniel Gwirtzman, Jawole Zollar, Robert Battle, Tania Isaac, Heidi Weiss, Meisha Bosma and Donald McKayle, and a restaging of Jose Limon. In addition to his production design work, he has taught lighting design workshops in Mexico City and Costa Rica, and most recently designed the lighting systems for the Accademia Dell' Arte in Arezzo, Italy.

About Barbara C. Cox

Cox, costume designer of A Jazz Dream, creates costumes for theatre and opera as well as dance. In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, her credits include designs for the Circle Theatre, WingSpan Theatre, Risk Initiative Theatre, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas and Dallas Repertory Theatre, as well as the 1991 season of Shakespeare Festival of Dallas. She recently won a Column Award for Best Costume Design of a Musical - Equity for A Year With Frog and Toad at Dallas Children's Theater. She has won awards for Angels in America – Millennium Approaches, Three Tall Women and Moon for the Misbegotten, among others. Cox's national credits include the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for Playboy of the Western World at South Coast Repertory Theatre and several Drama-Logue awards. Cox has also designed for Long Beach Opera, San Jose Civic Opera, the Utah Shakespearean Festival, and Opera San Jose. Cox has taught at numerous universities including Stanford, California State University - Long Beach, and Santa Clara University. She also holds a master of fine arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University.

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