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‘The Threepenny Opera’ gets international flavor

By : Eric Coker

Anne Brady and Timothy Perry have come away with an appreciation of their Chilean counterparts that goes beyond the stage of The Threepenny Opera.

“The Chilean culture is so warm and generous,” said Brady, associate professor of theatre and director of the show. “I think that generosity and caring is something we can use as Americans more in our lives.”

“Their sense for each other as people is highly developed,” said Perry, chair of the Music Department. “I was struck by the sense of community and support that runs through Chilean society.”

The Threepenny Opera is the latest collaboration between Binghamton University and Duoc Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile. The international production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s 1928 musical will take place at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9-10 and Oct. 16-17, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18, in Watters Theater of the Fine Arts Building.

The Binghamton-Duoc relationship began when Duoc’s Rodrigo Núñez attended Binghamton University as a graduate student and established an acting project between the two schools. In 2007, Binghamton and Duoc presented West Side Story.

This year, Brady and Perry led a Binghamton ensemble that spent five weeks over the summer in Santiago rehearsing and performing the initial eight shows of The Threepenny Opera.

The collaboration even extended to the music, as musical director Perry was able to conduct some of the shows featuring the all-Chilean orchestra. At Binghamton, visiting musical director Sebastian Errázuriz will lead the all-local orchestra on some nights.

“There’s an international aspect to it,” Perry said. “The Chilean musicians got used to my conducting and our musicians will have gotten to work already with Sebastian. It’s a nice treat for them to see a different outlook.”

Chilean cast and crew members arrived in late September, Brady said, as the casting, additional choreography and set redesigns all led to a new excitement about the show.

The Threepenny Opera features more than two dozen cast members, including Nicolás Fernández of Duoc in the lead role of Macheath. Adding the production staff and musicians puts the number of people working on the show over 100. This is something the Chileans are not used to, visiting director Sebastián Dahm said.

“We’re different, of course,” he said. “We’re much more sloppy with time schedules, for example. And we don’t have that many staging people working with us. Our students are used to doing almost everything. We don’t have stage managers, assistant directors or crew members.”

The Threepenny Opera tells the story of the criminal Macheath. As the popular song from the show says: “Mackie’s back in town.” But the bandit has married the daughter of Peachum, the boss of London’s beggars. So Macheath is arrested and sentenced to hang.

The musical has stood the test of time, Brady said, because it is “a play that deals with justice and injustice.” Weill’s music, which includes Mack the Knife, has also given the show a timeless quality.

“I think the play asks the question, ‘Who is the criminal: The politician who pays off people or the person who steals for their family?’” Brady said. “There are so many aspects of the play that make it stand up and be relevant today.”

Perry said the musical also was a form of social theater, as it gave people a look at populations they were not used to seeing: beggars, the homeless and prostitutes.

“It was an important piece in the history of theater in the 20th century,” he said. “It brought a lot of new ideas and subjects to the theater that Brecht and Weill thought were important.”

The importance of the show and the appeal of the theater have led to a seamless collaboration between the schools, Dahm said.

“We understand each other so easily,” Dahm said. “We have some Chilean members who don’t speak English that well, but they came into this like (snaps fingers), just understanding the feeling. They’ve come together very well.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08