Top 5 Stanford Theater Productions of 2015

Jan. 10, 2016, 10:17 p.m.

2015 was a big year for the Stanford Theater scene, with shows ranging from spectacular musicals to intimate dramas. As we begin another year of Stanford Theater, we take a look back at some of our favorite shows of 2015.

5. TAPS’Evita

Under the brilliant direction of Sammi Cannold ’15, “Evita” was the only TAPS-affiliated show to perform on the main stage of the Memorial Auditorium in the past decade. This re-imaged version featured a new, powerful character named Santa Evita, who symbolized the spirit of Eva Perón. Only interacting with the cynical male narrator Ché, Santa Evita fiercely balanced the one-sided critique and provided new insight into the musical, which explores the adored and abhorred leader of Argentina. The production team also did justice to the program’s historical background, teaming up with the Hoover Institution’s Library & Archives to arrange a pre-show, featuring items from Hoover’s Perón collection.

4. AATP’s “Stop Kiss” 

Intimate, emotional, and beautiful in its subtlety, “Stop Kiss” was one of the Asian American Theatre Project’s (AATP) best productions in recent years. Megan Gage ’15 and Hye Jeong Yoon ‘15 led this nuanced love story, which combined “past and present,” “awkwardness and intimacy” and “a heartwarming love story and a heartbreaking assault.” In addition to poignant performances and seamless direction by Asia Chiao ‘15, the show’s technical elements were also a major highlight. Charlie Yang’s ‘17 creative set, which split the stage into two platforms on which the two simultaneous storylines were told, helped develop the narrative and emphasize the play’s themes of ambiguity.

3. TAPS’ “Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead,”

The existentialist, tragicomedy “Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead,” (R&G) was a theatrical tour de force. Produced in repertory with “Hamlet” just weeks later, the project was an impressive undertaking which required the cast and crew to be involved in both productions simultaneously. While R&G was worth attending simply because of Tom Stoppard’s hilariously well-crafted script, the acting was also superb. Max Walker-Silverman ‘15 (Rosencrantz) and Austin Caldwell ‘15 (Guildenstern) held the audience’s attention from first line to the curtain call. With impressive juggling bits, hysterical one-liners and thought-provoking musings, “Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead” had all the trappings of a near-perfect production.

2. TAPS’ “The Downfall of Egotist J. Fatzer”

Directed, translated, and adapted by TAPS Ph.D. student Jessi Piggott, “The Downfall of Egotist J. Fatzer” is a fragment by Bertolt Brecht which tells the story of a band of World War I deserters caught between fascism, madness, and the tantalizing ideal of revolution. With Piggott’s mastery of Brecht’s famous Verfremdungseffekt and a cast of rowdy revolutionary soldiers all played by women in drag, “Fatzer” emerged as one of the few on-campus productions to contribute to the ongoing intellectual debate about what theater is and how it can be used to make audiences think critically about their own respective places in history – something especially crucial here at Stanford.

1. Ram’s Head’s “Hairspray

“Hairspray” received amazing reception, selling out Memorial Auditorium multiple nights. The show was an ambitious spectacular, but the talented Ken Savage ‘15 was able to pull it off seamlessly, pulling together energetic dance numbers, show-stopping performances, and impressive technical elements, including a huge video wall with 20,000 LED lights designed by Matt Lathrop ’16. While the story of “Hairspray” is outdated and its treatment of race is problematic, Savage’s attempt to relate “Hairspray” to the #BlackLivesMatter movement helped spark further discussion about race.

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