Led by a new artistic director, Wright State University Theatre will present an exciting season of riotous comedy, thoughtful drama and classic and contemporary musicals during the 2023–2024 academic year.
Marya Spring Cordes, professor in acting and musical theatre, is the first woman to serve as artistic director of Wright State Theatre.
“In a season that features the stories of rising independence, tragic consequences and joyful discovery, audiences will experience one of our most eclectic and varied seasons in recent memory,” said Cordes, who is also associate chair of the School of Fine and Performing Arts.
Wright State Theatre will also welcome a pair of local artistic directors — Emily N. Wells and Gina Handy Minyard — to lead major area premieres.
Another highlight of the season is the annual Spring Dance Concert, which will bring together the talents of Wright State faculty and outstanding guest choreographers.
Season theatre tickets can be purchased through the School of Fine and Performing Arts Box Office at 937-775-2500 or wright.edu/boxoffice.
Cordes said she is excited to continue the tradition of excellence that patrons have come to love while expanding the educational range of students in the acting, musical theatre, design technology and dance areas as they prepare for professional careers.
“With an eclectic array of new and old plays and musicals, students and patrons get to feast on a large charcuterie board full of different and delightful flavors,” she said.
As artistic director, Cordes is responsible for organizing the season and production teams, supervising the development of each production’s design process, overseeing marketing and promotion, and serving as community partner liaison and the public representative for each production.
“I am a collaborator by nature, and I enjoy working toward putting together creative people who will create magic together,” she said.
Before joining the Wright State faculty, Cordes was artistic director of The Puzzle Festival of New Works in New York City and served on the Season Selection Committee in Theatre and Dance.
At Wright State, she directed “Arcadia,” “Sweet Charity,” a special radio adaption of Orson Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” “The Wolves” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.”
She is a resident artist at The Human Race Theatre Company, for which she directed “Now and Then,” “Gloria: A Life,” “Sylvia,” “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “Becky’s New Car” and “Managing Maxine.” She will also direct the company’s 2024 production of “Peerless.”
She also performed in regional productions of “Footloose” at the Warsaw Incline Theatre in Cincinnati, “Americana Christmas” at The Human Race Theatre, “Best Of Broadway I & II” with the Dayton Philharmonic and Human Race Theatre Company, and “A Little Night Music” at the Short North Stage in Columbus.
Cordes earned a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from Carnegie Mellon University. She is a member of Alexander Technique International and is a certified teaching member of the Alexander Technique.
2023–24 Season Preview
“The Liar,” Sept. 29–Oct. 8, Festival Playhouse
Wright State Theatre opens its season with “The Liar,” a riotous farce, adapted from Pierre Corneille by contemporary comic playwright David Ives. This “scintillating comic romp” will have audiences rolling with rhymed laughter at mistaken identity, wily servants, foolish masters and complicated romance. “The Liar” is directed by Josh Aaron McCabe, head of acting at Wright State.
“The perfect way to start your fall theatre season,” Cordes said.
“Kelly the Destroyer vs The Springfield Cobras,” Oct. 20–29, Herbst Theatre
Wright State brings the regional university premiere of Katie Kring and Rob Hartmann’s “Kelly the Destroyer vs The Springfield Cobras” to the Herbst Theatre. Kelly is a new student at Cotesville Magnet High School, where testing is everything and some of the students are really weird. After Kelly and her new friends discover that the educational consultant reforming the school is secretly turning the students into high-performing, brainwashed cobras, she must uncover the truth and save the school before it’s too late. “Kelly the Destroyer vs The Springfield Cobras” is directed by Jamie Cordes, senior lecturer of theatre.
“Cabaret,” Nov. 3–19, Festival Playhouse
In a reimagined production, “Cabaret” returns to the Festival Playhouse stage under the direction and choreography of Greg Hellems, head of musical theatre. The Broadway hit by John Kander and Fred Ebbs follows the rise of fascism in the 1930s and its inevitable costs to the German people.
“Filled with classic hits like ‘Cabaret,’ ‘Maybe This Time’ and ‘Money, this classic musical will entertain and illuminate the dark corners of our culture,’ Cordes said.
“By the Bog of Cats,” Feb. 2–11, Festival Playhouse
“By the Bog of Cats” is a furious, uncompromising tale of greed and betrayal, murder and self-sacrifice. Loosely based on Euripides’ tragedy “Medea,” and set on the bleak, ghostly Irish landscape of the Bog of Cats, this provocative drama discloses one woman’s courageous attempts to lay claim to that which is hers, as her world is torn in two. An area premiere, “By the Bog of Cats” is directed by guest artist Gina Handy Minyard, artistic director of the Magnolia Theatre Company in Dayton.
“A Doll’s House,” Feb. 15–18, Herbst Theatre
Wright State Theatre will present a unique chance to see an original classic drama and its unlikely sequel a week later in the Herbst Theatre.
Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” is one of the most important works of world theatre, setting the stage for a revolution in psychological realism with one woman’s discovery of her own strength and independence in a world determined to crush her. Frank McGinnis’ contemporary translation brings Ibsen’s drama to life. “A Doll’s House” is directed by Marya Spring Cordes.
“Doll’s House, Part 2,” Feb. 22–25, Herbst Theatre
Ibsen’s original is followed by Lucas Hnath’s 2017 “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” Many years after Nora Helmer’s shocking departure, there’s a knock on that same door. Nora has returned. But why? And what will it mean for those she left behind?
An area premiere, “A Doll’s House, Part 2” is directed by guest artist Emily N. Wells, artistic director of the Human Race Theatre Company.
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” March 15–31, Festival Playhouse
Audience members will get to participate in the fun of a middle school spelling bee during the Tony Award-winning “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Featuring a fast-paced and funny book by Rachel Sheinkin and a vibrant score by William Finn, the bee is an unforgettable experience. Six awkward spelling champions learn that winning and losing isn’t everything. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is directed and choreographed by Joe Deer, distinguished professor of musical theatre.
Spring Dance Concert, April 18–21, Festival Playhouse
The Wright State Dance Ensemble will offer a varied evening of dance with its annual Spring Dance Concert. The concert will feature the work of Wright State’s faculty and guest artists and Wright State’s community education partners, Dayton Ballet II and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II.