The theater department at Community College of Denver (CCD) will perform Tennessee Williams’ play Red Devil Battery Sign Nov. 8 – 10 and Nov. 15 – 17 at the Rawls Theater on the Auraria Campus in downtown Denver.
It is the regional premiere of the somewhat obscure work written by one of America’s most well-known playwrights; it is the first time in 12 years it will be performed in the United States or Canada.
“It’s a unique opportunity to see a play that doesn’t get a lot of performance,” says Nick Taylor, Ph.D., Director of Theater Arts at CCD and the play’s producer. “It will challenge an audience to look at things differently than they have.”
The play takes place in Dallas in the 1970s, where a foreign government is threatening to interfere in the American political system. It addresses issues of isolation, conspiracy theories and mistrust in the government; both the location and themes were inspired by the John F. Kennedy assassination in 1963.
The contemporary interpretation of the play attracted the attention of the show’s director, Edward Osborn, a retired CCD professor and former head of the school’s theater program (1992 – 2003).
“Neither a philosopher or politician, Williams is a poet who sensed what was evolving in the government and wrote the devastating effect this movement has on our citizens,” Osborn says. “Not often produced, this play deserves to be seen. CCD's production is a rare opportunity to experience one of his most striking and pertinent play about what is going on in our country.”
“It’s been overlooked for so long,” Taylor adds. “So we thought, ‘Why not give it a try?’”
Toggling between realism and surrealism, and highly stylistic, the play presents a healthy challenge for theater students looking to expand their range — both for performers and the crew.
“We should push students to work with difficult material,” Taylor says. “I think that will be eased by working with Ed, who is such an accomplished director.”
To that end, the production also uses “strategically placed local guest actors” Taylor says, who will guide and support the students through the challenging material.
CCD’s theater program has been gaining rapid popularity, jumping from nine theater majors in 2017 to 24 majors in 2018.
“I think it’s the diverse offering of our plays and the flexibility of our classes that is responsible for this growth,” Tayler says. “We have top-notch instructors.”
Taylor encourages the community to patron these kinds of performances as much as possible, not only to support students but to also support freedom of expression.
“John Kennedy said that what separates us as Americans is the arts,” Taylor says. “That the fact that we can perform uncensored is one of the great freedoms we have. We as a society have pulled away from live performance and that communal experience of witnessing a story unfold before our eyes. I think that is a really important muscle to have.”
The Red Devil Battery Sign is directed by Edward Osborn and is produced by Nick Taylor. A large cast of students will be led by guest artists Carol Bloom, who was featured in the Auraria campus’ 2014 production of Noises Off, and Phil Luna, who performed in the 1999 CCD production of The Big Knife at the Grant-Humphries Mansion.
The Red Devil Battery Sign will play in the Rawls Theater at the King Center on the Auraria Campus Nov. 8-10 and Nov. 15-17. Purchase tickets through the King Center online or call 303.556.2296.