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May 8, 2006

New adaptation of Aristophanes’ classic ‘The Wasps’ is set in Santa Cruz

The Theater Arts Department is presenting the world premiere production of The Buzzzz!!!!—Mary-Kay Gamel’s new adaptation with music of Aristophanes’ classic comedy The Wasps, at the Cowell Provost's House.

The performances, on May 12, 13, and 14, are at 5:30 p.m. and admission is free. Audiences are advised to bring blankets or beach chairs for ground seating.

The Buzzzz!!!! is directed by Christopher Grabowski, with original music by Philip Collins, and original choreography by Sommer Ulrickson, staged by an all-star cast of UCSC actors, designers, and technicians.

First presented in Athens in 422 BCE, The Wasps deals with politics, imperialism, and intergenerational conflict. The original title referred to Athenians who loved to serve on juries and condemn defendants.

As adapted by UCSC professor Mary-Kay Gamel, The Buzzzz!!!! brings the issues closer to home by locating the play in Santa Cruz. The title of the adaptation combines the idea of attacking opponents with the excitement of talking about current events and taking action. In this version, a right-wing mother has come to live with her liberal UCSC professor son, who is distressed by her political views and tries to keep her under control—with predictable and hilarious results. Like other Aristophanes plays, The Buzzzz!!!! holds nothing sacred, skewering the idiocies of all political persuasions.

The Buzzzz!!!! features the work of three UCSC alums. Christopher Grabowski earned a B.A. in theater arts from UCSC and an M.F.A. in directing from the Yale School of Drama. He joined the Vassar drama faculty in 1994, and prior to that was associate artistic director at the New York Theater Workshop.

Philip Collins holds a bachelor's of music in composition from San Francisco State University and a master's in music from UCSC. He studied composition with Lou Harrison and is the founder and musical/artistic director of New Music Works, Santa Cruz.

Sommer Ulrickson received her B.A. in theater arts from UCSC in 1995 before moving to San Francisco to work with the award-winning Fifth Floor Theater Company and establish her own dance company, Torque. In 1998, she relocated to Germany with a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and has since been living and working in Berlin as a freelance choreographer and director, touring her pieces throughout Europe. Ulrickson is now in California for several months for an artist’s residency at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga.

Mary-Kay Gamel, professor of classics, comparative literature, and theater arts, has staged numerous productions of ancient Mediterranean drama, often in her own translations or versions, including plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Plautus, Terence, and Aristophanes.

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