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Theatre Students Meet with Cast of "The Band's Visit" on NYC Trip

March 28, 2018

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – In what's become a cherished tradition in the theatre department, Middlebury students and faculty piled into a bus earlier this month for a daylong immersion into  New York's theatre world. This year, 50 went on the March trip, taking in two shows and returning home within 24 hours.

Their first stop was the acclaimed Broadway musical, “The Band’s Visit,” whose cast includes 2007 Middlebury graduate Bill Army. The show tells the story of eight Egyptian musicians—the "Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra"—who arrive by mistake in a small town in Israel's Negev Desert. The musicians settle in for a night of unexpected hospitality in the tiny desert village.

Army organized a post-show “talk-back” with the “The Band’s Visit” cast members and director David Cromer, who is regarded as one of the top working directors of American theatre. After the performance, the students had the opportunity to ask questions about the director’s creative choices in developing the show and discussing what changes were made to transfer the show to Broadway.

The second show was the play with music, “Farinelli and the King,” featuring Tony-winning actor Mark Rylance as Philippe V of Spain, an 18th-century monarch "on the brink of madness," who finds comfort in the music of a world-renowned castrato.

“The trip is a fantastic way to build community, foster intelligent discussion amongst ourselves about work we have all seen but did not help create, and connect current students with alums living and working in New York,” said Alex Draper associate professor of theatre. “This trip included three people who had never been to New York City before and two people who had never seen a professional production of a play. It's one of the highlights of the year.”

Draper said the theatre department typically tries to balance one big mainstream show with a smaller production. This year, they decided on two Broadway shows in order to see a Middlebury alumnus at work. Past trips have included seeing Geoffrey Rush in "Diary of a Madman," Phillip Seymour Hoffman in "Death of a Salesman," and Rebecca Hall in "Machinal."