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Jan. 13, 2006

Mozart, radio theater highlight spring at Stephens

by Samantha Beres

Eighteen to 24 months before a Season at Stephens begins, Patti Cotter sets out to book the entertainment. It's complicated. She juggles performers' schedules with the schedule at Stephens. She attends booking conferences, where agents sell their shows and everything looks appealing. And she spends a lot of time on the phone. The performing arts programming manager said planning the season is not a science, it's an art.

Inside had a quick conversation with Cotter about the remaining 2005-2006 Stephens season:

What's different about this season?

Something that is unique and a new concept for us is the radio theater play by L.A. Theatre Works. The group is doing The Prisoner of Second Avenue by Neil Simon, and we're interested to see how that will look. It's a minimally staged production and more like what they did in the old days of radio with actors and sound effects. My understanding is that it's more of an intimate feel than a typical play production.

What else is a draw for this play?

Because this company does short tours, they can get Hollywood stars. This production should feature Jo Beth Williams and Hector Elizondo (subject to change) and we're pretty excited about that.

Anything else stand out for the remaining season?

It's Mozart's 250th birthday this month and we're bringing flutist Sir James Galway back to Ames. We had him here on Feb. 26, 1994. This year, three weeks after he plays at Stephens, he will be at New York's Lincoln Center. To have an all-Mozart program with an internationally known artist is a perfect match-up for us.

If you had to pick one show of the 10, which would it be?

Don't make me choose! It is Mozart's birthday after all. One thing worth mentioning is that we have three of our musicals left in the spring, so there's an opportunity for those who love musicals to get their fill. Oklahoma has won the Pulitzer Prize, Academy Awards and a Tony, and it's by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The musicals kick off with 42nd Street with its great tap dancing in January and Thoroughly Modern Millie in February.

Can you tell us about The Children of Uganda coming in March?

I'm personally pretty excited about Children of Uganda. It's a high-energy show and such an interesting story. They're children orphaned by the AIDS crisis. In their orphanage, they learn the traditional dances and folklore and culture, despite lacking families who can pass along that knowledge. I was interested in having African dance again--audiences enjoyed the Ballet of Senegal in November 2002 -- and that was in my mind. When I learned a little more about the nature of this troupe, I was really convinced. It's 20 kids singing and dancing, and the show will include some story telling and narration.

It's also interesting that the woman who organized this tour had been in international banking. She made a career change to start the project.

What would you say about the season overall?

I look forward to the spring Season at Stephens shows for the sheer variety of high-quality events. The shows also encompass some of my favorite disciplines, including Irish and African dance, children's theater, Mozart and three great musicals. We have global cultures, familiar show tunes, jazz, incredible young drummers and the dancers of Ballet Hispanico. I feel lucky to have all this to enjoy in 2006 without having to leave Ames.

Hector Elizondo and Jo Beth Williams

Hector Elizondo and Jo Beth Williams are scheduled to perform March 24 in Neil Simon's The Prisoner of Second Avenue. Submitted photo.

Buy tickets

Tickets for the shows at Stephens are available in the box office (north side of the building), or at 233-1888. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Performance information and dates are online.