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FIU Theatre celebrates 50 years with a blockbuster season

FIU Theatre celebrates 50 years with a blockbuster season

The landmark 50th season includes an Agatha Christie murder mystery, a Shakespearean epic, a toe-tapping musical and a Pulitzer winner.

September 5, 2023 at 12:30pm

For five decades, FIU Theatre has been entertaining, moving and provoking audiences with imaginative productions. Everything from Shakespeare to musicals, comedies to dramas, beloved classics to world premieres have been brought to life on our campus stages.

What started on a small stage in DM-150 has blossomed into a powerhouse undergraduate theatre program with two state-of-the-art stages at The Wertheim and has launched the careers of hundreds of theatre artists working across the nation.

Now entering its landmark 50th season, the department has put together a blockbuster season that includes an Agatha Christie murder mystery, a Shakespearean epic, the launch of a new BFA in Musical Theatre and a groundbreaking Pulitzer winner.


Click on the images above to view the gallery of photos from 50 years of FIU Theatre with accompanying captions.

“Since the very beginning, FIU Theatre has been dedicated to telling stories that put the world under a microscope through inspired classical, modern and contemporary theatrical productions in order to examine normative, objective, subjective, and complex truths,” says chair and artistic director Joel Murray. “With this milestone season, we are cementing and celebrating that legacy with a set of plays that show off the versatility of our storytelling.”

The season kicks off on Sept. 22 with the longest-running show in history, Agatha Christie’s wickedly fun murder mystery, The Mousetrap. The play premiered in 1952 in London’s West End and ran continuously until the pandemic shut it down. The show reopened in 2021 and has been performed over 29,000 times.

The Mousetrap’s story has all the hallmarks that make Agatha Christie the Queen of Mystery. A group of strangers gathers at a remote country hotel as news of a murder in London spreads and a massive snowstorm traps them inside. Once they’ve settled in, a police sergeant arrives with the revelation that he has reason to believe the killer is among them. As the mystery unravels and secrets are uncovered, the audience is kept guessing as to which of the highly suspicious characters is the culprit.

“This is a story of misdirection, mayhem, and murder,” says director Justin Packard. “Agatha Christie has such a huge and dedicated fan base that endures to this day because she gives audiences a chance to experience, even at second hand, the delights and dangers of adventure.”

The second play of the season is William Shakespeare’s epic adventure/romance, Pericles, opening Nov. 10. It will be the 21st Shakespeare production at FIU, easily making him the most produced playwright at the university.

The play’s story revolves around the title character Pericles, a prince who is exiled by a ruthless tyrant and must set out on the treacherous seas. Along the way, he encounters hired assassins, raging storms, pirates, shipwrecks, sword fights and, yes, a few miracles.

Pericles is an adventure story in which larger-than-life figures perform amazing feats,” says director Michael Yawney. “But it is also the story of a family whose love survives separation and hardship. The combination of the two make this Shakespeare's most audacious play.”

Although Shakespeare’s plays were written over 500 years ago, they endure to this day because they remain profoundly relevant. His plays are truly about how we think and feel today, Yawney explains.

“In Pericles, the world tears loved ones apart. Finding each other again is the story,” Yawney says. “I think after COVID we are still finding each other again, like the characters in the play. Pericles reminds us that love survives separation.”

The spring marks the official launch of the department’s brand new BFA degree in musical theatre. Although FIU Theatre has produced a dozen musicals in its five-decade run, with this season the department will begin producing a musical every year.

The first produced under the new degree program is Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, a 2010 musical by Jeffrey Lane with music and lyrics by David Yazbek, opening Feb. 16. The play is based on Pedro Almodovar’s hit 1988 film of the same title about a group of women in Madrid navigating the love, confusion and passion of their tumultuous romances.

The play also marks the FIU directorial debut of new faculty member Olivia de Guzman. The assistant professor leads the development of the new degree program, and says she’s is thrilled to dive in with this interesting play.

“It's an older musical based on an older film, both of which were written by men, who wrote about women who were crazy over men,” says de Guzman. “But I'm curious about exploring our production through a 2023 lens. It'll be great fun to revisit the time period of the show and see what it says about how far we've come. What else can we discover?”

She expects the musical to delight audiences.

“The music makes you want to move along,” she says. “The characters have grit and heart. And it's pretty damn funny.”

The 50th season comes to a close with Bruce Norris’s Pulitzer and Tony award winning play, Clybourne Park, on stage April 5-14. The biting satire is a spin-off and response to Lorraine Hansberry’s classic, A Raisin in the Sun.

The play’s two acts are set 50 years apart – before and after the action of Hansberry’s play. Act 1 revolves around a white couple selling their home to a black family, the first to move into the neighborhood. In Act 2, the same actors play different characters. This time it’s the white couple looking to buy the same house in a now all-black neighborhood that is gentrifying.

“I love that this play will always spark conversations about race, gentrification, PTSD and other pressing issues we deal with in this country,” says the play's director, Melvin Huffnagle. “I believe conversations about the issues are the path to figuring out ways we all can work together to be better people to one another.”

Tickets for The Mousetrap and Pericles are now available on the FIU Theatre website. To browse through the digital archive, which includes photos, posters, and programs from throughout the theatre's fifty seasons, visit FIU's library site on digitalcommons.