The theatre department at Slippery Rock University will be performing “Seussical” as they conclude their 2023 main stage season. The show will be performed in the Miller Theatre Performing Arts Center on April 21-22 at 7:30 p.m. and April 23 at 2 p.m.
Four hundred elementary students from the surrounding community will be bused in for opening night. The final performance will take place during the department’s first-ever matinee.
“Seventy percent of actors have their first professional contract doing a show for children,” Director Aaron Galligan-Stierle, a former Broadway actor who is now the head of SRU musical theatre, said. “That was very exciting to me…I want to make sure that we are incorporating that into the curriculum for musical theatre students.”
The cast includes 18 actors with 10 understudies. An additional 20 to 25 students are involved in stage management, costuming, set design and various other aspects of the show.
The show has been in production since January, with auditions taking place in Dec. 2022. Students have rehearsed three times a week throughout the duration of the semester.
Galligan-Stierle said he chose Seussical for several reasons.
“I knew that most of our students knew the show and had been involved in some capacity,” he said.
He also has a personal relationship with the writers of the original musical, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, whom he met during the production of a Broadway musical.
SRU’s version of the show will be a “deconstruction of a traditional approach to the piece.”
“I wanted to explore it from a new perspective and form sort of an intellectual collegiate experience…” Galligan-Stierle said, “not necessarily a standard children’s theatre approach.”
Though the musical itself is based on the works and characters of Dr. Seuss, this production will not feature any traditional “Seussian” imagery.
“We don’t have the Seussian shapes and we don’t have the Seussian color palette,” Galligan-Stierle said. “We’ve decided to approach it from sort of a dramaturgical point of view.”
The plot centers around a lonely child in need of care and support. Using his imagination, he creates a fantastical world to help him cope with his emotions and find community.
“We’re looking at it through a very specific lens…all of our decisions artistically and design-wise have all threaded through that idea of a child who is alone who wants to be to have connection,” Galligan-Stierle said.
Aside from children, the director wanted to appeal to the general Slippery Rock community as well.
“It felt really important to me to engage our community with the work that’s happening,” he said. “ I don’t want it to be this separate thing that the college is.”