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'Dead Man's Cell Phone' opens next week at Catawba

By Verity Pryor-Harden
For The Salisbury Post
Technology’s unique ability to continue a man’s life after his death and to bring unexpected strangers together is explored in Catawba College’s production of “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.”
Directed by Theatre Arts adjunct faculty member Craig Kolkebeck in the style of Japanese Noh theatre, the production plays in the Florence Busby-Corriher Theatre 6:55 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7 and Wednesday, Feb. 8, and at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9 through Saturday, Feb. 11.
When Kolkebeck first accepted the responsibility of directing “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” and read the script, he says that playwright Sarah Ruhl’s contemporary play “jumped out at me” and, in a way, directed itself. After spending more than a year living and working in Japan, Kolkebeck was influenced by the Japanese style of theatre and wanted to introduce aspects of its fluidity and respectfulness to the American stage.
“I hate scene changes and seeing stage hands move scenic elements. Why not dance the set pieces on and off?” So Kolkebeck decided to bring Japanese Noh into the picture and invited student choreographer Sydney Berk to invent the movement that would enable a show without scene changes.
“I experienced a lot of excitement and a lot of fear,” recalled Berk after first agreeing to choreograph “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.” Never having choreographed a show before, she was thrust into the task of using a hodge-podge of musical styles while still keeping the influence of Japanese Noh throughout the play.
Similarly, costume designer Sara Coon and set designer Chris Speer were also presented with unique first-time experiences in design, while creating under the Noh influence.
Some may find it surprising that Kolkebeck entrusted such big responsibilities in a production to students. “The bottom line is: I like people to do what I think they do best,” Kolkebeck explained. “They’re in a nurturing environment with great people above them to encourage and guide them, so let them do their jobs.”
Cast members include Kylie Beinke, Gabriella Bressi, Tyler Burkett, Katie Carpenter, Leana Guzman, Sean Henderson, Katie Higgins, Annabelle Prince, Katlyn Shaw, and Lara Williams.
Crew members and designers include Jerry Archer, Ashley Jackson, Zach McRae, Maggie Saunders and Donna Steele. Theatre arts professor Christopher Zink is lighting designer.
Tickets for “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and non-Catawba students. For more details, please call the Catawba College Theatre Box Office at 704-637-4481.

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