Butler University will participate in a weeklong celebration of Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut from September 7-14 that includes Butler Theatre’s staged reading of Vonnegut’s play Happy Birthday, Wanda June, and Indy Opera’s world premiere of the opera version of that play, with music written by Butler Music Professor Richard Auldon Clark.
Also part of the events will be Butler University Performs the Music of Kurt Vonnegut, featuring Clark and the Butler Symphony Orchestra performing compositions inspired by Vonnegut’s works from Mother Night and Breakfast of Champions composed by Howard Cass and Cosmos Cantata composed by Seymour Barab. The performance will take place Saturday, September 10, at 5:30 PM in the Basile Opera Center, 4011 North Pennsylvania Street.
Butler Theatre’s reading of the play will take place Thursday, September 8, at 7:00 PM in the Schrott Center for the Arts. The event is free and open to the public without tickets. The staged reading will feature local professional Equity actors and Butler Theatre students, under the direction of Theatre Professor William Fisher.
The opera Happy Birthday, Wanda June will be performed September 16-18, with curtain times at 8:00 PM, 7:30 PM, and 2:30 PM, respectively. The opera has an embargoed surprise ending to be revealed on opening night of the world premiere. The opera is a joint project between Kurt Vonnegut and Clark, who worked on it together for some years in Vonnegut’s New York brownstone. Directed by Metropolitan Opera Stage Director Eric Einhorn, the work has received the endorsement of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission as a Legacy Project.
Happy Birthday, Wanda June began life as a play in October 1971 at New York’s Theater de Lys. The play was Vonnegut’s first attempt at a stage work. Written in 1970 to protest the Vietnam War, the play blends the sacred and the profane to produce off-the-wall and strangely funny satires.
Its plot is based loosely on the Greek legends of Odysseus and Penelope—it involves the unexpected return of a mercenary career solider/hunter named Harold Ryan and his wife, Penelope. When Harold left Penelope, she was a ditzy carhop; when he returns after eight years lost in the Amazon, he finds that she has gone to college, majored in English lit and changed her attitude about the macho man she married.
More information and tickets for all events are available at www.IndyOpera.org.
Other events on the schedule for the week are:
-A panel discussion and opening celebration, September 7 at 5:30 PM at the Indianapolis Arts Center Auditorium, 820 East 67th Street. Panelists for the event include: Indianapolis Opera General Director Kevin Patterson, Happy Birthday, Wanda June Stage Director Eric Einhorn, Richard Auldon Clark, and Vonnegut Memorial Library Director of Education Max Goller. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required.
–Slaughterhouse-Five film screening, Friday, September 9, at 8:00 PM in the Basile Opera Center, 4011 North Pennsylvania Street. Tickets are $10.
-Brunch of Champions, Sunday, September 11, 12:30-2:30 PM, at Bluebeard, 653 Virginia Avenue. The cast of Happy Birthday, Wanda June dines and talks about the creative process, Vonnegut and music. Brunch consists of a three-course meal including dessert and a specialty cocktail.
-Vonnegut Round Table Performance, Monday, September 12, 5:30 PM, at Indy Reads Books, 911 Massachusetts Avenue. Indianapolis Opera Resident Artists perform Vonnegut-inspired songs and operatic favorites. The event is free, but tickets are required.