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U of M Theatre To Perform Award-Winning Historical Play April 13-15, 19-22
For release: April 10, 2006
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The University of Memphis' Department of Theatre & Dance will present The Clearing, the award winning masterpiece by British Playwright Helen Edmundson, directed by Jennifer Elizabeth Bauer. The production runs April 13-15 and 19-22 in the Mainstage Theatre with all performances beginning at 8 p.m. Make your reservation by calling the theatre box office at 901/678-2576.

This powerful, passionate, heartbreaking story tells of the vast sweep of history and the fragility of love during a time of persecution. Hunted by the English, the Irish fight against Oliver Cromwell's ruthless attempt at ethnic cleansing. The Clearing raises questions of our own sense of national identity, our humanity, and how history is both a blessing and a warning for us all.

The play centers on the dilemma of Robert Preston, an English Protestant, who marries Madeleine O'Hart Preston, an Irish Catholic, and their love for their son, Ralph. Though passionately in love with one another, the snatching of Killaine Farrell, Madeleine's childhood friend and adopted sibling, and her immanent transplantation to the Barbados, causes a tear in the family that is irreparable. Madeleine's desperation to hold her entire family together, including Killaine, leads her to seek assistance from the cold and heartless Governor, Sir Charles Sturman. Sturman delivers an ultimatum to Robert Preston – each choice leaves Robert and Madeleine's life in total destruction.

The Clearing is a tale of brutality. It is a true ethnic cleansing hundreds of years before the term came to popular use. At the time this play is set, England had been working on a political and military conquest of Ireland for centuries. The civil war of the 1640's gave England a complete and total military victory over the Irish. Having conquered Ireland militarily, they set out to annihilate it socially.

Helen Edmundson, author of The Clearing, founded the female agitprop ensemble Red Stockings Theatre Company in 1988, in which she worked as an actress, writer, and director. Her writing credits with Red Stockings include Ladies in the Lift (Manchester Evening News Theatre Award nomination), Running Gags, Breaking Rank, Oh Yes We Can, and The Influence. She also worked as an actress in various Northwest England theatres and on television, and was dramaturge for the Northwest Playwrights Workshop.

Her first play, Flying, was presented at the Royal National Theatre Studio in 1990. Other works include the two short television films One Day and Stella. She has written three acclaimed stage adaptations for Shared Experience Theatre: Anna Karenina (Time Out Award, Theatre Manager's Association Award for Best Touring Production), The Mill on the Floss, and War and Peace (also staged at the National Theatre).

The Clearing won the Time Out Theatre Award and was the joint winner of the John Whiting Award. Anna Karenina appeared at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival in 1998. Ms. Edmundson studied at Manchester University, where she was also a part-time Tutor in Drama.

The Clearing
Helen Edmundson
Directed by Jennifer Elizabeth Bauer
April 13-15 and 19-22 at 8 p.m.
University of Memphis
Department of Theatre & Dance
3745 Central Ave
Tickets: $10 and $15

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