The University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Theatre and Dance will mark the 50th anniversary of the longest-running musical in American theatre history, “The Fantasticks,” written by College of Fine Arts alumni Tom Jones (B.F.A. ’49, M.F.A. ’51) and Harvey Schmidt (B.F.A. ’52), with a sold-out celebration weekend, Oct. 15-16.
The event will honor the Broadway icons and celebrate the distinguished history of the department and the rich influence its talented alumni continue to exert in the world of theatre, dance and the performing arts.
The 50th anniversary weekend begins on Friday, Oct. 15 with the premiere performance of “Trying to Remember,” a portfolio of theatre songs by Jones and Schmidt. The revue-style performance will feature published and performed songs along with never-before-heard melodies from the personal collections of Jones and Schmidt.
Saturday, Oct. 16 the Department of Theatre and Dance will host a series of free, public celebrity guest-artist panel discussions and presentations starting with a keynote address by prolific playwright and university faculty member Steven Dietz. Dietz’s speech titled “How The Future Begins” will introduce a discussion led by Jones and Schmidt recounting the creation of “The Fantasticks” from its inception to the present.
Additional panels led by Austin American-Statesman writer Michael Barnes, Austin Chronicle writer Robert Faires, Texas Performing Arts Director and Associate Dean Kathy Panoff and Zach Theatre artistic director Dave Steakley will be composed of university alumni: Bruce McGill (“Animal House”), Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner Robert Schenkkan (HBO series “The Pacific” and play “The Kentucky Cycle”), choreographer Denny Berry (“The Phantom of the Opera”) and actor Todd Lowe (HBO series “True Blood“) and many others as they head conversations highlighting the impact of new work, the magic of musical theatre and Broadway, the business behind commercial success and careers beyond the stage and screen. This component of the weekend’s events is free an open to the public. For more information about the panels, visit “The Fantasticks“ online.
Saturday evening there will be a private performance of “The Fantasticks” directed by Rod Caspers, with music direction by Lyn Koenning. Following the performance, a dinner and ceremony in the James Connally Ballroom at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center will close the weekend. As part of the evening’s events, Jones and Schmidt will receive the highest honor bestowed by the College of Fine Arts, the E. William Doty Award. The pair will autograph a Steinway and Sons Model “O” grand piano provided by Steinway Piano Gallery of Austin and used in department production of “The Fantasticks.” The signature piano will be made available for sale with a portion of the proceeds benefiting The University of Texas at Austin College of Fine Arts “Texas Talent” capital campaign.
Jones and Schmidt began collaborating while students at The University of Texas at Austin as members of the Curtain Club, a student organization preceding the Department of Drama, now Theatre and Dance. Their first full-length musical written after graduation, “The Fantasticks,” premiered at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in New York on May 3, 1960 where it ran for 42 years and 17,162 performances. The revival opened on Aug. 23, 2006, at the off-Broadway Snapple Theater Center, where it continues to run.
The public is invited to attend performances of “The Fantasticks” Oct. 15, 17, 20, 21, 22 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 17 and 24 at 2 p.m. at the B. Iden Payne Theatre in the F. Loren Winship Drama Building (WIN) at the intersection of 23rd and San Jacinto streets. Tickets, $20 adults, $17 faculty/staff and seniors, $10 students are now on sale at the following authorized ticket outlets: the Bass Concert Hall Box Office, most H-E-B stores and all Texas Box Office outlets, online at www.TexasPerformingArts.org, or by calling 512-477-6060 or 800-982-BEVO.
“The Fantasticks” is presented at The University of Texas at Austin through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI).