Opera by local playwright to open at Kennedy Center

Sunday, November 4, 2001

Mr. Averill is going to Washington.

A musical adaptation of "The Emperor's New Clothes" by Lawrence playwright-composer Ric Averill will open Nov. 23 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Averill will leave Nov. 15 for the nation's capital for three weeks of rehearsals, school performances and "meet the composer-director" sessions.


Photo courtesy Scott Suchman

From left, Reyalto (Kathryn Rice), the Emperor (Scott Sedar) and Simon (Tom Sellwood) interact during a scene from "The Emperor's New Clothes," an adaptation by Lawrence playwright Ric Averill that opens this month at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The operatic adaptation of the popular Hans Christian Andersen story has been in the works for more than a year. Averill's libretto updates the classic tale with a love story and a funny ending.

"At the Kennedy Center in June 2000, the play was in development at the New Visions/New Voices (play development symposium) along with five other plays," said Averill, Kansas University alumnus and co-founder of the Seem-To-Be Players, a professional children's theater company based in Lawrence.

KU Opera did a workshop staging of "The Emperor's New Clothes" in January under the direction of Mark Ferrell, associate professor of music. A representative from the Kennedy Center attended the show and later notified Averill that the organization wanted to commission his work.

Although it is the first opera Averill has composed for the center, he previously has had two plays selected for the New Visions/New Voices symposium.

The opera has undergone several rewrites and will be directed in Washington by Graham Whitehead, director of Child's Play Theatre in Tempe, Ariz. Averill flew to Washington in June to help select the five-member cast.

"The singers are of operatic quality and have musical theater background," he said.

Averill and a 10-piece orchestra will record the music for the show Thursday at the Lied Center.

"The Emperor's New Clothes" will run through Dec. 23. School performances are planned during the week, with public performances on the weekend.

"They are tentatively planning to tour it in 2003-2004," Averill said, adding that he is hoping a partnership can be formed between the Lawrence Arts Center and the Lied Center to book the show in Lawrence.

"What's most exciting about this is it combines my original intention to become a composer with the career I fell into, that being a playwright," he said. "It's putting being a writer and composer together."

Averill has several other projects in the planning stage, including a new piece with a Southwest flavor and large puppets for the Santa Fe Opera and a children's opera with a New York opera company.