Friday, October 28, 2016

USNA Masqueraders Welcomes New Director

The midshipman theater group, known as the Masqueraders, are getting ready for their fall production, and this year brings some staff changes.

Dr. Megan Geigner became the newest Director of the Masqueraders on Aug. 1, as well as an Assistant Professor of English. Geigner brings experience and enthusiasm to her new position, and looks forward to working with the midshipmen.

“It is a great joy to be the Masqueraders' director,” said Geigner. “The students who participate in the group are a dream to work with, and I feel lucky to spend 20-plus hours a week with them!”

Prior to moving to Annapolis, Geigner received her doctorate in Theatre and Drama from Northwestern University. While at Northwestern she worked on, “A Funny Thing Happended on the Way to the Forum,” “Cabaret,” and a set of student original plays called “State(s) of America”. She is an Artistic Associate with Chicago’s TimeLine Theatre, where she dramaturged “Chimerica” and “Danny Casolaro Died for You.”

She has also worked with several other theatres in Chicago including Court Theatre, Remy Bumppo, and Mary Arrchie. Dr. Geigner has directed plays at the University of Chicago, Reed College, and Illinois State University. She spent seven seasons working the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

Her work on theatre and drama has been published in Modern Drama, New England Theatre Journal, Theatre History Studies, Cosmopolitan Review, and Theatre Journal.

Geigner took over the director role from Associate Professor Christy Stanlake who served as Director of the Masqueraders for fourteen years. Stanlake continues to teach English at USNA.

“The Masqueraders were unbelievably lucky to have the talents of Professor Stanlake for 14 years,” said Geigner. “She has been invaluable to me in showing me the ropes of the academy, supporting me and the students, and fostering a positive environment for the club.”

The Masqueraders is USNA’s oldest extracurricular activity. Officially established in 1907, the group seeks to promote and stimulate interest in the theatre within the Brigade of Midshipmen, and strives to further midshipmen’s intellectual development through the practical experience of dramatic literature.

Under Geigner’s direction, she plans to foster this identity and promote the group as a signature program in the master academic plan, all while adding a more contemporary repertoire to the group’s performances.

“I am hoping to do contemporary work with them more regularly – plays written since 2000, or even plays written in the last year, and maybe midshipmen-written plays,” said Geigner. “Prior to coming here, I was involved with Chicago's professional theatre scene and had the privilege of helping to develop new plays and work on the first regional theatre productions of plays after their Broadway runs. I hope to bring some of my skills in working with new plays here to the academy.”

Geigner makes her USNA directorial debut with Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing,” which she began planning in earnest shortly after her arrival on the Yard.

“When asked to select a play for the fall, and knowing that the students had been performing Shakespeare every four years, I was excited to choose ‘Much Ado,’” said Geigner. “In the last decade or so, the Masqueraders have done Shakespearean tragedies and histories, so I wanted the group to have the opportunity to do a comedy. I figure that so much of what our midshipmen do is serious and weighty, so let them tackle the serious and weighty language of Shakespeare in order to tell jokes.”

Additionally, Geigner thought the play was appropriate for this time in USNA’s history.

“At its heart, this is a play about gender relations, and it seemed that there was no better time to do it than on the 40th anniversary of women at the academy,” said Geigner.

One of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, “Much Ado about Nothing” delights audiences with its dual and dueling ideas of love, courtship, and the proper behavior of the sexes. It is thought to have been written in 1598 and 1599 and takes place in Messina, a Sicilian port city. Geigner chose to reset the play in the American southwest just after World War I.

“My production is set in 1919 in New Mexico because prior to the Nineteenth Amendment, which didn't go into effect until August of 1920, New Mexico was the only state in the West that didn't have women's suffrage,” she said. “This sets Beatrice and Hero up nicely to be on opposite sides of socio-political history: Beatrice is an outspoken suffragette and Hero is an obedient daughter.”

Midshipman 1st Class Navarro, who plays Hero, agrees with the appropriateness of the play.

“We often do obscure shows, but this one is very relatable and easy to understand,” she said.

Setting the play in New Mexico gives Geigner and the midshipmen a chance to play with the characters as well.

“New Mexico also had a sense of the rugged Wild West so the character of Dogberry, the local sheriff, can play the renegade (albeit absentminded) cowboy,” said Geigner.

The comical character Dogberry is played by Midshipman 1st Class Evan Wray, whose opinion of Shakespeare has changed with his work in the Masqueraders.

“I didn’t think that I liked Shakespeare, and then I read this play, and it’s really funny,” he said. “I think this is the funniest production we have done since I have been part of the Masqueraders.”

The play’s performance dates are November 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 8 p.m., and November 20 at 2 p.m. in Mahan Theater. Tickets cost $13 for the public, $5 for midshipmen. To purchase tickets visit: Tickets can also be purchased at the door the evening of each show.

Mahan Hall is located on Maryland Avenue, near Gate 3. Any military or DoD personnel with a valid military ID can drive directly onto the Academy grounds. The closest parking to the theater is Alumni Hall parking lot. There is limited parking in front of Mahan Hall.

For all other audiences, parking is available out in town. Gate 3 (located at the end of Maryland Avenue) is open until 9 p.m. to any visitor with a valid government-issued photo ID.  Gate 1 (located at the end of King George Street) is open until 1 a.m. on weekends.

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