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July, 2019

Thornton Wilder Is Star of 2008 Festival 

By Mary F. McCarthy

Audiences will be treated to a double helping of Thornton Wilder at CUA's festival.

CUA’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music will present a weeklong festival of music, drama, lectures and discussions from Monday, Feb. 25, to Sunday, March 2, culminating in alternating performances of Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town and Ned Rorem’s opera version of that beloved American play.

The opera, conducted by the music school's dean, Murry Sidlin, will be staged on Thursday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. The play will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 29, and Sunday, March 2, at 2 p.m. All performances will be at CUA’s Hartke Theatre.

CUA’s musical theater students will perform the play as well as the opera.

Wilder, who lived from 1897 to 1975, won two Pulitzer Prizes for drama as well as a National Book award. His 1938 Our Town, which earned one of those Pulitzers, is produced hundreds of times a year by amateurs and professionals alike (including a recent Broadway revival starring Paul Newman).

Films and lectures on the work of Thornton Wilder will be presented at CUA beginning on Feb. 25. The discussions will feature experts including Rorem, poet and librettist of the opera J.D. McClatchy, Wilder’s literary executor and nephew Tappan Wilder, art historian Helen Langa, College of New Jersey English professor and Wilder scholar Lincoln Konkle, musicologist Elise Kirk, and CUA English professor and Wilder scholar Christopher Wheatley. The events will also include the premiere of new opera versions of several of Wilder’s three-minute plays as well as dramatic readings of his plays with the accompaniment of original incidental music. These short operas and the incidental music have been composed by CUA music students.

Topics of the discussion events will include the work of Wilder and Rorem, the juxtaposition of their work and how an opera is made. This 2008 President’s Festival of the Arts is the first time that the play and the opera will be performed in tandem in the same setting.

The full name of the 2008 festival is “Catholic University President’s Festival of the Arts presents … WILDER AND WILDER (Thornton, that is…)” As the dean of the music school explains, the wordplay was carefully chosen: “This is the ideal opportunity for people to be doubly reminded of the significance of one of America’s most important plays. We’ve known about Wilder the dramatist. This will be one of the few times that music and the works of Thornton Wilder have been explored through the opera of Our Town and his mini plays.”

The films and lectures are free and open to the public. Ticket prices for each performance of Our Town are $5 for students, $10 for faculty and staff and $15 for general admission. Call 202-319-5416 or visit for additional information about tickets and the schedule of films and lectures.

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Last Revised 25-Jan-08 11:45 AM.