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Thursday, Feb. 5, 2004 08:22 pm

Backstage pass

Backstage pass

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Two productions of note take place this week and next on local stages.

Edward Albee's drama Three Tall Women opens Friday at Springfield Theatre Centre, playing Feb. 6-8 and Feb. 13-15. Ed Smith directs the 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which features Marian Levin, Marla Johnson, and Shirene Thomas.

Three Tall Women brought Albee back in critics' favor and garnered his third Pulitzer (the previous awards were for A Delicate Balance and Seascape). Three Tall Women has also become one of his most popular plays and his most personal.

"This is the most difficult and challenging play I've ever done," says Levin, who has been acting, choreographing and directing in Springfield for many years. Levin plays a woman who is looking back over her life, a role Albee modeled after his own adoptive mother. He waited until after her death to write the play.

I don't want to give away how Albee manages to pull the rug out from under our feet, but he does it extremely well. Act One and Act Two are almost like two separate plays, which adds to the theatricality of the piece and explains why Albee, who gave us Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, is still a master of the craft.

It's a memory play filled with humor, pain and pathos. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to meet yourself at different periods of your life and ask the question "How did I become you?" this is a play you should make a point to see. (For tickets, call the Theatre Centre box office at 523-0878.)

All Those Years Ago, Bob Bartel's play about Beatle George Harrison's 1963 visit to the southern Illinois town of Benton, will be performed at the Center for the Arts. Shows are scheduled at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 14. From 6 p.m.-7:30, dinner will be served, with The Britles, a Beatles tribute band performing during intermission.

Bartel's play, which premiered at Southeast High School a couple of years ago, takes a look at a little-known piece of Illinois history when young George Harrison visited his sister Louise. Bartel directs the show and Chris Katholic plays Harrison. (For tickets, call 523-ARTS.)

Chicago's famed Second City comedy troupe performs at Sangamon Auditorium at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7. (For tickets, call 206-6160.)

Here's a schedule of auditions this weekend:

• Chorus auditions for a concert-version of Les Misérables take place from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 7, and 1 p.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 8, at the Center for the Arts. The concert will be performed twice on May 1 as a fundraiser for the Center. Thayne Erney and Judy Denton are directing the production. (For information, call 726-8443.)

• Mike Savage is holding auditions for the Shakespeare comedy As You Like It, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Springfield Theatre Centre lounge. This production, which runs March 5-7 and March 12-14, is a new version recently produced off-Broadway in New York.

• Wildloon Productions will audition actors and singers for the summer season of shows that run in the outdoor theater at New Salem. Auditions are scheduled from 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday, Feb. 7, at the First United Methodist Church in Petersburg. The shows include a musical version of Tom Sawyer, a new musical titled The Spitfire Grill, Quilters, and the return of John Ahart's Your Obedient Servant, A. Lincoln.

Why all of these theaters are holding auditions for their shows at the exact same time (and at different locations) is beyond me. One thing's certain: It'll keep actors on the move this weekend.

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