Collective Face Theatre’s Fall season continues with ‘Master Class’

Malinda Davis Smith as Maria Callas in Collective Face Theatre Ensemble’s ‘Master Class.’

The 2021 FALL FRACTAL SEASON continues for Collective Face Theatre Ensemble with the performance of “Master Class” by Terrance McNally. The play debuts Nov. 12 at Savannah State University’s Kennedy Recital Hall.

“McNally work is really beautiful, and I thought it would be a good homage to him. Especially this play,” said “Master Class” director and designer David I.L. Poole, award-winning Artistic Director for The Collective Face Theatre Ensemble.

McNally died of Covid-19 complications in March of 2020 and sometime after, Collective Face Theatre Ensemble had intended to do stage readings of McNally works during the Covid restrictions, but his estate would not allow any productions to produce zoom or recorded productions but now with restrictions being lifted the ensemble is excited about producing this play.

“Master Class” is a Tony Award winning play about famed opera singer Maria Callas who, after a spectacular career that saw her become the undisputed star of the world’s greatest Opera Houses, accepts an invitation to conduct a series of master classes to a select group of young vocal students at the Juilliard School in New York.

“Callas has been a bucket list role for a lot of female actors in the area, especially our actress Malinda Davis Smith. The play also deals with opera. So, I was very much interested. One of my bucket lists is someday as a director, I want to direct an opera,” said Poole.

McNally’s play is a fictional account and tribute to Callas as she takes center-stage one more time, as she passes on to her students, and to the audience the experiences and lessons of a lifetime.

“She goes through her memories, recounts her past well, her non-marriage with Aristotle Onassis, and how art is created, how you take someone who is a genius and what is that genius and art. This is a question that all of us deal with, no matter what discipline of art we’re in,” Poole said.

Those involved say the audience will witness Callas’ passion and commitment and realize the uniqueness of her great talent as she cajoles and lectures her students, delivering wisdom and insults in true diva style as she shares her truth about what one must sacrifice for art. 

“How much sacrifice did she take just to become what she became? She goes through these lessons with the students that come into this ‘Master Class’. There’s also that idea of showing kindness and showing weakness and a vulnerability, and it’s a very fascinating piece in that sense,” said Poole.

The cast of the show has been rehearsing for months and it will include some familiar Collective Face performers as well some making their debuts with the company. 

The cast includes Hannah Kathryn Dodson as Soprano One (Sophie); Robert Cottle as Tenor (Tony); Brenna Dudley as Soprano Two (Sharon); Brandon Kaufman as Accompanist (Manny) and Malinda Davis Smith as Maria Callas. 

“It’s a cast of five, and they are phenomenal. Brenna, from Moon River Opera company, voice is unbelievable. Brandon Kaufman, who is the accompanist, is wonderful on the piano. Robert Cottle, who is a Collective Face member, is a phenomenal musician himself. We have these great musicians in this play, and that part of it was wonderful because I just have to sit back and let them do their thing and Malinda, of course, leading the whole cast is just unbelievable. She will break your heart at times,” said Poole.

“Master Class” is rated PG13 due to mild sexual situations and language. Collective Face is creating this in collaboration with Players by the Sea student theater group at Savannah State University (SSU). The performances will be at SSU’s Kennedy Fine Arts Building in Kennedy Recital Hall  (Nov 12, 13, 19, 20 at 8pm, Nov 14, 21 at 3pm). Tickets can be purchased in advance online through collectiveface.ludus.com or collectiveface.org. 


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