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Neil Simon’s Famed Farce “Rumors” Comes to Blackbox Studio Theater

Ursinus College theater continues its high energy, sesquicentennial season with Rumors by Neil Simon. Actor, director and educator Neill Hartley returns to Ursinus as a guest director for the sixth time to helm the only farce penned by the acclaimed playwright, screenwriter and author.

Rumors performances are in the Blackbox Studio Theater in the Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center on the Ursinus College campus on Thursday, October 31, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, November 1, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, November 2, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, November 3, at 2 p.m.

An anniversary party in an elegant, suburban living room takes a scandalous turn when the deputy mayor is shot, and his wife goes missing. In this laugh out loud farce, the characters’ race against the clock to find “the story” before it spreads outside the living room. Everyone has a secret and the audience gets a front row seat as each outrageous moment is followed by another.

Hartley, an assistant professor at University of the Arts, has directed more than 65 shows for a variety of theaters and colleges and has appeared as an actor in The Sixth Sense and House of Cards. He says that unlike Simon’s other comedies, such as The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park, Rumors has a different set of challenges, but they pay off in the final product.

“You’ve got to tell the story clearly and cleanly,” he says. “How things link together takes precedence over character development. The humor comes from the almost ridiculous series of coincidences. It also requires a lot of energy from the actors.”

While he’s directed two other Neil Simon plays, Hartley says the writing makes Rumors one of his favorites, but to truly make the farce work, between five and 10 doors is required on set. The Ursinus production’s tiered set design pairs well with the script, creating a unique experience.

“I seldom laugh out loud when I’m reading a play, but I do every time I read Rumors,” Hartley says.

Hartley is joined by professional designers from the Philadelphia area theater community. Meghan Jones is the technical director; Dirk Durossette is designing the set; Brian Strachan is designing costumes; and Sue Ragusa is designing the lighting.

Tickets are $8 for the general public and $5 for seniors, students and staff. Tickets can be purchased online at ursinus.edu/tickets and they will be available at the box office before the show. For inquiries, please contact boxoffice@ursinus.edu or (610) 409-3030. —By Jordan Scharaga ’17