Jean-Louis Baldet created the summer Festival Rep in 1981 as way to make Florida Atlantic University students work with professional actors. Since then, he says, the event has become as good as any regional theater production.
"The students that get into these shows are auditioned, and they have a number of extremely high standards in order to get it," Baldet says. "They are really well tuned and extremely well trained for that goal. So what we see then is that the students are always delighted to work with professionals."
This year's Festival Rep begins Friday and runs until Aug. 3 at the university's main campus in Boca Raton. The lineup includes a drama, "August: Osage County"; a contemporary musical, "Bonnie & Clyde"; and two concerts, the "352 Keys: Piano Gala Extravaganza," with four pianists, and a performance by the FAU Swing Era Jazz Band.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning "August: Osage County" will open the festival at 7 p.m. Friday. The play, directed by Baldet, follows the turbulent relationships within an Oklahoma family. The play will run through July 26 at FAU's Studio One Theatre.
"This production is long and extremely difficult and emotional," Baldet says. "But it also has some incredibly funny moments. The most difficult thing for everybody, including the professionals, is this variation of emotions."
Kim Ostrenko, a hired professional actress, plays Violet, the family's prescription-drug-addicted matriarch. For Ostrenko, the part has been a challenge.
"It's a great role, but it's a beast of a role," she says. "Her emotions really ricochet. She's a very unhappy person, and makes everyone else miserable."
Yet Ostrenko believes the family conflicts will hook the audience.
"They are going to recognize at least one family member from their own family," the actress says. "Every family has skeletons in the closet and dark secrets."
On a completely different tone, the musical "Bonnie & Clyde" will run from July 5 through July 27 at the University Theatre, telling the story of the infamous Great Depression robbers.
Bruce Linser, the musical's director, wants to show the duo's human side.
"The media and Hollywood have always sort of glamorized or demonized bad people. I think there's always a human story behind people that do things wrong," he says. "Bonnie and Clyde were actual, real people with real goals and real dreams. They really became what they became out of desperation."
Festival Rep will take place at Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Road, in Boca Raton. Tickets cost $12-$20. For showtimes and tickets, call 800-564-9539 or go to FAU.edu/festivalrep.
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