‘Arabian Nights’ play opens at Pellissippi State Community College

Staging a classic takes courage, invention, and a committed cast and crew, and all of those essentials are in place for the opening performance of “Arabian Nights” at Pellissippi State Community College on Nov. 2.

The presentation is part of the Arts at Pellissippi State, an ongoing opportunity for the community to enjoy cultural activities ranging from music and theatre to international celebrations, lectures, and the visual arts.

Performances of “Arabian Nights” are Friday and Saturday, Nov. 2-3, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 4, 2 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, Nov. 9-10, 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m. All showings are in the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the Hardin Valley Campus.

Charles R. Miller, who directs the college’s theatrical presentations, has assembled one of the largest casts in a decade for “Arabian Nights.” The show features the technical expertise of Claude Hardy, a new assistant professor of Theatre.

Audiences will find “Arabian Nights” as dramatic as it is timeless, says Miller. It’s wedding night in the palace of King Shahrayar. By morning, the new queen, Shahrazad, is to be put to death like a thousand young brides before her. But she has a gift that can save her, the power of storytelling. Every night, she must tell a story to save her own life.

For the 18-member group of Pellissippi State students, alumni and community residents who make up the cast, the stakes are also pretty high. Shahrazad tells seven stories, and each one must be more compelling than the last. Cast and crew must follow suit.

“That’s really the key to this show,” said Professor Miller. “It has to get bigger and bolder from story to story.”

Miller chose to present a contemporary adaptation of “Arabian Nights” by Dominic Cooke, a former associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Cooke directed the show three years ago and drew rave reviews from London critics.

“It’s a very simplistic script when you read it, and it’s all about how you do the staging around it,” said Miller. “This is going to have dance, music, mime, puppetry.” Claude Hardy has created a set design with five platforms that can be moved and reconfigured for each story that Shahrazad tells.

The show also requires nimble actors who can take on more than one role.

“The actors are getting to do a lot of different things,” Miller said. “They’re getting to do dance, puppetry and acting. With this show, in particular, their level of focus and discipline has to be absolute. There are very few things at the college level that teach you focus and discipline the way theatre does.”

“Arabian Nights” is the first of two family-friendly shows scheduled for this semester. The second is “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” with The WordPlayers in December.

Cost of admission to “Arabian Nights” is $8 for Pellissippi State faculty, staff, and students; $10 for other students; and $12 for adults.

Tickets may be purchased through the Arts at Pellissippi State website, www.pstcc.edu/arts, or by calling (865) 694-6400. They also may be reserved by phone at (865) 694-6684 or by email at foundation@pstcc.edu.

Proceeds go to the Pellissippi State Foundation to benefit the Theatre program.

To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action for Pellissippi State, (865) 694-6607 or humanresources@pstcc.edu.