Threepenny Opera features USD alums When the USD Departments of Music and Theatre present The Threepenny Opera, Dec. 8-11 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. in Theatre I of the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts, audiences will find a familiar face playing the lead character of Macheath.
Eric Johnson, a USD alum, returns to Theatre I to reprise the role of Macheath, a role he played during the 1974-75 inaugural season in the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts.
Audiences may also remember Johnson's performances in the USD production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A Little Night Music, and Tartuffe, the first show ever performed in Theatre I. More recently, Johnson served as guest director for the 1995 production of Dracula, a Musical Nightmare and appeared in the 1994 production of Picnic.
After leaving USD, Johnson launched a successful Broadway career, appearing in Aspects of Love, Me and My Girl, and Chess. He also toured the country with the Broadway Company of Annie and appeared in numerous off-Broadway productions and television shows.
A member of the professional unions for actors (AEA, SAG, and AFTRA) Johnson has now relocated to Rapid City. He works extensively with the Black Hills Playhouse, having served as actor, director, and music director. Johnson also directs productions for theatres in Sioux Falls and Yankton, on occasion.
The Threepenny Opera is Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's Tony Award-winning musical. Set on the streets of London around the time of Queen Victoria's coronation, it features Macheath and his well-organized band of beggars and thieves. It tells a story of love, loyalty and betrayal. The song Mack the Knife is one of the musical's most memorable tunes.
Jan Swank, managing artistic director of the Black Hills Playhouse and another USD alum, directs the musical. Ken Oakley, a graduate student and an alum of the music department, serves as vocal director, while Dr. Paul Cherry, professor of music, conducts the orchestra.
The scenery, which is constructed predominantly of metal and which extends the action into the theatre auditorium, has been designed by Royce Miller, Sioux Falls. Miller is completing his BFA in theatre with an emphasis in scenic design. As her thesis project for the MFA in costume design, Heidi Schiemer incorporates unusual contemporary fabrics and vivid colors to help create character. The lighting, which features non-traditional hanging positions and odd angles, is designed by Jeremy Olson, a senior theatre major from Colby, KS.
Tickets for The ThreePenny Opera are $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens and youth, and $2 for USD students with ID. Special rates are available for groups of 10 or more. Reservations can be made by calling the USD Theatre Box Office at (605) 677-5400. Box office hours are 1 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. on weekends.