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Alain Barker
IU Jacobs School of Music

John Kinzer
Department of Theatre and Drama

Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2011

'PASSION with Tropes' to premiere at IU as immersive, interactive production

WHAT: PASSION with Tropes by composer Don Freund
WHEN: Friday, May 20, and Saturday, May 21, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Ruth N. Halls Theatre, 275 N. Jordan Avenue, Bloomington
TICKETS: $15 General Public, $10 Students. Tickets are available at the IU Auditorium Box Office, and (812) 855-1103 and

May 4, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- PASSION with Tropes, a meditation on the passion of Jesus Christ by Indiana University Jacobs School of Music composer Don Freund, will begin its life as an immersive, interactive multidisciplinary work, May 20 and 21, on the stage of the Ruth N. Halls Theater of the IU Bloomington campus.

"Passion with Tropes," Margaret Dolinsky.

Print-Quality Photo

Conceived and initiated by Jacobs Professor Carmen Helena Téllez, the recipient of the 2010 Tracy M. Sonneborn Award, the production is a co-creation by some of IU's most accomplished artists.

The creative team includes Robert A. Shakespeare, professor of lighting design for the Department of Theatre and Drama within the College of Arts and Sciences, internationally known for his virtual scenographies and for the iconic Light Totem he created for the IU Art Museum; digital artist Margaret Dolinsky, an associate professor at the Hope School of Fine Arts who has worked on creating CAVE Automatic Virtual Environments in the U.S.; and Susanne Schwibs, a filmmaker at IU Radio and Television Services who recently was nominated for a regional Emmy for her film Harp Dreams, currently syndicated nationwide by PBS.

The production also includes choreography by Elizabeth Shea, associate clinical professor in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation's Department of Kinesiology and director of the school's IU Contemporary Dance Program. Shea's choreography was recently performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

PASSION with Tropes is one of Freund's most significant compositions -- a musical collage in which he presents the scriptural story of Jesus' physical, spiritual and mental suffering, interspersed with commentaries by iconic poets and thinkers through the ages, who question and marvel at his decision to experience the joys and agonies of human life and death. Originally written in 1983, the work has been substantially reconstructed for this immersive theater edition.

A professor of composition at the Jacobs School, Freund describes the work as a "meditation on life as defined by suffering and death and love."

"It's about music, about time, about the theater experience, about sounds, about words, about beginnings and middles and ends," Freund said. "About confusion and frustration and desire and about God, who became human and finite in order to taste all these things and find a love that no all-knowing Eternal Being could feel."

With support from IU's New Frontiers in Arts and Humanities Program, the Jacobs Choral Department, the Department of Theatre and Drama, and Téllez's recent fellowship with IU's Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities, the production of PASSION with Tropes explores the synergy between expressive vocal and instrumental writing and digital technology to create an immersive sensory environment. Audience members will sit among the performers, be completely surrounded by images and sounds and, at times, will become participating elements of the theatrical experience.

PASSION with Tropes will be performed by the Jacobs School's Contemporary Vocal Ensemble and actors from the Department of Theatre and Drama, with narration by veteran actor Gerard Pauwels.

With Téllez as conductor, the production will be directed by Jonathan Courtemanche, with technical direction from Paul Brunner and advanced digital visualization by Ed Dambik. Courtemanche is currently pursuing post-graduate studies in the IU Department of Theatre and Drama; he completed his Master of Fine Arts in directing with this season's production of The Winter's Tale. The St. Charles School Children's Chorus will also participate, with music direction from Sandra Freund.

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About Don Freund

With compositions described by Music and Musicians magazine as "exciting, amusing, disturbing, beautiful and always fascinating," Don Freund (b. 1947) has written works that range from solo, chamber and orchestral music to pieces involving live performances with electronic instruments, music for dance and three large theater pieces. An internationally recognized composer, he is active as a pianist, conductor and lecturer. A professor of composition at IU's Jacobs School of Music since 1992, Freund's teaching continues to be a major component of his career.