Office of Public Affairs
(315) 312-2265
Feb. 6, 2002
CONTACT: Kelly Cullinan, 312-3097
OSWEGO -- Calendars may read 2002, but audiences entering SUNY Oswego's Waterman Theatre to see "The Beat and the City" will feel like they have walked into 1958, according to director Tom Kee.
The premise of the play, which will open March 1, is that audience members have stumbled into an imagined meeting of writers, poets and artists of the Beat Generation, said Kee, a visiting assistant professor of theatre at Oswego. Students portray figures of the era and improvise scenarios based on their character studies.
Kee said the production is "geared to appeal to those who enjoy theatre, history and literature. It's almost like an archeological study of the San Francisco Beat scene of the late '50s and early '60s."
That means audiences will experience Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" as if it was being read for the first time, hear jazz music from the era performed live, and interact with Beat figures such as Neal Cassady, Denise Levertov and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
"It's a Beat hootenanny where everyone is invited," Kee said.
One thing Kee hopes to make invisible is the months of work he conducted with the estates of the people portrayed and the weeks of research and character study done by the actors.
Kee received the green light for "The Beat and the City" from the SUNY Oswego theatre department last May. After that, he brought on two research assistants, and "we really started to dig," he said.
The student actors also have delved deep in researching their characters. Kyle Hubert plays Cassady, the inspiration for the central figure in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." He drove from Seattle to Oswego in 2 1/2 days last summer to try to understand how such a cross-country journey would have affected Cassady's letters and life. During winter break, he visited areas around Santa Cruz, Calif., that Cassady had frequented.
"I had to figure out what made him do what he did," Hubert said of his research. "I really wanted to know who he was."
The actors' research is having an impact beyond the stage. Hubert said a number of cast members have either rekindled an interest in writing poetry or started writing poems for the first time. "A few of us have come together, reading poetry all night the way the Beat poets used to," he said. "It's really helped us to understand how they lived. But the play has also become a fact in our lives. It's changing our lives."
"The Beat and the City" will preview at 8 p.m. Feb. 28 in Tyler Hall's Waterman Theatre, with a run of 8 p.m. curtain times March 1, 2, 8 and 9 and a 2 p.m. matinee March 10. Tickets -- $9 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and $7 for SUNY Oswego students -- are available by calling 312-2141 or by e-mailing
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