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September 2009

Release Date: Sept. 23, 2009ASU Logo

ASU Play Visits Life of First Niagara Falls Daredevil

Arts at ASU patrons will get a glimpse into the life of little-known Annie Edson Taylor, the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, when “Queen of the Mist” opens Thursday, Oct. 1, in the Angelo State University Modular Theatre.

Showtimes will be at 8 p.m. Oct. 1-3 and Oct. 8-10 with a 2 p.m. matinee scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 4. Ticket prices are $8 for the general public, $4 for non-ASU students and $3 for ASU students. Arts at ASU subscribers and activity card holders will be admitted free. The Modular Theatre is located in the Carr Education-Fine Arts Building, 2602 Dena Drive.

“Queen of the Mist” is a new play by ASU alumna Jackie Rosenfeld. She said she was inspired to write the play after a 2002 visit to Niagara Falls, N.Y., where she spotted a sign recounting Taylor’s feat.

“I saw this rickety sign about Annie,” Rosenfeld said. “It was a really old sign and not well kept. There were a lot of others about other people going over the falls, so I thought it was strange that it was being overlooked. I did some research on her and found out how fascinating she was. I thought that it was time for her to shine.”

The play reveals that in 1901, Taylor, a 63-year-old, retired school teacher from Michigan, became the first person to plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel. The play opens 20 years after the event with Taylor on her deathbed in Buffalo, N.Y. Carrie Paulk, a young suffragette reporter comes to Taylor to convince her to face the demons that drove her to the falls and bedeviled her after she crawled out of the barrel alive and for the rest of her life.

“One of the things you find out in the play was part of the reason she did it was to gain fame and fortune or die trying,” Rosenfeld said. “Annie said, ‘If I am going to die, I’ll do it in a grand way or I’ll get fame and fortune.’ Neither of those things happened and her life is addressed in the play.”

“Queen of the Mist” is also ASU’s entry in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, which will be performed in January at San Jacinto Community College near Houston. The production may be selected to play in March 2010 at the regional competition at Amarillo College. After that, they are eligible to be selected for the national festival April 14-17 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Rosenfeld is no stranger to the Kennedy festivals having participated in two others, one as an actor and one as a playwright.

“I think it’s great they are performing it,” she said. “The first play I wrote was taken to the festival and this will be the second. Dr. (Bill) Doll directed both of them.”

The playwright said she wanted the audience to get a little education and a little history about daredevils going over Niagara Falls.

“I want them to understand all the crazy things people do and why – what pulls people to do that kind of stuff,” Rosenfeld said.

As for that first daredevil, Rosenfeld said she wanted to give an accurate portrayal of who Taylor was and why she did what she did.

Doll said, “You get a really fun story about the first person who went over the falls and a parallel story about a young reporter trying to break into the business. The young reporter was really a typist at a newspaper who wanted to be a reporter, but was kept down by prejudices of the time against women.”

“I have a taste for the untested play,” he added, “and how we can get it to work. We work with the playwright and deal with the challenges of how to present it. We will show we are at the falls and use some short scenes, which are a challenge for developing characters.”

Rosenfeld is a visiting lecturer at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches and previously served as a visiting assistant professor at Texas Tech University while working on her Master of Fine Arts in playwriting. More than a dozen of Rosenfeld’s plays have been produced, including an off-off Broadway production of “keepingabreast.”

Nicky Stanford, who will portray Annie in 1921, is pursuing her ambitions to become a playwright, screenwriter, director, actress, college drama professor and high school drama teacher’s assistant. She has performed in six different plays and wrote and directed her own play based on her life in high school.

Playing Annie in 1901 will be Molly Schwencke, who last appeared onstage as Flo Owens in last year’s ASU production of “Picnic.” The sophomore from San Antonio is majoring in drama and participated in several productions at ASU and, previously, at San Antonio Earl Warren High School.

Other cast members include Christopher Lane Dennis, Jason Worthington, Ty Matlock, Nicole McDonald, Alexis Jolliff, Leigha Dishon Murray, Kenedi Doerfer and Meghan Blake.

For more information and to make reservations, call 942-2000. For more information on the production and cast, call Doll at 942-2146.