University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance announces 2021-2022 productions


From a production of Nora: A Doll's House

From a previous UMSMTD production of Insurrection: Holding History. Photo by Peter Smith Photography.

Drama is back at the University of Michigan.

No, I'm not talking about any political, criminal, or social issues.

The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (UMSMTD) announced 10 performances and one studio production as part of its 2021-22 production season, which runs from September 30 to April 17.

“Our goal this year is to return to creating the same high-quality productions you’ve come to know and love while providing more flexibility to better accommodate our audiences’ health and safety needs,” said Jeffrey Kuras, executive director of the school’s University Productions, in a press release.

Some of the other annual performances—Grand Night for Singing, Halloween Concert, Band-O-Rama, and Collage Concert—will be announced at a later date. Tickets for all the events will eventually be available at

"The SMTD Flex Series will allow audiences to select the four shows they would like to attend at a discounted price," according to the UMSMTD press release. "The Flex Series joins the existing Power Series, which allows audiences to purchase all four shows at the Power Center for the Performing Arts for a discounted price." (The Power Center turns 50 this year.)

Here's a rundown of UMSMTD's 2020-2021 season events:


September 30–October 10
Arthur Miller Theatre
Written by Stef Smith
After the classic play by Henrik Ibsen
Directed by Malcolm Tulip
The Department of Theatre & Drama presents Nora Helmer has been a feminist icon since her first appearance in 1879 as the lead character in Henrik Ibsen’s then-controversial A Doll’s House. 140 years later, Olivier Award-winning playwright Stef Smith has reshaped Nora’s singular struggle for financial and emotional independence into three characters, setting three Noras on parallel paths in different time periods. As their stories unfold, shifting cultural expectations exert their pressure on each Nora and change what it means to be a feminist. Nora: A Doll’s House received its premiere at Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow in 2019 before moving to the Young Vic in early 2020.

October 7–October 17 
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
Book, Music, & Lyrics by Andrew Lippa (BM '87, music education and voice)
Director TBD
Music Direction by Jason DeBord
The setting is the roaring 1920s. Lovers Queenie and Burrs decide to throw the party-to-end-all-parties in their Manhattan apartment. After the arrival of a slew of colorful guests living life on the edge, Queenie’s wandering eye lands on a striking man named Mr. Black. As the decadence is reaching a climax, so is Burrs’ jealousy, which erupts and sends him into a violent rage. Gun in hand and inhibitions abandoned, Burrs turns on Queenie and Black. The gun gets fired, but who’s been shot?

A steamy prohibition tale, steamrolling and roaring its way across the stage, The Wild Party was an Off-Broadway gem that garnered an array of industry accolades, including Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Obie awards. Based on Joseph Moncure March’s 1928 narrative poem of the same name, this darkly brilliant show features one of the most exciting, pulse-racing scores ever written, courtesy of SMTD alumnus Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family, Big Fish). 

CINDERELLA (Cendrillon)
November 4–November 7

Power Center for the Performing Arts
Music by Jules Massenet
Libretto by Henri Cain
After the fairy tale by Charles Perrault
Stage Direction by Abbigail Coté
Music Direction by Kirk Severtson
The King is throwing a ball in Prince Charming’s honor, and all will be in attendance—except for Lucette, known as “Cinderella” to her stepmother & stepsisters—until Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother steps in. The fairy’s spell lasts only until midnight. That’s long enough for Cinderella and Prince Charming to meet and fall in love. This witty French opera premiered in Paris at the Opéra-Comique on May 24, 1899. It is based on the classic fairy tale as told by Charles Perrault. This operatic version is closer to Perrault’s story than the version used in Rossini’s La Cenerentola. Its music is full of melodic charm with recognizable arias. (This production will be sung in French with projected English translations.)

November 11–November 14

Arthur Miller Theatre
Written by Jaclyn Backhaus
Directed by Emily Lyon (BTA '13, directing)
In 1869, a team of 10 men led by naturalist John Wesley Powell set out on an expedition to catalog the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon—the first white settlers to do so. In 2015, playwright Jaclyn Backhaus set out to satirize the expedition and its bold yet arrogant explorers in a comedic tour-de-force that Time Out New York called a “thrilling, gender-flipped slice of manifest destiny.” 

With a cast made up entirely of women, Men on Boats pokes fun at what New York Magazine calls the explorers’ “cockiness and cluelessness” in their attempts to exert their control on an unfamiliar (and already populated) environment. “The tone is comic, but never cute or camp,” says the New York Times. “And ultimately, you feel, the play respects its bold if fallible pioneers, in all their natural bravery and fearfulness.”

December 2–December 5 

Power Center for the Performing Arts
Written by Ayad Akhtar
Directed by Geoff Packard
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar takes on the origin story of America’s financial crisis in this fast-paced thriller the Los Angeles Times called “Part Shakespearean history play, part The Big Short.” It’s 1985, and prominent financier Robert Merkin is taking the world by storm with his willingness to take on higher-risk, higher-yield bonds—what he calls “junk bonds.” As he sets out to take over a massive steel conglomerate by using its own debts as an asset, Merkin sets off a financial civil war that threatens to change the world as we know it.

December 2–5

Arthur Miller Theatre
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Vince Cardinal
There is much mischief to be had in Shakespeare’s most popular comedy when lovers defy authority and flee the court, only to find themselves caught in a zany web of illusion, romance, and magic in the Athenian woods. Featuring fairies, love potions, mixed-up lovers, magic spells, and a pompous rustic sporting a donkey’s head, A Midsummer Night’s Dream promises to bring laughter and a healthy dose of enchantment.


DANCE '22 (Title TBD)
February 3–6, 2022

Power Center for the Performing Arts
Artistic Direction by Judy Rice
This annual showcase of the best the Department of Dance has to offer will feature a combination of works created by faculty and guest artists, featuring Wideman Davis Dance.

February 17–20, 2022

Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
Written by Sophocles
Verse translation by David Mulroy
Directed by Sam White
In one of the most compelling pieces of classic theatre, Sophocles tells the tale of Antigone, daughter of Oedipus and sister to Eteocles and Polyneices, former rulers of Thebes who have just battled to the death. In their absence, their uncle Creon has ascended the throne and declared it illegal to bury the rebel Polyneices. Antigone refuses to obey Creon’s order, setting off a tragic conflict of morality vs. law, cruelty vs. love, and man vs. woman. Guest Director Sam White (founder of Shakespeare in Detroit), who led the Theatre & Drama students in last year’s production of Romeo & Juliet, will return to helm this production. 

David Mulroy, Professor of Classics Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, faithfully reproduces the literal meaning of Sophocles’ words while also reflecting his verbal pyrotechnics in this translation from 2013. Using fluid iambic pentameters for the spoken passages and rhyming stanzas for the songs, it is true to the letter and the spirit of the great Greek original.

Winter Opera (Title TBD)
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre

March 24–27, 2022
The winter opera will be cast in late September/early October and then a title announced shortly thereafter. 

March 31-April 10, 2022

Arthur Miller Theatre
Written by José Casas
Directed by Priscilla Lindsay
In the shadow of Disneyland lies the El Dorado, a run-down motel for those without permanent housing. Through a series of spoken-word poetry vignettes, five teenage residents share their lives and their dreams as they struggle to survive the challenges of being homeless in America. Written by Assistant Professor José Casas, Somebody’s Children was a winner of the 2009 Waldo M. and Grace C. Bonderman Playwriting Workshop and was featured in a rehearsed reading at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Indianapolis. Somebody’s Children was originally commissioned by Found Spaces Theater Company. 

April 14-April 17, 2022

Power Center for the Performing Arts
Book & Lyrics by James Rado & Gerome Ragni
Music by Galt MacDermot
Directed and choreographed by Linda Goodrich
Musical Direction TBD
Exploring ideas of identity, community, global responsibility, and peace, set to an infectiously energetic rock beat, Hair challenges audiences even as it wows them with songs like “Aquarius,” “Good Morning, Starshine,” “Easy to Be Hard,” “I Got Life,” and “Let the Sun Shine In.” More than 50 years after it originally shook up Broadway, the original “American tribal love rock musical” remains as relevant as ever.

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.

Visit for tickets for the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance's 2021-22 production season, which runs from September 30 to April 17. You can sign up for emails announcing tickets and other information here.