‘Left Hand of Darkness’ kicks off University Theatre’s season


University Theatre opens its 2017-18 season Nov. 3 with Director John Schmor’s adaptation of the groundbreaking novel “The Left hand of Darkness” by Ursula Le Guin.

The play runs Nov. 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 17 and 18 at Robinson Theatre. The curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. except Sunday, Nov. 17, when showtime will be 2 p.m.

The show will feature music composed by Brian McWhorter, an associate professor of trumpet at the UO, and a script adapted by Schmor, an associate professor of theater arts. Schmor spent two years working closely with Le Guin to revise his previous adaptation of the same work, which played in Portland in 2013.

Schmor recalls asking for her permission to rework her novel into a stage production: “She said, ‘yeah you should do this, but on one condition. I get to collaborate.’ And that has been a joy.”

Le Guin is Oregon’s most awarded living author. The UO is home to her archives, including first-edition copies of “The Left Hand of Darkness.” She is known for her work as a science fiction and fantasy novelist, but Le Guin rejects those terms, instead calling herself a writer of the imaginary.

The story is set on the frozen planet of Gethen where neither gender nor war exist. This comes as a shock to an envoy from a consortium of planets who has come to Gethen seeking to exchange knowledge.

For Gethenians, the visit is suspicious, and their fear, in the midst of a tense political climate, may push them to discover war. The result is a story about love, culture, politics and breaking free from gender binaries, all the while imagining a world where war does not yet exist.

“This play has a lot of themes that are really relevant to our own pretty awful situation these days,” Schmor said. “Some of it, of course, is gendering, but some of it is about the invention of war, fake news. The king is insane and boastful and childlike and dangerous. So there is a lot in it, I think, that people will recognize.”

The cast come from diverse backgrounds. Many of the actors are not theater majors, including its two leads. Manju Bangalore, who plays Estraven, is a physics major who just finished her second summer internship with NASA. The other lead, Silas Lobnibe, who plays Genly, is a biology major from Ghana.

Schmor encourages students to come and see the production, which is free with a student ID card.

“I’m hoping that they won’t have to have read the novel to appreciate the play,” he said, “and I’m hoping if they appreciate the play, they will read the novel.”

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors, UO faculty, staff and non-UO students. UO students can see the show for free with a student ID card. Visit the UO ticket office online, or call at (541)346-4363 to purchase tickets.

—By Matt Gatie, University Communications ­