Stories of Scheherezade: NIU will present ‘Arabian Nights’ on Players Theatre stage

Kendra Holton Helton (as Scheherezade), Jeweline Hale (as Perfect Love) and Christie Maturo (as Dunyazade) appear in the upcoming School of Theatre and Dance-staged production of Mary Zimmerman’s “The Arabian Nights.”
Kendra Holton Helton (as Scheherezade), Jeweline Hale (as Perfect Love) and Christie Maturo (as Dunyazade) appear in the upcoming School of Theatre and Dance-staged production of Mary Zimmerman’s “The Arabian Nights.”

One of the world’s most well-known collection of fables, stories and folk tales is the inspiration behind the next theatre production performed on the Northern Illinois University Players Theatre stage.

The School of Theatre and Dance will present “The Arabian Nights” from Thursday, March 31, through Sunday, April 3, and from Wednesday, April 6, through Sunday, April 10.

Based on the centuries-old, English language collection of tales known as “One Thousand and One Nights,” playwright Mary Zimmerman’s “The Arabian Nights” begins with the same framing story. The Persian king, Shahryar, discovers the infidelity of his young wife and kills her and her lover in anger. 

Out of bitterness and grief, Shahryar begins wreaking revenge on all women of his kingdom by marrying virgins and murdering each of them on their wedding night.

School of Theatre and Dance MFA in acting candidates Nick Ferrucci (as Persian King Shahyar), Kendra Holton Helton (as Scheherezade) and Christie Maturo (as Dunyazade) appear in the upcoming production of Mary Zimmerman’s “The Arabian Nights.”
School of Theatre and Dance MFA in acting candidates Nick Ferrucci (as Persian King Shahyar), Kendra Holton Helton (as Scheherezade) and Christie Maturo (as Dunyazade) appear in the upcoming production of Mary Zimmerman’s “The Arabian Nights.”

Finally, only Scheherezade and her younger sister remain.

Scheherazade devises a plan to captivate Shahryar every night with a story that she doesn’t finish, forcing the king to postpone her execution in order to hear the ending the following morning.

And so begin the tales told over 1,001 nights.

Scheherezade’s stories come to life before the eyes of the king and the audience, from the bawdy and erotic, to tales of foolishness and selfishness, to stories of the power of love and virtue of immense generosity.

“The stories are very entertaining, but thoughtful,” director Patricia Ridge says. “I am a storyteller, and that is why I chose this play. Stories connect us heart to heart.”

Nicholas Ferrucci, the first-year MFA in acting candidate portraying the vengeful king, believes the play is ultimately a tale about redemption, as Scheherezade’s stories draw Shahryar closer to his storyteller. “This woman changes his heart and restores his humanity,” he says.

“Women are the most powerful characters in the show,” Ferrucci adds. “It is set in a time when women had very few rights, and yet throughout the various stories, the women always seem to come out on top.”

Set in historical Persian Iraq, the set and costumes will feature bright colors and silky fabrics. Original music by composer Tony Reimer also will enhance the sensory experience of the lavish court of a Persian king.

“The Arabian Nights” will be performed in the Stevens Building Players Theatre on the DeKalb campus. Show times are 7:30 p.m. weeknights and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased from the Stevens Building box office in the lobby of the Stevens Building. Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $8 for students. The box office is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from noon to 2 p.m. Friday and one hour before show times. Tickets also can be purchased online.

The box office can be reached at (815) 753-1600.

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