Everybody Dance Now: OU Theater Presents “Marathon ’33” (PHOTOS)

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Ohio University’s Theater Division is about to present its third show of the season: Marathon ’33, a unique and rarely performed piece by June Havoc, directed by Ohio University graduate student Aurora Held.

Held was required to look for material to direct during the second year of her three-year Master’s degree program. After extensive searching, a mentor introduced her to Marathon ’33.

The show spotlights an odd piece of history–the dance marathons of the Depression era. Participants had to remain on their feet for a set length of time, which spanned from a few hours to a few months.

June Havoc’s take on the ’30s phenomenon is dance and music heavy, creating a high-energy marathon in itself.

“I sort of fell in love with it,” Held said. “It is a complex, not-very-often done piece of theater…it still isn’t, and so I thought ‘This is a good challenge for me.’ It had all of the elements I was looking for.”

The performing arts have always been a part of Held’s life, having grown up with several dancers and musicians in her family. As a young girl, she and her family traveled all over West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio to perform.

The Music Man was Held’s first experience with theater at around eight or nine years old. She’s been involved with the stage ever since.

Although she has plenty of dance experience, Held said her cast lacked formal training. So it was rewarding to see her fledgling dancers improve during rehearsals.

“Just to be able to share a new skill with people, especially young artists…to see them succeed and to see the thrill and happiness on their faces,” Held explained. “It was good. It was a really good feeling for everybody involved.”

The casting process, while open to suggestions from advisors, was Held’s responsibility. After three to four hours of general auditions, Held made a list, followed by six to eight hours of actor call-backs, and another round of call-backs for musicians.

One of the call-backs included graduate student Emilio Tirri, who plays the role of Patsy.

“Emilio had the quality that I was looking for, bouncing between the sweet, good-natured, good old boy and the hardened traveling performer,” Held said. “Being able to flip between those two things was important for that character.”

Tirri is pursuing his MFA in Acting at Ohio University. He studied acting in New York City and finished his Bachelor’s degree in New Jersey. He has always been interested in acting, always entering talent shows or anything to be in front of an audience.

Tirri has played many roles and all of them have had their challenges. His last show, Rashomon, dealt with serious and emotional subject matter, while his role as Patsy in Marathon ’33 is incredibly fast-paced with energy levels at an all-time high.

“It’s crazy, isn’t it? It’s real. I kind of think of it like the Colosseum: People come and watch, they throw money at people who are literally sleeping on each other while walking, for thousands of hours at a time,” Tirri said of the marathons. “If you fall or stop moving your feet, you’re out.”

The show will preview Wednesday, Feb. 18, with performances scheduled for Feb. 19-21 and Feb. 24-27. Show times are 8 p.m. in the Forum Theater, located in the Radio-Television Building at 35 South College Street.

Admission is free for Ohio University students with a student ID. General admission tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for seniors and other students.

Photos by Mark Clavin/WOUB Public Media