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In collaboration with Chester’s multi award winning cultural centre, Storyhouse, the University’s School of Arts and Media has convened a series of hour-long lectures that will run one after the other on the same day next month – December 4.

To be presented at Storyhouse’s Garret Theatre, the first lecture is ‘Christmas on the Modern Stage’, when Professor Paul Johnson, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, explores how playwrights have used Christmas during the last 140 years of theatre history.

Professor Johnson uses examples such as The Doll’s House – Henrik Ibsen’s great work of 1879 that begins with Nora returning home to the doll’s house of the title laden with Christmas presents – Tom Eyen’s off-Broadway play Aretha in the Ice Palace (1970) – set in Santa’s workshop – and the hit musical Rent (1996) – which opens on a scene of struggling artists in the East Village trying to keep warm on Christmas Eve – to delve into ways in which Christmas has been used to represent ideas as varied as rebirth, consumerism, or religious hypocrisy.

The second lecture by Professor Darren Sproston, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, picks-up where his last Christmas lecture left off. Professor Sproston’s previous presentation ended with Tomás Luis de Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium, a Christmas text that inspired many composers from the 16th to the 21st century.

‘The Great Musical Mystery of the Nativity Animals’ is a Christmas sequel that will investigate the origins of the text, its earliest settings and its original purpose. It will end by exploring how composers through the ages have responded to this extraordinary celebration of the animals at the nativity.

The final Christmas lecture of the afternoon is called ‘Chapter 22. Merry Christmas’. 

Author Herman Melville, a New York customs inspector and writer died in relative obscurity at the end of the 19th Century. Later, Melville came to be regarded as a literary giant, equal in stature to Mark Twain, John Steinbeck and Jack London.  He published numerous books in his lifetime,​ but is best known for the classic novel Moby Dick, a story of a young schoolmaster aboard the ill-fated voyage of the Pequod, a Nantucket whaling ship.

Using text from Moby Dick as a starting point – “At last the anchor was up, the sails were set, and off we glided. It was a sharp cold Christmas…” – Associate Professor of Theatre and Applied Drama, Shelley Piasecka, will explore stage adaptations of this timeless tale.

Opened in May 2017, Storyhouse is a library, theatre, cinema, community hub, cultural centre and restaurant that had one million visits in its first year.

All the Christmas lectures are an hour long, with ‘Christmas on the Modern Stage’ starting at 12pm, ‘The Great Musical Mystery of the Nativity Animals’ starting at 1pm and ‘Chapter 22. Merry Christmas’ starting at 2pm.

Tickets are free and booking is essential – demand is expected to be high.  Please follow the links below to book your tickets:

‘Christmas on the Modern Stage’

‘The Great Musical Mystery of the Nativity Animals’

For ‘Chapter 22. Merry Christmas’.

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