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Students set the stage with new productions at Niagara University, Buffalo State

Niagara University is known for the talent that comes out of its theater department, but you don't have to wait until graduation to see its students in action. NU's 2019-20 season opens Oct. 3 with Max Frisch's pointed political allegory "The Firebugs." Frisch, who was Swiss, wrote the play in 1953 as a criticism of his country's legendary neutrality. He questions whether the decision to not take sides – in this case, ignoring the rising threat of Nazis in Europe – makes one complicit in the evil that follows.

Frisch's black comedy maintains its message more than 60 years later as nations around the globe deal with a rising wave of strongman politicians while millions of young people march in the streets demanding action to save their planet. The description of the show, "Today's bad ideas are tomorrow's disasters," reflects the show's plot, which focuses on a morally conflicted man who is bullied by two arsonists into letting them stay in his house. NU faculty member Paul Todaro directs.

Performances are at 7 p.m. Oct. 3 and 7; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 4; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5; and 2 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Leary Theatre in Clet Hall on Vincentian Drive on the NU campus, with parking available in the Butler lot. Tickets are $15 ($9.99 for seniors, those under 21, and NU employees), available at theatre.niagara.edu or by calling 716-286-8685. You can find more detailed directions to the theater there, too.

At Buffalo State

Theater students at SUNY Buffalo State also are starting their season with a thought-provoking production, Lynn Nottage's "Intimate Apparel." The show opens at 8 p.m. Oct. 9 in the Flexible Theatre in Buffalo State's Donald Savage Building. Performances continue at 8 p.m. Oct. 10 and 11 and 2 p.m. Oct. 12.

Nottage, who won the Pulitzer Prize for playwriting twice, for "Ruined" and "Sweat," is said to have based "Intimate Apparel" on her great-grandmother's life. It tells the story of Esther, an African American seamstress who makes beautiful undergarments for high (and sometimes low) society women in 1905 Manhattan. Despite her practical nature and steady work ethic, Esther is caught between two inconvenient relationships – one with a Jewish man who sells her fabric, the other with an unseen Caribbean man who is courting her by mail.

Lara D. Haberberger, a founder of local theater company Brazen-Faced Varlets, directs the show.

Tickets are $15, $10 for non-Buff State students, at theater.buffalostate.edu or by phone at 878-3005.

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