Heritage Theatre Festival Continues Season With Tony Award-Winning 'Master Class'

June 30, 2008 – The word "diva" is perhaps overused these days, with its operatic roots fading to encompass all manner of outsized egos. Starting July 7, Heritage Theatre Festival offers a rare glimpse of a legendary entertainment figure who lived up to the title in every way with the Tony Award-winning "Master Class." Terrence McNally's play is a fictional look at a day in the life of the legendary Maria Callas as she conducts a master class for a trio of aspiring opera singers, and in the process takes audiences through her memories of a life lived in the spotlight both on stage and off.

Callas was showered with ovations and literally tons of bouquets over the course of her career as she rose to the rare air occupied only by the opera world's true greats. The drama she portrayed on stage was oftentimes matched by the drama of her own life as she rose from humble origins and lost a significant amount of weight on her way to becoming one of the world's best-known entertainers, not to mention the lover of its richest man. Callas' headline-grabbing affair with Aristotle Onassis was the stuff of tabloid legend even before tabloids were truly in vogue.

According to "Master Class" director Douglas Sprigg, the play paints a  multi-dimensional portrait of its subject and has an appeal that goes far beyond opera lovers alone. "This show appeals to a wide range of people because it deals with the issue of teaching, the issue of being an opera star, of being a diva. It deals with the issue of temperament and the issue of what art gives us, how art taps into our own lives, the issue of what goes into the creation of theatre, and of course, the more tabloid issue of Maria's life."

Sprigg also noted one of the play's other core elements of what it truly means to be a diva. "There certainly is, in the art world, the sense that divas have to have a kind of toughness that allows them to fight through the competition and everything else. Essentially, there are these two meanings; one is a brilliant opera singer, but the other is somebody who is temperamental and self-centered, and in the course of the play, this character is certainly both of those things."

"Master Class" will run from July 7 through 12 in Culbreth Theatre at 8 p.m., with a matinee on Saturday, July 12 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $26 for adults, $22 for seniors and U.Va. faculty and staff and $15 for students. They are available in person at the Culbreth box office and by phone at 434-924-3376.

For additional ticket information, production photos and information on the entire 2008 season, visit www.uvahtf.org

The 2008 Heritage Theatre Festival season will continue with "Forever Plaid," a revival of one of the most popular shows in Heritage history, running from July 16 through Aug. 2 in the Helms Theatre, and the lush and dreamy six-time Tony Award winning musical "The Light in the Piazza" from July 23 through Aug. 2 in the Culbreth Theatre.

The new Culbreth Road Parking Garage is free for all audience members, and its immediate proximity to the theatres makes Heritage the area's most accessible performing arts venues.