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Rabbit season: School of Theatre and Dance opens hilarious Harvey for spring fun

Image from the production poster of a white line-drawn rabbit, wearing a blue hat.

Harvey opens April 12.

The Illinois State University School of Theatre and Dance will present Harvey, by Mary Chase, on April 12, 13, 16–20 at 7:30 p.m. and April 14 at 2:00 p.m. in the Center for Performing Arts Theatre on the campus of Illinois State University. Tickets are $12 for students and seniors and $17 for adults. A special post-show talkback with members of the cast and crew, including director and ISU alumnus Robert Quinlan and dramaturg, Kee-Yoon Nahm will take place after the April 14 performance. ISU alumni are eligible to receive a special discount for the April 14 performance.

Hailed as one of America’s favorite plays, Harvey features a perfect gentleman, Elwood P. Dowd, and his best friend—a six-foot, three-and-one half-inch tall anthropomorphic rabbit. Elwood is a friendly man who introduces his friend Harvey to everyone he meets, but there is only one problem: He is invisible. Elwood’s social-climbing sister Veta grows embarrassed of her brother’s relationship with Harvey, and she decides to commit him to a sanitarium. A true comedy of errors ensues when Veta is mistakenly committed instead of her brother, and a manhunt begins for this unique protagonist and his rabbit companion. The play raises the question of who is more dangerous to society, the dreamer with a vivid imagination or the people who want him to conform to their version of reality?

In 1945, writer Mary Chase won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her work. When the play opened in its initial Broadway run in 1944, it lasted four years with 1,775 performances. Harvey has been revived in theatres around the globe and adapted to film in 1950 starring Jimmy Stewart. In 2009 even Steven Spielberg wanted a chance to share Harvey with the world but quit the project after his inability to find an actor he believed was able to play the affable Elwood P. Dowd. School of Theatre and Dance faculty member Robert Quinlan, however, is ready to take on the challenge and bring Harvey to the Center for Performing Arts stage. Quinlan says it is the delightful story that attracted him to direct, stating that the play, “is funny and hopeful, with a whiff of magic.”

Although Harvey is never seen, Elwood’s interactions with him are so personal that we can envision his every move.

“Audiences are asked to imagine Harvey because they can create him in the specific image that resonates with them,” says Quinlan.

Interacting with an invisible best friend may prove challenging to anyone playing Elwood, which is why Quinlan asked faculty member Jimmy Chrismon to “play” Harvey during rehearsals. Underneath its comedic veil, Harvey is a play that invites audiences to use their imaginations, challenge their views of acceptance and non-conformity, and believe in a little magic.

Tickets are available by calling (309) 438-2535, online at Ticketmaster.com, or by visiting the Box Office, located in the Illinois State University Center for the Performing Arts, Monday–Friday from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Free performance parking is available in the School Street Parking Deck in spots 250 and above, at 400 W. Beaufort Street in Normal.

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