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Whitman’s Harper Joy Theatre announces the opening of the 2010-2011 season, a series of eight productions set against a backdrop of a $7.4 million facility renovation.

The 2010-2011 season features:

Sept. 25-26 – The popular “Instant Play Festival” launches the season. After three weeks of workshops with professional playwrights, students will receive a theme in the evening and write a play for rehearsal the following day and performance that evening.

Oct. 21-24 – A production of Nikolai Gogol’s classic farce “The Government Inspector” is a new adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher. A sleepy Russian village is jolted into comic uproar when its residents mistake a ne’er-do-well clerk for an undercover government agent. The resulting explosion of official ignorance, corruption, and hubris is both hilarious and painfully familiar.

Nov. 10-14 – “Kid-simple” a quirky tale of innocence and experience, is a radio play brought to life by Jordan Harrison. Audiences will travel with Moll, the girl inventor of a machine for hearing sounds that can’t be heard, on her quest to save sound as we know it.

Dec. 9-12 – An Edwardian coastal village fills the theatre with noted British playwright Edward Bond’s only comedy, “The Sea.” Willy Carson meets Rose, the girl to whom his drowned friend was engaged, and falls in love with her. Their romance is caught between the forces of order, in the form of a group of dotty society ladies, and chaos, personified by a mad draper anticipating an invasion of space aliens.

Feb. 16-20 – A 20-year tradition and one of HJT’s most popular events, the “Annual Student One-Act Play Contest” returns. Students submit original scripts. A chosen three compete for cash prizes, and the audience is the judge.

March 3-6 – “Kind Ness,” by Ping Chong, is an antic exploration of difference, in which five high school seniors come to terms with a new student in their midst—who happens to be a gorilla.

In order to facilitate the renovation, the season’s final two productions will happen off-site:

April 13-17 – “The Walls” will begin with a bus ride to the Walla Walla State Penitentiary. Director/deviser Cynthia Croot, assistant professor of theatre, will lead the audience in an exploration of the relationships between the community and the prison.

May 5-8 and 19-20 – The George Ball Court in the Sherwood Athletic Center becomes the stage and set for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Set in a high school gym, William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin’s charming musical features six adolescent outsiders vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime.

Season ticket sales will begin Sept. 1 at the HJT box office, (509) 527-5180. Season ticket holders enjoy a substantially reduced admission rate and the opportunity to make reservations in advance of the general public. During renovation, the box office will have normal operating hours but a temporary entrance to the HJT lobby, between Harper Joy and Sherwood Athletic Center, will be used during construction.

The HJT renovation, expected to be completed in time for the 2011-12 season, will feature a new, larger studio theater, new seating for the Alexander stage, expanded office and lobby space and a new costume shop. Audience members can expect to see the well-loved facility evolving over the course of this season, with visible changes to the lobby, offices and classrooms. The playing spaces, however, will go untouched until after March, after which time the final two shows will be housed in separate locations.

The renovation, although extensive, will not take center stage over the season’s performances. “We’ll all have to don our figurative hard hats and steel-toed boots,” joked HJT Director Nancy Simon, the Garrett professor of dramatic art. “Each time we enter the theatre, old spaces will change and new ones will appear. We hope that our enterprising and enthusiastic audience will join us for the great adventure.”