Ogemdi Ude brings “the other” to Princeton Summer Theater

Princeton Summer Theater was established 1968 by a group of Princeton University students who longed to stretch their theatrical talents beyond the school setting. Since then, the company of graduates, undergraduates, alumni and some freelance actors from the New York theater scene have devoted their summers to the stage. The group strives to focus on the greater Mercer County area and provide locals with great entertainment June 16 through Aug. 14.

This year, Ogemdi Ude, who graduated from Princeton just last week, has leaped in head first to artistic direction for her first year with the summer troupe. Throughout her time as an undergrad, Ude focused on directing and choreography. She had directed multiple shows and learned about PST through some friends who were involved.

“I really wanted to exercise my hand at artistic director because I hope to one day have my own theater company. It takes a lot to keep this thing running and exploring how we do and all that we do to get there,” Ude said.

Each year, the conception of the theater’s board differs. This summer, there’s an executive board, which Ude serves, a managing board, production stage manager and freshman associate – a first-time position within the program to help a PU freshman learn the trade of the theater to ideally take the helm in the future.

The theater group, over time, developed the tradition of a chosen theme for each season. This year, Ude steered the troupe toward a series of four plays focused on “the other.”

“I am generally interested in seeing – the theater I love is the theater offering another perspective,” Ude said. “I wanted to look at stories that have been told billions of times but then question, ‘how can we take these stories we’ve seen from one perspective and see them with new eyes?’ What happens when we look at something we thought we knew in a completely different way?”

Ude also perceives the theme of the “the other” as a way to allow actors in the company to draw significance to parts people may not usually pay attention to.

Her perception comes to life in the play directed by Emma Watt, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” by Tom Stoppard. This play, on stage July 14-17, 21-24 and 28-31, tells the story of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” through the “worm’s-eye view” of two minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

“God of Carnage,” the 2009 Tony Award-winner for best play by Yasmina Reza, directed by PST’s Annika Bennett, reveals how two sets of polite upper-class parents devolve into fighting children after their own children get in a playground fight. This play is on the stage at PST June 30-July 3 and July 7-10.

Ude calls “Assassins,” based on the book by John Weidman with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, “almost scary” as it takes you into the mind of assassins through a tragic event – on stage June 16-19 and 23-26.

“Fool for love,” which closes the season Aug. 4-7 and 11-14, explores the inner workings of love, family and how we become another version of our parents. The play by Sam Shepard won multiple Obie Awards and is directed by Ude for PST.

“The other” is a theme Ude has been devoted to throughout her life in theater.

“It’s essential to know more than the mainstream in these stories,” she said.

For tickets and more information about PST’s children’s show, “The Owl and the Pussycat,” to run through July, visitwww.princetonsummertheater.org. All performances take place in the air-conditioned, newly refurbished Murray-Dodge Hall on the Princeton University campus. A 30 percent discounted subscription to the whole season can be purchased for $79 as well as single ticket shows.

About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida