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Arts / Entertainment

'The Alchemist' Sept. 22-27

September 16, 2009

Theatre Division Director Walt Jones directs the CSU Theatre program's peformance of The Alchemist, a satiric tale of comedy and deception written by English playwright Ben Jonson, whose works are said to be second only in greatness to Shakespeare's.

Studio Theatre
University Center for the Arts 

The 2,220-square-foot Studio Theatre in the University Center for the Arts is the venue for CSU's performance of Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, directed by Walt Jones, professor and Theatre Division director. For this production, 100 seats are available - no patron farther than 25 feet from the action! 

Performance dates

  • Tuesday, Sept. 22, 8-10 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8-10 p.m.
  • Thursday, Sept. 24, 8-10 p.m.
  • Friday, Sept. 25, 8-10 p.m.
  • Saturday, Sept. 26, 8-10 p.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 27, 2-4 p.m. 

An incredible opportunity

"I've performed in The Alchemist twice," says Director Walt Jones, "Once playing Face, once playing Drugger, and always thought it was the hardest I've ever worked, so I wanted to share that with the students. 

"Paul Meier, the dialect coach who has helped us, said he's never gotten the chance to work on The Alchemist in almost 30 years of professional work and reiterated to me and to the actors what an incredible opportunity this is for young actors." 

'Wild and woolly production'

When asked why he chose the Studio Theatre as the stage for the play, Jones said, "What I wanted was a kind of in-your-face experience for the audience. There will be sawdust on the floor and some [patrons] are within 2 feet of the action. It is a wild and woolly production, not for the squeamish, filled to the brim with each one of the seven deadly sins!" 

Story portrays the 'long con' 

At any one moment, Hollywood writers are trying to write the next perfect plot; The Grifters, The Sting, and Oceans 11 are basically The Alchemist by Ben Jonson, as it dramatizes the “long con.”

The great English poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), surmised that The Alchemist – first performed in 1610 – had one of three perfect plots, the other two being Oedipus Rex by Sophocles (430 B.C.), and Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (1749). Just three in 2,000 years!

If not for Shakespeare...

It’s been said that if it weren’t for Shakespeare, Jonson would be Britain’s national playwright and that his greatest misfortune was having Shakespeare as a contemporary. This would have been news to Jonson - he went to his grave the most celebrated poet of his age.

The clever comedy and deception of The Alchemist’s perfect plot takes place within six hours in London’s Blackfriars district. In 1610, London was the capitol of lethal con-artists and money-minded Puritans, where the threat of plague was balanced by the prospect of limitless wealth.

Flawless satire

The Alchemist is a flawless, still current satire about greed, image, perceptions, and the endless gullibility of people of all social classes. If Jonson had been a Hollywood screenwriter, one can imagine a chart with each storyline represented by a different colored string marking plot intersections. The result would be reminiscent of a map of the London Underground - only easier to lose one’s way.


  • $7/CSU students
  • $7/youth (ages 2–17)
  • $14/seniors
  • $16/public

Contact: Jennifer Clary
Phone: (970) 491-3603