“Educating Rita” by British playwright Willy Russell opened in London in 1980 and became a sensation. The play is about Rita, a twenty-six year old single woman who feels stuck with the routine of her work and social life. She enrolls in a course of English Literature in the hope that pursuing higher learning will give her more choices in life and help her escape the stultifying circumstances she dreads she is destined to endure. Married and around the corner from her family of origin, she is resolute in her quest to rise above her station and better herself. The play opens as Rita meets her tutor Frank Bryant. Frank is a middle-aged alcoholic professor who has taken on students as a tutor to support his drinking. The two have an immediate and dramatic impact on one another. Frank, a depleted cynic and failed poet, is struck by Rita’s intensity and eagerness to begin her studies. He reluctantly agrees to accept Rita as her tutor and in doing so, finds he begins to question his own position in life.
Rita thinks Frank is the perfect teacher for her. Under his guidance, she grows in confidence and understanding. She leaves her husband, moves in with a fellow student, and begins in earnest to live liberated student life and strives to fit in even to the point of changing her habits of speech. Frank, profoundly weary of the pretentious and pompous attitudes of the academics who populate his world, is distressed to see Rita transforming herself to become more like them. Like two celestial bodies, they successively attract and repel one another in a sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, unfolding of their relationship during the course of the play.
With the achievement of her goals, Rita finds education presents her with more choices in seeking personal fulfillment. Should she marry? Should she have a child? What is her next step? Frank, roused from his alcoholic stupor about himself, also must if he is to find life worth living.
The story itself comes to us from ancient Greek mythology in which Pygmalion was a king and sculptor who falls in love with a statue of his own creation. The same legend is the basis for the story of “My Fair Lady.” In “Educating Rita” Playwright Russell presents the legend made human, with Frank in the role of Pygmalion and Rita his creation. Playwright Russell, however, avoids the temptation of the sentimental and gives us a compassionate study of two challenging people who find in one another the strength to realign their troubled lives.
Performances are offered Friday and Saturday, December 1st & 2nd at 7:30PM; Sunday, December 3rd at 2PM, and Friday and Saturday, December 8th & 9th at 7:30PM; Sunday, December 10th at 2PM.
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By Phone: (336) 747-1414), Monday through Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm
Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts: Monday through Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm, and one hour prior to performance time.