Demons old and new take the stage at Chapman University

Monsters aren’t just the stuff of Halloween, swooping onto the scene in the trappings of their breed–capes, fangs, flying brooms and all the rest–then exiting stage left until next season.

“People can conjure them up like soup, with fear of the unknown a key ingredient,” says John Benitz, chair of Chapman University’s Department of Theatre in the College of Performing Arts. “It’s a sad instinct we sometimes gravitate to. Once you’ve successfully objectified a group or person, it makes it easier and possible to display hate against them.”

Such modern beasts take the stage in the university’s theatrical lineup for the 2018-2019 season, built around the theme Monsters & The Other. The season opens with the classic “Dracula” and follows with a variety of plays that ponder the human tendency to demonize the stranger and hold a mirror up to the monster within us, Benitz explains.

Other productions will examine hate crime, war and even the bumpy business of facing diversity.

The professor of theatre hopes the season serves as a meditation on an uncomfortable aspect of human nature.

“We’re really trying to unpack this idea of how we make monsters of the other. It just seems so relevant. How do we break through that?” he says.

The #MeToo movement and the immigration crisis at the border helped spark the theme. But, tough topics are familiar territory for the department’s theatrical selection committee, which includes students and faculty.

“We’re always looking to produce theatre that starts a conversation. Certainly, it’s about entertainment. We want people to experience top-quality entertainment. But, in the end, we want to create dialogue, give them something to consider and be moved emotionally, and perhaps even changed a bit,” he says.

Student need also drives the season’s selections.

“We have incredibly talented students, and so it is fitting to create a season that reflects that talent and makes a playground for that talent to thrive,” Benitz says.  

Chapman University’s 2018-2019 Theatre Season

by Steven Dietz, from the novel by Bram Stoker
October 18–20 and October 25–27

He’s still the Dracula you know, but more sinister than ever in this contemporary adaptation.

“If All the Sky Were Paper”
by Andrew Carroll
Directed by John B. Benitz
November 10

A play about one man’s search for extraordinary war letters. Celebrity cast members to be announced. Previous productions have featured guest stars Annette Bening and Laura Dern, among many others.

“Vinegar Tom”
by Caryl Churchill

Directed by Associate Professor of Theatre Tamiko Washington
November 29–December 8

A contemporary work that uses a 17th-century witch hunt to condemn past and present oppression of women.

“The Laramie Project”
by Moisés Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theater Project
Date to be announced

A theatre reading of the play written in reaction to the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard.

“Avenue Q”
Music and Lyrics by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez
Book by Jeff Whitty
Based on an original concept by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Directed by Luke Yankee
February 14–16

They’re young, randy and living amidst strangers in New York City. And, they’re puppets, diverse and hilarious puppets. This production of the Tony Award-winning musical is staged in Musco Center for the Arts.

“She Kills Monsters”
by Qui Nguyen
Directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Nick Gabriel
April 25–27 & May 2–4

A young woman discovers her late sister’s Dungeons & Dragons notebook and journeys into a world laden with action, comedy and life lessons.

Tickets are available online at or by calling the university box office at 714.997.6624.