New Haven Register 4/19/2013

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Entertainment > Arts

SCSU’s Sheila Garvey stages ‘Letters from Italy 1944’ oratorio

Friday, April 19, 2013

By Donna Doherty / Twitter: @nhregarts

MIDDLETOWN — It’s a story that’s been told in hushed conversations that generally don’t happen until decades have pushed the memory into a safe recess of the brain.

It’s been captured in iconic photographs that have won Pulitzer Prizes.

It is war, specifically the pre-social media wars, and the interlude it imposes on a relationship between a man and his family, a relationship kept alive through letters that can only express just so much.

“Letters from Italy 1944” is a new original opera/oratorio commissioned by the Greater Middletown Chorale which weeks ago sold out its April 28 date at the Performing Arts Center of Middletown High School, 200 LaRosa Lane.

The chorale is selling tickets to the Friday preview, technically the dress rehearsal. The show will be fully presented, with orchestra, though it may break for any technical problem.

Joseph Eugenio, the chorale’s award-winning artistic director, will conduct the 80-voice chorale with full orchestra, multimedia projections and staging by the GMC’s Drama Director in Residence Sheila Hickey Garvey, Southern Connecticut State University professor of theater.

According to press materials, “Letters” is the “life work” of two Connecticut sisters, Grammy-nominated composer Sarah Meneely-Kyder and poet/lyricist Nancy Meneely. It’s the true story of their father, Yale-educated doctor John Meneely Jr., who was 28 when he enlisted in the Army during World War II, serving as a medic in the 10th Mountain Division.

His “poetic letters home” inspired the work, which weaves together a soldierly story they call “one of terror and loss, and of his bittersweet homecoming.”

Tickets are $30 and $35 for the 7:30 p.m. Friday performance, and are available through

Garvey said in a statement that as one who has had family serve overseas, she was honored to be involved in the project: “We never plan for the aftermath of war. This performance is meant to honor and remember those who have served.”

The Greater Middletown Chorale will give a portion of the proceeds to local veterans and military projects.

For more information, visit or call 860-316-4854.


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Sheila Hickey Garvey

About Sheila Hickey Garvey

Sheila Hickey Garvey is a Professor of Theater at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) and the Resident Director and Artistic Associate of Theatrical Production for the Greater Middletown Chorale (GMAX). In the spring of 2010 she staged the GMAC’s production of Felix Mendelssohn's ELIJAH. Dr. Garvey has directed 25 productions for SCSU's Department of Theatre. Her 2011 production of Sarah Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone was one of only five New England University Theater productions invited for presentation at the Region I/ John F. Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival (KC/ACTF). Her spring 2008 production of "A Piece of My Heart" received KC/ACTF’s Region I directing award for Outstanding Women's Initiative Production. In 2006 she received the prestigious Moss Hart Award for her staging of the American Premiere of Ellen Kaplan's Pulling Apart. Dr. Garvey was awarded a John F. Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival Directing Fellowship in 1995. In professional venues she has directed and acted in many of the award winning one-act plays produced by the New England Actor’s Theatre for Short and Neat and staged at New Haven's Lincoln Theatre during New Haven Connecticut's International Festival of the Arts. She has also acted with Long Wharf Theatre, The Kitchen Playwright's Theatre, The Weathervane Theatre, The Allenberry Playhouse and The Williamstown Theatre Festival among others. She is an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers union and an EMC in Actors Equity. In the summer of 2011 she was invited to teach master classes in Acting and Directing on the stage of the National Theatre of the Republika Srpska for the Academy of Performing Arts at the University of Banja Luka in Bosnia. Her articles on theatrical performance have appeared in The Eugene O'Neill Review, Theatre Survey, The New England Theatre Journal, The Recorder and Coup de Theatre, a journal of the Sorbonne. She is a Past President of the Eugene O'Neill Society (2001-2003), a co-editor and a contributor to the book "Jason Robards Remembered" (MacFarland Inc., 2001) and a contributor to "A Critical Companion to Eugene O'Neill: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work" (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2009). In 2011 she collaborated on the creation of a guidebook titled "Eugene O'Neill's New York" with Arthur and Barbara Gelb. She hold a B.S. from Emerson College (Theatre), an M.A. from Northwestern University (Directing), a Ph.D. from New York University (TISCH) Performance Studies and is also a graduate of Broadway's Circle in the Square Professional Acting School.