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American Gothic is an operatic examination of the infamous 1930 painting

Adrienne Turner (Agnes) and Will Earl Spanheimer (Alvin) in the ASU Herberger Mainstage Lyric Opera Theatre premiere of American Gothic, Nov. 18 and 19.
Photo by Tim Trumble.

Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

October 19, 2005

TEMPE, Ariz. - Lovers of opera, musicals and a good "Twilight Zone" experience can enjoy all three when ASU Herberger Mainstage Lyric Opera Theatre (LOT) premieres the new work, American Gothic, by Arizona composer Kenneth LaFave, Nov. 18 and 19, 2005.

A musical adventure based on Grant Wood's popular painting of the same name, American Gothic imagines the story behind the 75 year-old art work. It tackles national values - at their best and worst - on a Kansas farm in America's Dust Bowl, circa 1933. Alvin, Agnes and Lester - father, mother and son - are a dysfunctional family trapped in a depression-era despair that only a pitchfork fantasy sequence, divine intervention, young love and a good hard rain can help.

"It's both opera and musical theatre, yet neither," says LaFave. "It feels more like a movie."   The 90-minute production is one act, with little dialogue between songs.

Renowned author and ASU Emeritus Professor Robert Kastenbaum authored the libretto. School of Music faculty associate Anna Wheeler Gentry directs the production and music doctoral student Jesus David Camalich is the musical director.

"The music is captivating and serves the drama very well," says Gentry. Compositionally, Gentry says the score is "reminiscent of Copland's 'Tenderland,' Philip Glass's 'The Juniper Tree' and 'Sweeney Todd,' by Steven Sondheim."

Tickets for the limited engagement of American Gothic are $5-$20 and available online at or through the Herberger College Box Office, 480-965-6447. Show times are 7:30 p.m., Nov. 18 and 19, at the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre, 40 E. Gammage Pkwy., on the ASU Tempe Campus.

The ASU Herberger Mainstage Lyric Opera Theatre season is sponsored by The Harris, leaders in wealth management since 1882.   For a complete Mainstage schedule of theatre, dance and music performances, go to 

Media Contact:
Denise Tanguay