West Virginia Universitys Division of Theatre and Dance is presenting one of the most important plays written by German playwright Bertoldt Brecht April 17-19 and April 22-26.

The Caucasian Chalk Circlewill be the divisions final production of the season. Considered amorality masterpiece,it is the story of a servant girl who sacrifices everything to protect a child abandoned in the heart of civil war.

According to director Jerry McGonigle of the WVU Theatre faculty, the production design for this unique play is inspired by childrens pop-up books and enlivened by masks and puppets. There will also be original music performed by cast and crew members, using a variety of instruments and sounds.

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. nightly in the Gladys G. Davis Theatre of the Creative Arts Center on WVU s Evansdale Campus. Sunday matinee performances begin 2 p.m. April 20 and 27. Additionally, a special preview of the play will begin at 7:30 p.m. today (April 16).

Written in 1948, as Europe was still struggling to rebuild after World War II, the play is set in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. At the beginning of the play, a group of war survivors listens to a singer who tells stories about the ancient Chinese tradition known asThe Chalk Circle.

Brecht lived through two World Wars and the resulting existential crises they brought to many European artists, philosophers and theologians. As one of the visionary directors and writers of the postwar period, he reshaped ideas originated by playwrights such as Irwin Piscator and Max Reinhardt to fashion what would become the Epic Theatre. His intent was to force audiences to take action about an issue once it had been dramatized in his plays.

Brecht had to flee Europe at the beginning of World War II. He found shelter first in Scandinavia, then in Santa Monica, Calif., where he was introduced to people in the film industry. While in exile in the United States, he wrote some of his most memorable plays, includingThe Caucasian Chalk CircleandGalileo,which captivated movie actor Charles Laughton so much that he helped secure a production by playing the title character.

Although none of his plays ever achieved smash-hit status on Broadway or Londons West End, Brechts work has always been popular with the academic theater community. Directors and designers have used every effect and stylistic tool at their disposal to create productions that will entertain and enlighten people about the issues in his plays. The ideas of the Epic Theatre have been refined and shaped to make the works more accessible for todays audiences.

McGonigle has teamed with costume and puppet designer Mary McClung of the WVU Division of Theatre and Dance to rethink how people look at each character through the course of the play. At some points, characters will be depicted as puppets; at other moments, theyll be seen as full-sized characters.

Scene designer Sabrina Hykes, a graduate student in the Division of Theatre and Dance, has chosen to present the playin the round,reshaping the Gladys G. Davis stage into a circle.

Hykes and McGonigle were inspired to present the world of the play through pop-up childrens books and the ancient tradition of masks and puppetry, since Brecht was fascinated by theatrical styles of the Far East, where storytelling, dance and puppetry have been presented for more than 5,000 years.

All of the costumes, puppets and scenes will be brought to life through lighting created by graduate student Karen Muller.

The cast includes WVU students Rodney Creech, Aileen Targett, Mike Custer, John Harper, David Menich, Emily Shaffer, Vance Barber, Jeff Potts, Brian Edelman, Leah Zeller, Dan Stevens, Alex Gadd, Vinny Greco, Steven Bell, Michelle Gilbert, Tracy Toman, Jessika Goldstein and Kellsye Carnill.

Division of Music alumnus R.J. Nestor composed the music, and theater graduate student J.W. Walton is stage manager.

Tickets are $15 for general admission, $12 for senior citizens and WVU faculty and staff, and $10 for students with WVU ID . Tickets may be purchased by calling 304-293-SHOW or visiting the WVU box offices at the Mountainlair and the Creative Arts Center. Tickets are also available through Ticketmaster outlets or at http://www.ticketmaster.com .