NIU School of Theatre and Dance presents ‘The Ascent of F6’

• Show runs Feb. 23-26, March 1-4 at Stevens Building’s O’Connell Theatre in DeKalb, Ill.

Staff Report

DEKALB, Ill. — The summit of fictitious mountain F6, known by locals as “The Haunted Mountain,” beckons a group of ambitious British citizens in the latest production by Northern Illinois University’s (NIU) School of Theatre and Dance.

Beginning Feb. 23, the NIU School of Theatre and Dance will present the staged production of The Ascent of F6, written by W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood.

The British people of an alternate 1930s are longing for a hero. Great Britain’s rival, Ostnia, is threatening to seize dominance of the region. British politician Sir James Ransom, however, has formulated a scheme to bring fame to himself and glory to the British Empire.

Ransom approaches his brother, Michael, an idealistic mountain climber, to persuade him to lead a group of climbers in a race to the top of F6, a mountain on a disputed piece of land. Ostnia is also sending climbers to the peak, and whoever scales it first will win dominance of the land.

There are three spheres of people who are affected by the climbing,” said Kate Booth, who plays Mrs. A., a character representative of the average British woman. There are the politicians, the general middle-class public, and the climbers, she said. The politicians are simply using F6 to bolster their careers, she explained.

The general public, on the other hand, wants a savior. Mr. and Mrs. A. find their lives dull and unfulfilling. When they hear on the radio that Michael Ransom is leading British climbers to the top of F6, they feel like someone is finally fighting for them, Booth said.

Michael Ransom’s struggles are not just about climbing, said Booth. He feels pressure to sacrifice himself for his country, rather than live for his personal ideals, she explained. When Michael agrees to climb, he finds himself the unwitting and unwilling savior of Britain.

Despite the play’s stylistic complexity, as when it alternates segments of poetry and prose, it is intensely relatable, Booth said. Mr. and Mrs. A. worry about the economy and their lack of money. They look to Michael as a savior and are disappointed when he struggles, Booth explained.

Brandin Hurley, who designed the set, will create a mountain on stage. “It creates an environment in which the actors are forced to … mirror the physicality of climbing,” she said.

The Ascent of F6 will be performed in the O’Connell Theatre Feb. 23-26 and March 1-4. Tickets are $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and $8 for students.

Tickets may be purchased at the Stevens Building O’Connell Theatre box office, open noon to 5 p.m., Monday-Thursday, noon to 2 p.m., Friday, and one hour before show time. Tickets may also be ordered by phone at (815) 753-1600 or online at

From the Feb. 22-28, 2012, issue

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