MARQUETTE, Mich.—The Northern Michigan University theater program has unveiled its 2011-12 schedule of featured plays and special events. Mainstage productions include a comedy-drama about a London male actor whose livelihood playing female roles is put in jeopardy, a family-friendly musical about Frog and Toad, the regional premiere of a play tinged with echoes of Arab-American conflicts and a musical about a long-running county spelling bee. The season opens with Compleat Female Stage Beauty Oct. 12-15. In 1660s London, women are not allowed to perform on stage. Actor Edward Kynaston is noted for portraying Shakespeare’s women, especially Desdemona. In fact, he is a star. When a rival theater illegally puts a woman onstage as Desdemona, his livelihood is endangered. The final blow comes when King Charles II officially makes it legal for women to act. Kynaston must struggle to rediscover his identity—what it means to be a man, what beauty is and what it means to be himself once the curtain goes down. This show is rated R. A Year with Frog and Toad is a musical that remains true to the spirit of the classic children’s tales as it follows two great friends—the cheerful and popular Frog and the rather grumpy Toad—through four fun-filled seasons. Waking from hibernation in the spring, they proceed to plant gardens, swim, rake leaves and go sledding. They learning life lessons along the way, including a most important one about friendship and rejoicing in the attributes that make each of us different and special. This show runs Nov. 16-19 with 10 a.m. matinees Nov. 15 and 18. It is rated G. The regional premiere of The Near East will be staged Feb. 15-18 and 21-25 in the James A. Panowski Black Box Theatre. American archaeologist Ken Schneider is hired by Arab feminist scholar Aisha Ghazali to search for the elusive Umm al-Kitab, the “Mother of Books.” Disillusioned by the recent death of his son and the loss of his wife, Ken must confront his believe in God while they undertake this controversial mission. Meanwhile, Aisha’s brother struggles with his own religion, caught between love and his possible devotion to radical Islam. This new play is a portrait of love and loss, of terror and hope. It is rated R. Closing out the Forest Roberts Theatre season is a musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It runs April 18-21, with a 10 a.m. matinee on April 17. Six young people in the throes of puberty, overseen by grownups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves, learn that winning isn’t everything and that losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser. It makes for a hilarious tale of overachievers, angst and the experience of six adolescent outsiders vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime. The show is rated PG-13. Five special events are planned during the season. All are free and in the James A. Panowski Black Box Theatre unless otherwise indicated: ▪Lab Show #1, Oct. 19-22: Shows lasting 20-30 minutes are selected, cast and directed by NMU students. ▪First Nighter’s Club Haunted Theatre, Oct. 27-29 in Forest Roberts Theatre: Admission charged. ▪Ten-minute Play Festival, Dec. 7-8: Two nights of plays presented by students in the directing theory class. ▪New Play Readings, March 21-24: NMU professor Shelley Russell will conduct a reading of her new play Water, Women. There will also be a reading of the Panowski Playwrighting Award Winner, which will be featured as a full production the following year. ▪Lab Show #2, April 4-7: Shows lasting 20-31 minutes are selected, cast and directed by NMU students. Season tickets for Forest Roberts Theatre productions are available at all NMU EZ Ticket outlets or online at www.nmu.edu/tickets. For curtain times and other production information, visit www.nmu.edu/frt.