WBU Theatre Taking 39 Steps to Ruidoso

Wayland Theatre presents The 39 Steps at the Spencer Theater in Ruidoso on June 1.
Wayland Theatre presents The 39 Steps at the Spencer Theater in Ruidoso on June 1.

The Wayland Baptist University theatre department will perform “The 39 Steps” at the Spencer Theatre in Ruidoso. The one-night dinner theatre performance takes place at 6 p.m. on June 1.

Tickets range from $29-$49 based on seating preferences, and can be purchased at spencertheater.com.

Written by Patrick Barlow, “The 39 Steps” is a melodrama based on a 1915 novel by John Buchan, as well as a 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film. The play takes the serious spy story of the original novel and movie, playing it mainly for laughs using many allusions to other well-known Hitchcock films. The show also uses quick changes for a humorous effect as four actors play a multitude of characters.

Directed by Dr. Marti Runnels, Dean of the School of Fine Arts at Wayland, the show features former Wayland stage veterans and alums Sarah Buckland, a professional clown who holds a degree from the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in California, and Cory Norman who is the Director of Marketing and Communications for the School of Theatre at Texas Tech University. Former Wayland technical director Steve Wood will also take part in the show. The final cast member is Ella Ashley, a freshman at Wayland majoring in musical theatre. Ashley has been in both WBU theatre productions this year, Arsenic and Old Lace and The Amish Project.

Set in 1930s Europe, Norman portrays Richard Hannay, the lead character who becomes romantically involved with a spy. His short-lived relationship leads to a nationwide manhunt, resulting in a riotous blend of physical comedy and shenanigans that include an onstage plane crash, handcuffs and missing fingers.

The four actors portray more than 150 characters throughout the course of the play that runs approximately two hours.

“It’s just really, really, really fun,” said Runnels who first saw the show in London a few years ago. “The physical timing of it is most of the rehearsal process.  It’s a full-on farce with costume changes, props, lighting, sound. It’s a hilarious show, but the only reason it works is because there has been a whole lot of preparation going in on the front end of it.”

The 39 Steps is the ninth performance for Wayland at the Spencer Theater as part of the Sacramento Mountain Collaborative that started in June 2006. The program provides students from Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico the opportunity to do production work in one of the top theatres in the Southwest, and receive college credit for doing so.

Along with performing in a premier regional theater, the WBU theatre department is also no stranger to traveling abroad. Several years ago, Wayland won the coveted first prize at the Dundalk International Theatre Festival in Ireland. The school has also put on performances in Germany as well as conducting classes and workshops there in area high schools.