Theatre season to feature music, drama and comedy mixture

The 2001-02 season at the Wayland Baptist University Theatre can easily be compared to a marriage: plenty of laughter, serious moments and just plain craziness.

Under the leadership of Dr. Marti Runnels, theatre director, the season features four productions that vary in subject matter and mood. Add to that a new look for the Harral Studio Theatre in the form of new chairs and seating areas and the year is already enticing.

The first production is the fifth installment of an annual theatre tradition called Shorts. For this venture, students serve as actors, directors, crew and other positions with Runnels playing more of a guidance role. The evening features several short vignettes that vary between comedies and dramas. Shorts V will be presented in the Harral Studio Theatre, located to the north of Harral Auditorium Sept. 27-29 and Oct. 5-6.

The homecoming production, to be performed Nov. 9-10 and 15-17, will be the dramatic musical Blood Brothers. According to Runnels, the musical opened 20-25 years ago and is in its fourth revival in London. The musical came to the United States in 1993 and was nominated for several Tony Awards that year, competing with the winning Kiss of the Spider Woman.

"Blood Brothers is not a comedy or what I would call upbeat," Runnels explained. "It's a tearjerker; one of those things that pulls at your heart."

The musical deals with a poor woman in Liverpool, England who finds out she is expecting twins. Already having a large family, the woman agrees to give one of the babies to a woman for whom she works. The musical then deals with the boys' later years and the curse or legend that says twins separated at birth will die when they find out about each other.

Though the musical isn't a cheerful, upbeat production, Runnels said it still has merit as a theatrical piece.

"The move today, especially in the last 10-15 years, is toward musicals that are more close to reality, while giving messages that benefit us and characters we can relate to," Runnels said. "They don't wrap everything up with a bow. Examples of that are Miss Saigon, Jekyll and Hyde, Phantom of the Opera."

The third production - Elephant Man - is well known both for its historical significance and because of a film made of the play in the 1980s. The play deals with the life of John Merrick, called the Elephant Man because of an affliction he had which caused severe disfigurement. The play is set in Victorian era England.

"He's trying to survive in a world where the opportunity to manipulate and take advantage of someone like him are at every turn," he said.

The production of Elephant Man will be Wayland's entry to the Christian University Theatre Festival, which Wayland has previously hosted. This year the event will be in Abilene, with Hardin-Simmons University hosting. The play will also be WBU's associate entry into the American College Theatre Festival.

Elephant Man will be performed Feb. 28 and March 1-2.

Art, a comedy with a cast of three, will be performed April 18-20 and 26-27 as a dinner theatre. A newer play, Runnels said Art was the 1998 Tony Winner for best play. The production deals with the humor, confusion and arguments that ensue after one of three male friends buys a piece of expensive art.

In keeping with the dinner theatre tradition, a dinner in Harral Auditorium will precede each performance.

Tickets for the Wayland University Theatre season are now on sale through the Department of Theatre at a savings of 15-20 percent off prices at the door. Tickets are $33 for individuals or $65 for a couple and can be purchased up until the first show in September.

Season tickets are available by calling the box office at 291-1080.