Theatre season to feature classic comedies, music, Miller hit

Featuring a menu of comedic short plays, musical moments, a holiday operetta, a comedy dinner play and a classic by Arthur Miller, the 2002-03 season lineup for the Wayland Baptist University theatre department is like dinner at a great restaurant: something for all tastes and all sure to please.

According to Dr. Marti Runnels, theatre director and professor of theatre at WBU, this season has plays from noted authors as well as a popular operetta for the Christmas holidays. All will be featured in the Harral Studio Theatre on the Plainview campus.

The first offering will be the annual short play extravaganza directed by students from the theatre department, called Shorts and the City, and playing Nov. 15, 16, 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. and at 2 p.m. on Nov. 23. Typically just a collection of shorter plays, this year's production will include tunes from Broadway shows. Tisa Whitfill of Plainview will be directing the musical portion as her senior practicum project, and returning theatre alums will be performing the songs at the Nov. 23 matinee. Runnels said the plays for the evening are mostly comedies.

As an introduction to the holiday season, the theatre department's second offering, Amahl and the Night Visitors, will be featured Dec. 5 and 6 at 8 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Dec. 8. The production will feature live music by Wayland students and faculty in a joint effort with the music department.

"For people who don't know that show, it was the first opera to ever appear on television," Runnels explained, adding that the premiere aired on NBC in 1951. "It's actually an operetta, and it's only about 50 minutes long."

Runnels said the story involves Amahl, a young boy with a crippled leg who is visited by the three magi on their way to take gifts to the newborn Christ child. When Amahl hears of the baby king, he wants to send a gift as well, but he and his mother have little to give. He gives the kings his crutch for the baby and his selfless act leads to his physical healing.

The first spring production and the annual dinner theatre show will be a performance of the A.R. Gurney play The Dining Room. Featured on Feb. 28 and March 1 and 2, a dinner catered by The Olive Garden will begin the evening at 7 p.m., followed by the show at 8 p.m.

The show features a cast of six, playing 57 total roles. According to Runnels, the play explores a typical well-to-do household using scenes around the dining room table and it "has both comic and some poignant moments." Runnels said audiences will likely remember Gurney for Love Letters and Sylvia, the play about a dog which was performed at Wayland several years ago.

The production will be Wayland's entry at the Christian University Theatre Festival to be held in Abilene at Hardin-Simmons University.

The final show of the season will be a serious drama by Arthur Miller, considered one of America's finest playwrights. Directed by senior Brandon Campanella as his practicum project, The Price is one of four plays that define Miller's reputation, including Death of a Salesman, The Crucible and All My Sons. Runnels will be part of the cast.

"It's a serious drama that deals with what value we put on both objects and our souls," Runnels said. "It takes place in the attic of a home where two brothers are dealing with what to do with items inherited after their father has died."

Season tickets are priced at $35 per person or $69 for a couple, a savings over individual ticket prices of $8 for regular shows and $18 for the dinner theatre. Season ticket holders will be special guests at an opening night reception on Nov. 15. They also receive priority seating and tickets are mailed beforehand, eliminating waiting lines on show nights.

Season brochures should be reaching theatre patrons by Sept. 30. Others interested in ordering season tickets, or those not receiving a brochure, may contact the theatre office at 291-1089. Deadline to reserve season tickets is Oct. 15.

The theatre department will also be doing several service projects to benefit Plainview's food pantry for the needy, Faith in Sharing House, including collecting food door-to-door in Plainview on Sept. 28. The department will also offer discounted play tickets at the door for patrons bringing a sack of food for FISH.