Theatre season features drama, mystery and comedy

PLAINVIEW - A pet shop, a Russian village and a New York subway may seem like odds and ends, but for Dr. Marti Runnels, they're vital ingredients for a successful theatre season.

Runnels, director of theatre at Wayland Baptist University, combines those three and other items for Wayland University Theatre's 2003-04 season. Add a guest director, a scoop of mystery and tons of colorful characters and the creation gets even more tasty.

The season kicks off October 2 with the opening production of Shorts. Subtitled The Boxer Looms Large, Shorts features eight short plays combined to create an evening of varied theatrical flavors. From the comedic lessons in "Cover" to the more dramatic musings of "Last Tuesday," the short plays provide an array of topics and tones. All plays are directed by students, with students also filling acting and technical roles.

Shorts will run Oct. 2, 3, 4, 10 and 11 at 8 p.m. in the Harral Studio Theatre.

The homecoming production for 2003 will be Fools , a comedy by Neil Simon. Set in a peasant village in Russia, the play features a people cursed with stupidity. A visiting teacher wants to start a school there, thinking he can break the curse, but he ends up falling in love.

"In a way, Fools is very unlike a typical Neil Simon play. He typically has a lot more broad physical humor, and his comedy normally involves more domestic humor," Runnels explains. "This is just pure fun."

Roland Myers, who served as theatre director at WBU in the 1970s, will be stepping into the directorial role for Fools . It was during Myers' time at the university when the Harral Studio Theatre that now houses most WBU Theatre productions was originally built.

"Mrs. Harral (the benefactor for the facility) was inspired by Myers' production of The Bacchae in Harral Auditorium," Runnels explained. "She wanted a theatre space for performances and a smaller place where they could do more things."

The premiere production for the facility was a play written by Myers' wife Juanice. The couple has since retired and they live in Lubbock, where they are still active in community theatre and other productions.

Fools will be performed Nov. 14 and 15 and during Wayland's homecoming weekend on Nov. 20, 21 and 22. The house opens at 7:30 p.m., with shows beginning at 8 p.m.

The third production of the season is the traditional dinner theatre show, featuring the play Artificial Jungle by Charles Ludlum. With performances on Feb. 27 and 28 and March 4, 5, and 6, the show features a catered dinner beforehand on the Harral Auditorium stage, followed by the play at 8 p.m. across the hall in the studio theatre.

Runnels calls the play "a cross between The Postman Always Rings Twice and Little Shop of Horrors," with many comic moments surrounding a murder mystery in a pet shop with piranhas and snakes.

The final play of the season will be Young Man from Atlanta, with shows at 8 p.m. on April 15, 16 and 17. Written by Horton Foote, who wrote A Trip to Bountiful and the screenplay for To Kill A Mockingbird, Young Man from Atlanta won a Pulitzer Prize and is considered one of Foote's finest pieces. Foote is one of Texas' most prolific playwrights, Runnels added.

The more dramatic of the season's offerings, Runnels said the play revolves around the mystery of an accidental death, encompassing the themes of family, loss and coping.

Season tickets for Wayland theatre are $35 per person or $69 for a pair, which includes preferred seating to all WBU Theatre productions for the year. Individual tickets are priced at $8 each for adults, with season tickets offering a substantial savings. Season ticket holders will receive their tickets in the mail and need only confirm reservations on the desired night in advance of each play.

Season ticket holders and other patrons of Wayland fine arts are invited to attend an opening reception on Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the atrium of the Mabee Learning Resources Center. Refreshments will be served to guests before they head to the Harral Studio Theatre for Shorts.

Tickets can be ordered by phone with a credit card at 291-1089 or by mailing a letter detailing number of tickets needed and a check to Wayland University Theatre, 1900 West 7 th St., CMB 410, Plainview, Texas 79072.

For more information, contact the theatre box office at 291-1089.