Wayland theatre to present second Friel play

PLAINVIEW - Wayland Baptist University Theatre will present the play Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel as its season finale on April 15, 16 and 17.

Frequent patrons of Wayland Theatre may recall another Friel play, Molly Sweeney, performed in the 2000-01 season. But as striking as that dramatic piece was, director Dr. Marti Runnels feels this production is better.

"This is considered to be Friel's masterpiece. I think it's one of the most beautiful plays I have ever read," Runnels said. "I really love Molly Sweeney, but I love this play more. I've been wanting to direct it for a long time."

Runnels said the play is told from the standpoint of a man as he recalls his childhood in Northern Ireland, specifically the year 1936, when he was only seven. Michael, played by Billy Boone, recalls events from that summer when his uncle Jack returned from Uganda after serving as a missionary there for 25 years and events with his mother and her four sisters, none of whom ever married.

Runnels said the events center around the Festival of Lughnasa, an old Celtic festival held in Ireland annually which features dancing and revelry. The sisters argue over attending the festival, with some wanting to go and another balking, using the excuse that the women are too old and mature.

"The play deals with how one lives out his or her life," Runnels explained. "Do we only live by the traditions we were brought up with as a child, or is it possible that other traditions, other faiths have things to offer too?

"Sometimes what the world has to offer may be a good thing, but we never recognize it because it is 'secular' and we think nothing secular is good."

Runnels added that while some theatrical productions aim to solve the problems of life easily, Dancing at Lughnasa mirrors reality more.

"It's not a play with easy answers. A lot of plays that are about life struggles make it so black and white and real life is not like that," he said. "In this play, you are torn between what you see and what decisions you think the characters should make that may not turn out as expected."

The play features Boone as the narrator Michael, with WBU theatre graduate Cory Norman returning to the stage as Uncle Jack and technical theatre director Chris Moore, also a graduate of Wayland theatre, returning to an acting role as Gerry.

The five sisters are Kate, played by Teresa Moore of Plainview, a 1995 WBU graduate who has been in several productions over the past few years and now is WBU student activities coordinator; Maggie, played by WBU theatre major and veteran actor Milea Simpson of Wichita Falls; Agnes, played by WBU senior theatre major and veteran Desi Pharis of Plainview; Rose, played by freshman theatre major Mary Feril of Grand Prairie, who also had a role in the fall production of Fools; and Chris, played by junior Jennifer Rutherford of Artesia, N.M., also a WBU theatre veteran.

Jennifer Riley is serving as stage manager, with other crew heads including Lisa Angel on props, Kelley Dunn on lights, Chris Stegall on sound, Billy Boone on makeup, Jennifer Parrish on publicity, Andrew Oglesby on house and Tim Fisher on costumes.

Runnels noted that the play is a change from the original season plan which included Young Man from Atlanta by Horton Foote as the final show. The change occurred due to conflicts with Runnels' male actors needed for the production.

Dancing with Lughnasa will be performed at 8 p.m. on April 15, 16 and 17 in Harral Studio Theatre. Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for students. Patrons who bring a grocery sack of nonperishable foods will receive a ticket for half price.

For reservations or information, call the theatre box office at (806) 291-1089.