Theatre season features comic relief

PLAINVIEW - A few things about Wayland Baptist University's 2004-05 theatre season may look a little different to the typical patron. A guest director, new actors and a lighter opening production, not to mention the return of a favorite restaurant for the dinner theatre, will likely entice theatre fans.

But some things about WBU theatre have not changed. Patrons and new guests will find the same quality acting, excellent scripts and fabulous set design they've enjoyed in years past.

According to WBU Theatre Director Marti Runnels, the season does bring some changes. For one, the annual Shorts production, featuring several short pieces directed and performed by students, will take on a different tone this year.

"There will be more humor this year than in previous years," Runnels notes. "There are less of the heavy, contemplative pieces that have been performed in the past. These are more funny pieces, with only one serious piece."

Students will still direct and act in the pieces, with Runnels continuing to serve in an advisement role. Students cast in Shorts run the gamut from theatre majors to those with other majors but acting interests.

Shorts will take the Harral Studio Theatre stage on Oct. 1, 2, 7, 8, and 9 at 8 p.m.

The second production of the year will be Approaching Zanzibar, written by Tina Howe. Direction for this humorous yet poignant production will be by Scott Crew, a doctoral student at Texas Tech University and a former adjunct instructor at WBU.

Runnels said the piece deals with a family's cross-country journey to visit an aunt living in New Mexico.

"It has all the elements you might imagine with a family on vacation," he said. "But besides it being fun, it has some serious elements dealing with family and other issues."

Approaching Zanzibar will take the stage at 8 p.m. on Nov. 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20, included as part of the homecoming festivities at WBU the last weekend.

The third show of the year, featured in early spring, will be The Young Man From Atlanta, written by Horton Foote. Runnels said the piece, which won Texas playwright Foote a Pulitzer Prize, is the most dramatic of the season's lineup.

"Like a lot of his work, this play is very real. Foote is not a slick, theatrical or gimmicky playwright," Runnels said. "He writes with sparse language and simplicity. His plays really are like a slice of life."

The production - which takes the stage Feb. 25, 26 and March 3, 4, and 5 - is about a couple in the 1950s dealing with the drowning death of their son in a fictional Texas town. Foote is probably best known for writing the screenplay for the movie To Kill a Mockingbird.

The final play of the season, which will also serve as WBU Theatre's annual Dinner Theatre production, will be The Gin Game by D. L. Coburn. Made famous on Broadway by husband-and-wife acting duo Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, the play features only two characters.

Runnels said the comical dramatic play is about two older individuals living in a retirement home who begin a game of gin rummy and learn much about themselves and life in the process.

The personnel for the production presents a unique situation in WBU theatre history, as the cast and major crew heads are all completing the production for credit toward their major requirements. Jennifer Riley will direct the play as her senior practicum, and senior Jennifer Rutherford will provide set design to fulfill her practicum requirements. Senior theatre majors Billy Boone and Milea Simpson are fulfilling their practicum in acting through the production.

The show will be presented April 21, 22 and 23 with dinner provided beforehand, catered by The Olive Garden of Lubbock. That production requires reservations in order to prepare for the meal.

Season tickets for WBU Theatre are $40 for individuals and $70 for a couple, resulting in a savings over individual per-show prices. Season ticket holders are also guests at a special reception held before opening night of the first show.

For more information, or to purchase season tickets, call the Theatre Box Office at 291-1087.