Theatre kicks off season with annual favorite, Shorts

Wayland Baptist University’s theatre department kicks off its 2005-06 season with a series of short plays that has become an annual favorite for many. Shorts IX: Depends on You is the ninth installment of the opening production that features several short plays.

This year’s lineup is crazy all over, with each short play dealing with issues of psychiatry or craziness. Four of the plays come from a collection called Crazy and a Half, with three part of the “New York Crazy” segment and one from the “California Crazy” segment. The other two plays are stand-alone shorts dealing with similar topics, all comedic in nature.

“There are a few that have a sensitive side to them, but mostly they’re just funny plays,” said Dr. Marti Runnels, theatre director at Wayland.

Adding to the humor of this year’s production, Runnels enlisted the help of new faculty member Jeff Kensmoe, assistant professor of vocal studies and director of vocal studies and opera/musical theatre, to liven things up with musical numbers between each short play.

“I saw that most of the scripts have to do with psychiatrists and interpersonal relationships, and found some songs that go along with that,” Kensmoe said. “We’re doing several from one of my favorite composers, Gordon Myers, who writes songs that are like news fillers or clippings.”

“It’s called ‘intermezzi,’ which is an Italian term meaning sung episodes between acts of a show,” Kensmoe added.

In all, 13 short musical numbers will be interwoven into the evening, performed by Wayland music students under Kensmoe’s direction. In addition to the Myers pieces, students will perform “Cell Block Tango” from the musical Chicago, with a Stepford Wives twist, “Marry the Man Today” from Guys and Dolls, and “To Keep My Love Alive,” from an older musical.

Runnels and Kensmoe hope to collaborate more in the future, with musical theatre and opera shows performed in alternating years in the spring semester. For the next fall, Kensmoe hopes to incorporate a children’s opera program into the music offerings as a community outreach.

“We can take advantage of Marti’s experience and my experience and let the students see several angles of the theatre world, which they really need, especially if they are going to be teaching,” Kensmoe said.

Runnels said he’s glad to have someone with that expertise on board, which will make putting on a musical show much easier. For now, he’s glad to bring an added dimension to the already fun atmosphere of this year’s Shorts production.

The short plays included are as follows:

  • “I’ll Take Manhattan,” by D.R. Andersen: Two therapists, played by WBU theatre veteran Grant Jasper and newcomer Jessie Else, fight for the only hour left in their shrink’s day. Senior theatre major Milea Huckeby directs.
  • “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” by D.R. Andersen: A divorced couple struggles with custody of their dog Harry. The cast includes Doug Warren, theatre returner, and newcomers Mary Green and Hayley Cox. Junior theatre veteran Holly Gwyn directs.
  • “In Other Words,” by D.R. Andersen: A shy Mafia wife, with gun in hand, demands that her therapist make her happy. The cast includes theatre veteran Lisa Angel, newcomer David Michael Horn and new theatre major Jose Guzman. Theatre major Grant Jasper directs.
  • “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” by D.R. Andersen: A married couple with major problems, played by Grant Jasper and Jessie Else, seeks treatment with a husband and wife team of marriage counselors who are on the verge of divorce themselves. New theatre minor Thomas Hoffman and Rachel Morgan, a senior at Plainview Christian Academy, round out the cast. Mary Feril, a sophomore theatre major, directs the piece.
  • “Eye to Eye,” by Chris Graybill: A man and woman on a date, played by theatre veterans Kelley Dunn and Paul Finley, flirt with each other and play mind games. Newcomer Hannah Stewart plays the waitress, and sophomore theatre major Craig Huckeby directs.
  • “Problem-Solver,” by Michael Bigelow and Valerie Smith: A group of people work on assembling a chair, driving everyone crazy in the process. The cast includes theatre newcomer Jennybeth Alford, new theatre minor Shawn Kelley, and new theatre majors Luis Lujan, Catherine Donald and Feliciano Morales. Tim Fisher, a junior theatre major, directs.

Shorts takes the stage at 8 p.m. on Sept. 23, 24, 29, 30 and Oct. 1 in the Harral Studio Theatre on the Plainview campus. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for students. For reservations, contact the Box Office at 291-1087.