WBU Theatre taking show on the road to Ruidoso, reprising in Plainview

PLAINVIEW – Marti Runnels is used to working in the familiar space of the Harral Studio Theatre. But this summer, he’ll get to broaden his horizons as he takes the Wayland Baptist University theatre production of Art to the Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts in Ruidoso, N.M.

As Director of Theatre at Wayland, Runnels directed the show in 2002 on the Plainview campus, and he’s pulled the original cast together to reprise the production in June. For Runnels, the setting and the venue could not be more ideal.

“Going to Ruidoso and the Spencer Theater is like vacationing in the midst of a burgeoning art community.  What was once just a mountain getaway with skiing and the race track is emerging as a place for artists of all kinds to work, exhibit and perform,” Runnels said. “The Spencer Theater houses the largest private collection of Seattle Glass Sculptor Dale Chihuly's work in the Southwest. His work is hardly what one would classify as traditional and often not even representational, yet it is admired and respected by many people.

“What better place to perform Art, this show that uses the ideas about what makes art art to talk about the mysteries of relationships.” 

The performance of Art will be the centerpiece of a weekend planned for WBU alumni and friends in Ruidoso, June 24-25. Specifically, the show will be at 8 p.m. on the evening of Saturday, June 24, at the Spencer Theater. The two weeks prior to the performance, Runnels and technical theatre director Chris Moore will be leading the Sacramento Mountain Theatre Collaborative in Ruidoso, an intensive theatre course for high school seniors involving them in set design, rehearsals and the entire production process. 

Before the group heads to New Mexico, however, they’ll reprise Art on the Wayland stage for area theatre fans, playing at 8 p.m. on both June 9 and 10. Both shows will be by donation, with funds raised helping to pay for the theatre collaborative and extra expenses of taking a show to another venue.

The cast includes Moore playing the role of Marc, Patrick Whitfill playing Serge and Cory Norman playing Ivan. All three are Wayland graduates and veterans of the WBU stage, with Moore and Norman making numerous appearances as theatre majors during their time at Wayland. Both Norman and Whitfill are doing graduate work at Texas Tech, while Moore works at Wayland and is pursuing a graduate degree as well.

Four years after they originally filled the roles, the trio says the play is still enjoyable, though not necessarily any easier.

“It’s familiar to us, but we’re having to learn all the lines over again and all the blocking. We thought we had it all up here,” Moore said, taping his head with a smile, “but we didn’t.”

Written by Yasmina Reza, Art involves three friends – Marc, Serge and Ivan – who are having a disagreement about a new piece of artwork purchased by Serge. A large white canvas consisting of white diagonal lines, the piece invokes strong feelings from Marc, who feels it’s a joke, and Serge, who believes the artwork is brilliant and thinks Marc is not refined enough to appreciate it. Ivan has his own personal issues but finds himself drawn into the argument over the painting.

Eventually, the jabs about the artwork turn into personal jabs and threaten the friendships. The bonds are tested near everyone’s breaking point, and the final moments make for some classic theatre. The play garnered a Tony Award for Best Play in 1998 and in 1996 earned an Olivier Award for the best comedy.

“I think the script is the kind of thing that everyone in Ruidoso – and anywhere for that matter – can relate to because all perspectives about art are presented in the play. Who hasn't had the experience of saying, or if not, at least hearing ‘$100,000?! Are you kidding, I could paint that!’” said Runnels. “Of course, it is a somewhat sophisticated play – not a play for children because most of the ideas here would be lost on them – but it resembles, in some respects, the great children’s story The Emperor's New Clothes.

The Spencer production will be followed by a special reception in the theatre’s Founder’s Club, featuring light snacks and a fellowship time for the artists and theatre fans. An exhibit of artwork by WBU faculty members Dr. Candace Keller and Mark Hilliard will be on display at the theatre as well. Tickets for the event are $30 and reservations should be made in advance by calling the alumni office at 291-3600.

A full schedule of the weekend, along with a printable reservation form, is available on the WBU web site at www.wbu.edu.

Reservations for the local show can be made by calling the box office at 291-1087.