Theatre students to direct, act in annual Shorts production

PLAINVIEW – On the surface, Wayland Baptist University theatre’s annual Shorts production hasn’t changed much over the years. It’s still a collection of short plays, directed by students with students in the casts. But each year’s production takes on a feel of its own, taking on its own identity.

This year, the tenth for Shorts, marks not only a milestone anniversary for the student-led production but also the first time the show has been produced in the spring. After nine years as the lead-off hitter in the WBU theatre season lineup, Dr. Marti Runnels, theatre director, said it began to make sense to move it later in the year.

“One of the challenges with Shorts is that it’s part of the directing class assignment,” Runnels explained. “When it’s at the very front of the season, the students are directing without really having much of the class yet.

“We thought it would be good for our new students if their first theatre experiences were more traditional. Then the Shorts can be more of an experience for directing class students who really want to do it.”

That said, the season flipped and Shorts X is set to take the Harral Studio Theatre stage on April 19, 20 and 21. The first production on Thursday, April 19 will be a 10 p.m. “sneak preview” performance aimed at students, who tend to be night owls normally, though the general public is always welcome. The Friday and Saturday performances will be the traditional 8 p.m. start.

“We moved the Thursday show to 10 p.m. because the International Choir is doing their spring concert and tribute to Jennie Lynn Hodges that night, and the theatre department wants to encourage everyone to be at that event as well,” Runnels noted. “We didn’t want to create a situation where someone would come to our show and have to miss that event.”

While the evening of short plays often follows a theme, Runnels said this year’s theme of relationships is a bit looser. Each of the five Shorts deals with people relating to one another, sometimes in a romantic sense and sometimes just in social situations.

“Self-Torture and Strenuous Exercise,” by Harry Kondoleon, is a black comedy with physicality and flying props. It deals with four people isolated from each other by their perceptions of the universe but connected by love and literary triangles. Grant Jasper, senior theatre major, directs the production, which features a cast of theatre returners Chris Smith of Lubbock, Jessie Else of Idaho and Khrystne Eckerd of Ruidoso, N.M., and newcomer Peter Bourland, a junior transfer student from Tucson, Ariz.

“Businessman’s Lunch” by Michael Quinn features three employees from a candy company who are enjoying making fun of others, especially a hopeless nerd from work. Thomas Hoffman, a sophomore from Wasilla, Alaska, directs the production, with the cast including theatre regulars Feliciano Moralez of Plainview, Bobby Hon of El Paso, Andy Baker of Plainview and Rachel Morrison, a high school student from Turkey who had a chorus role in the musical Spitfire Grill.

“The Color of Heat,” directed by theatre veteran Hannah Stewart, a sophomore from Lubbock, is written by Samuel Zachary. The play involves a husband who is trying to revive his marriage by making up colorful stories about the antics of a neighbor couple. Conner Davis, a freshman from Plainview who also was in the Spitfire Grill chorus, stars, along with Hayley Cox of Plainview.

“Charlie the Chicken,” written by Jonathan Levy, features a pair of Vaudeville performers who create quite the laughs on stage but have a lot of other issues going on behind the scenes. Directed by senior theatre veteran Mary Feril of Grand Prairie, the play stars senior veteran Tim Fisher of San Antonio, Bourland and Rebekah Ballinger, a music student who starred in Spitfire Grill.

“Present Tense,” directed by senior veteran Tim Fisher, is written by John McNamara. The play involves a Walter Mitty-ish young man with romantic problems, starring Grant Jasper and featuring theatre veterans Rachel Morgan of Plainview, Thomas Hoffman, Mary Feril, and Hannah Stewart, and newcomers Conner Davis and Stephanie Ciszek of Phoenix, Ariz., a member of the Spitfire chorus.  

“These plays are all comic but almost all of them have a serious side to them as well,” notes Runnels, who reads all the scripts ahead and offers the student directors a choice of 12 options. He oversees the production in a supervisory role, though the students do the majority of the work.

Tickets for Shorts X are $8 for adults and $4 for students. Reservations can be made by calling the theatre box office at (806) 291-1089.