WBU theatre troupe bringing Christie classic to Ruidoso stage
Release Date: June 10, 2008
PLAINVIEW – Audiences worldwide have loved Agatha Christie’s whodunit The Mousetrap so much it is the longest running play in the world, running continuously since 1952.
Dr. Marti Runnels loves it so much he resurrected the play from Wayland Baptist University’s history to direct it in the school’s third year of the Sacramento Mountain Theatre Collaborative in Ruidoso, N.M.
After two weeks of intensive rehearsals, construction of a massive set and a very hands-on experience in quick turnaround theatre, the cast will be traveling to Ruidoso this weekend for final rehearsals in preparation for the June 20 performance at the renowned Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts just outside Ruidoso.
Runnels directed the play in November 2001, loving the twists and suspense the classic play provided in natural Christie fashion. It wasn’t difficult for him to dust off the scripts and bring it out for this summer’s production.
“I wanted to do something different than what we’ve done at the Spencer,” explained Runnels, who serves as theatre director and co-chair of the Division of Fine Arts at WBU. “The first year, Art was very fitting for a place like Ruidoso, because it dealt with friendship issues with fine art as a backdrop. Then we went a different direction last year with Shadowlands, a story about C.S. Lewis.”
“I wanted the people of Ruidoso to see that we will be bringing them a variety of shows over the years, and this is an entirely different direction from the others.”
Set in 1940s England, the play involves a group of people who have come to stay at a manor – similar to a bed and breakfast today but with all meals provided – which is owned by a young couple new to the business. A murder has happened outside, then inside the manor, followed closely by a heavy snow, which means the visitors and their hosts are trapped in the house with a killer. A detective arrives to investigate the situation and the suspense builds.
The play cast features two high school students who are participating in the theatre collaborative. Corinna Browning of Channing plays Molly Ralston, part owner of Monkswell Manor, while Brittany Nothstine of Farmington, N.M. fills the role of Miss Casewell, one of the manor guests. Two other students, Jessica Drake of Tyler and Alyssa Seaton of Brownfield, are filling major crew roles for the show.
Jordy Williams, a WBU senior theatre and English major from Shallowater, plays the role of Sgt. Trotter, the detective, while sophomore theatre student Jake Miser of Clarendon plays Christopher Wren, another traveler staying at the manor. Senior theatre veteran Thomas Hoffman of Alaska plays Mr. Paravicini, a traveler, and the role of Mrs. Boyle is filled by WBU stage veteran Jennifer Riley, a teacher at Plainview High School.
Dr. David Howle, associate professor of religion, returns to the Ruidoso stage, this year as Major Metcalf. Howle played a role in last summer’s Shadowlands production. Recent Hardin-Simmons University theatre graduate Randall Ramirez joins the WBU troupe in the role of Giles Ralston, the manor’s other co-owner.
While none of Runnels’ original 2001 cast returns for this production on stage, one major actor then has a vital role in the theatre collaborative and the staging of The Mousetrap. Chris Moore acted in the last production but is responsible for much of the set design and construction for the reprisal in Ruidoso. As technical director for WBU theatre, he planned and has been feverishly executing the construction of a major stage set for the production, all of which must be disassembled, carried to Ruidoso and reassembled on the Spencer stage.
“It’s the biggest set we’ve ever traveled with,” said Runnels, noting that the group chose a raked – or sloping – set for the production meaning a whole floor must be built. “Sightlines in a theatre that is big are not always so good for everyone, so this helps accommodate the sightlines so people can see the show better.”
The enormous set undertaking, combined with a total turn time of three weeks from starting rehearsals to performance, present many challenges for the theatre group. And this year’s production, unlike the last few, has no real small roles, a fact Runnels planned intentionally. But it does create additional challenges with new, young actors who have not worked together on the WBU stage.
But that in itself is part of the learning experience of the collaborative. The intensive experience with hard work and grueling rehearsals provides a great insight into the world of collegiate theatre and beyond. It’s one that benefits students whether they have been in college yet or not, thus the point of the summer program.
The show will be performed at 8 p.m. on June 20, with tickets for $20 available through the WBU Alumni office at (806) 291-3600 or through the Spencer Ticket office at (575) 336-4800.
In addition, the Spencer Theater will have a special fundraiser exhibit of the art collection of the late Jackie Spencer in their lobby on Saturday, June 21, from 6-9 p.m. Tickets for the event are $25 and include food, musical entertainment and a chance to view and bid in silent auction format on 70-80 pieces of art from Spencer’s collection, left to the theatre in her will. Contact the box office for tickets.