Senior ends WBU career with late night one-man show

Release Date: April 30, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – Thomas Hoffman has been many things during his stint as a student at Wayland Baptist University, from arctic explorer, mathematics student and French bartender to the portly sidekick of a windmill fighter.

His final role on the Wayland stage will take on a more serious tone as Hoffman, a native of Wasilla, Alaska, performs a one-man show titled The Fever in a single performance set for 10 p.m. Monday, May 4, in the Student Ministries Activity Center located in the Trinity Building at 9th and Utica Street. Written by actor Wallace Shawn, the scene takes place in a hotel room in a foreign country.

“The narrator is never named, and a political execution is taking place outside his door,” Hoffman explains. “It’s really about a privileged man dealing with the fact that the world is a cruel place, asking if he deserves what he has and wondering if it is enough to have sympathy for those who are living in despair.”

The performance serves as Hoffman’s senior practicum for his theatre major, and he said he chose the acting challenge over other options, including directing or designing a set or lights for a show. Feeling that his best talent was in the acting arena, he set out two months ago to pick a piece as his swan song. While researching one-man shows online, he found The Fever and was intrigued by both its content and its challenges for both himself as the actor and for audiences.

Hoffman said the memorization involved was daunting at first, but once he got that under his belt, he felt it was not as difficult as he first expected. In fact, he said, “That is really the smallest part of the work.”

“I spent most of the time memorizing it over spring break, and I stayed here on campus alone in my dorm room,” he said. “When you’re working on a piece about a guy in a room alone scared, and you’re alone in a room, it starts to mess with your head.”

Dr. Marti Runnels, director of theatre at Wayland, is directing Hoffman in the solo effort, having guided him on the WBU stage in at least a dozen productions since he first enrolled in 2005. And true to the expectation of practicum projects, the one-man show has challenged Hoffman in many ways.

“It’s a really challenging piece, and you learn a lot about yourself doing this kind of project,” he said. “This isn’t a sermon, but I can understand now how people that are speaking are impacted as well. However hard people in the audience are hit (by the message), it has hit me 1,000 times over. I only hope I help the work and not hurt it.

“I think it will make you think and hopefully make you feel, but most importantly, make you act,” he said. “There are tones of the play I didn’t think I would connect with as much, but the more I commit to my own personal life, the more this show’s truths have proven to be more evident in my life around me. All of us are so privileged, even if we don’t feel it, just being here at a private school. It’s kind of the biblical concept of ‘to whom much is given, much is required.’”

Hoffman said one of the biggest challenges to the project has been getting it in at the close of the semester, as he prepares to graduate on May 9. But he also adds that since acting is his passion, he hasn’t minded the immense amount of time spent on the piece.

After graduation, Hoffman wants to get a job and eventually work on a master’s degree in English to hone his writing ability. His dream is to one day start an independent film company, using his background in mass communications as well, and act professionally.

 The Fever runs 75 minutes and admission is free, though donations will be encouraged that evening for a charity to be explained at the production. For more information, contact the theatre box office at 291-1089.