Theatre season packed with thoughtful drama, classic comedy, student swan songs

Release Date: September 10, 2009

PLAINVIEW – Patrons of the Wayland Baptist University Theatre program can’t say they won’t get their money’s worth for a season ticket this year. That’s because Dr. Marti Runnels, director, and his charges have crammed seven productions into the next 10 months, with everything from high classic comedy to deep drama.

“It’s really crazy,” Runnels said of the season schedule, noting that two senior practicum productions are bulking up the season schedule.

But Runnels said season-ticket holders and other patrons of the theatre are the real winners since the season boasts some great shows and the usual talent that Wayland students bring to the mix. The theatre will retain the format adopted last season of Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening shows and a Sunday afternoon matinee.

The year kicks off in early October with Shorts XIII, the “lucky” season for this evening of short plays directed by Runnels’ students as part of their class assignments for directing class. As in the past 12 years,Shorts will include a variety of genres within the evening, but Runnels said this year will be a shorter night due to only five directing students participating.

Junior Amanda Allen will direct “Captive Audience,” while junior Sarah Buckland will direct “Soap Opera.” Jake Miser, another theatre major, will take the director’s chair for “Let Us Go Out into the Starry Night,” and senior Rachel Morgan Williams will head up “English Made Simple.” Finally, junior Rachel Steed of Plainview will direct “Black Paintings.”

Shorts will be performed on the Harral Studio Theatre stage Oct. 8, 9, and 10 at 8 p.m. and in a 2 p.m. matinee on Oct. 11.

The second fall production is The Runner Stumbles by Milan Stitt. Runnels said he discovered this dramatic piece years ago, only now deciding to dust off the cover and bring it to the WBU stage.

“It is so moving and heavy,” he explains. “It deals with a murder trial and the investigation of a priest who they believe killed a nun.”

Runnels said the piece deals with celibacy and the importance of it in the church and how it relates to people in real life.

“This is definitely a play that deals with theology and society’s look at the church and rules,” he said.

The Runner Stumbles will be performed Nov. 12, 13 and 14 at 8 p.m. and in a 2 p.m. matinee on Nov. 15.

The spring production whirlwind kicks off Jan. 21-23 with a senior practicum production of Nameless. Husband and wife duo Laura Coleman and Michael Callahan, who transferred last fall from Trinity Valley Community College and have been active in WBU theatre since their arrival, will be tag-teaming the play in fulfillment of their senior practicum requirements. Coleman will direct the piece, which deals with holding onto faith in situations that seem bleak and faithless, while Callahan will serve as the designer for the play, his preferred role in the theatre.

The season continues Feb. 25-28 with the homecoming play Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl. Runnels describes this piece as “a comedy, but serious” with some timely thought provoking material.

“We usually do plays that are pretty straightforward here,” he laughed. “This one isn’t. It deals with life and the afterlife and the issues of technology from a broader perspective.”

Runnels said the play involves a woman who stumbles upon an incessantly ringing cell phone in a café, finding the man accompanying it to be dead. Her ensuing journey to tie up the many loose ends results in some comedic and frustrating moments for the lead character, and likely audiences will share that frustration a bit.

As the spring term winds down, Wayland Theatre brings out the classic comedy The Odd Couple by Neil Simon for its dinner theatre production. The twist? This version is written for females, with Unger and Madison becoming Florence Unger and Olive Madison. But the same humor that brought Simon much notoriety with the play is still present in this female version, Runnels said.

“This is really a classic, one of Neil Simon’s most famous plays,” he said. “It was a play turned into a film turned into a TV show. It was so famous he wrote a female version, which is just as funny.”

The dinner theatre will be catered by Season’s Way, with the evening beginning at 7 p.m. on April 22, 23 and 24, followed by the 8 p.m. play. Sunday, April 25, features a lunch at 1 p.m. followed by the play at 2 p.m.

The season finale for 2009-10 is the swan song by Plainview native Rachel Morgan Williams, who has been involved in numerous productions as an actress since even before her freshman year at WBU. Williams held the lead in the drama The Exact Center of the Universe in 2006 and the musical The Spitfire Grill in 2007 among her many credits, then repeated as the female lead in the centennial musical Man of La Mancha in February 2009.

For her senior practicum, she will perform a one-woman show on April 29, 30 and May 1 at 8 p.m.

The theatre will also reprise the Sacramento Mountain Theatre Collaborative at Ruidoso, N.M.’s famed Spencer Theater in June 2010 with students, alumni and others staging a performance after an intense three-week experience. Tickets to that production are $30 through the Spencer Theater ticket office.

Tickets to Wayland productions individually are $8 per person for most shows, $20 for the dinner theatre and $5 for the senior practicums. Season tickets sell for $45 (excluding the Spencer Theater show), saving patrons 17 percent off at-the-door prices. For a pair of season tickets, patrons pay $85, saving 22 percent off box office prices.

Season tickets are available through Oct. 2 by calling the WBU theatre box office at 291-1089. For more information, call the School of Fine Arts at 291-1060.