Theatre group providing entertainment for Rotary Club fundraiser

April 13, 2011

PLAINVIEW – It all started with Wayland Baptist University’s Alpha Psi Omega theatre honor society making a decision: they wanted to do more than just be an honor society about theatre. They wanted to share their art with the community.

That manifested itself in a January production of “Classics Abridged” in partnership with area children’s home and for their benefit.

Now, the group’s talents will be helping local children through the Rotary Club as they perform an original murder mystery in a dinner theatre format titled “Tune in for Murder,” slated for Tuesday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Harral Studio Theatre.

Rotarian Kim Street said she approached the theatre troupe about help with a dinner theatre for members and spouses in lieu of the annual Valentine’s banquet. Once they began planning for the event, she realized there would be room to invite the public as well and raise funds for some of Rotary’s local projects.

“We knew we needed to get someone involved with this that knew how to do theatre, and I was given Sarah (Buckland)’s name at Wayland. It just went forward from there,” said Street, who has helped coordinate the logistics of the event.

Buckland, a senior theatre major from Weatherford, said she visited with the Alpha Psi group and quickly found interest in the project. But the group wasn’t satisfied with just dusting off an old script they’d done in the past.

“We had written a murder mystery party for our end-of-the-year theatre party last year, and we thought we’d do something like that,” Buckland said. “We decided just to write something original for the dinner theatre setting, and it should really be fun.”

Fellow theatre major Amanda Allen stepped up to the plate, doing the majority of the writing for the piece. She borrowed an idea from a movie and reworked the scene around a dinner theatre.

The premise is that of a mystery radio show set in the 1940s and 50s at a struggling radio station. In order to boost ratings, the show brings in a live studio audience to heighten the excitement during the show, but soon real murders begin occurring on the set. The show must go on, despite the tragic change of events.

“We’ll be in and out of the audience and there will be a lot of audience participation, which always makes things fun,” Buckland notes with a smile. “We won’t even know how it ends since the audience gets to be the detectives and decide who is the killer. It’s almost like the movie 'Clue' in a way, where different scenarios play out.”

Allen said she spent about three weeks on the script, which is loosely open to leave room for improvisation by actors as the audience participates. Fellow actor Lesley Gatlin Hoffman wrote the radio commercials for the show and is involved in the acting along with Buckland. Other theatre students involved are Rachel Steed, Rachel Morrison and Jake Miser. Others within Alpha Psi or just involved in theatre productions have also come on board, including Corben Waters, Katie Hon, Bobby Hon, Kris Bransom, Matt Whitson, Jon Lennon and Kristi Morris Young. Allen is directing the production.

Though the timing of the show comes during a particularly harried time in the semester – theatre students are wrapping up their last production this weekend, Easter holidays and finals are looming large – the group was still excited to be involved.

“We decided as a personal mission that we wanted to get more involved in the community and share our talents with others and serve God,” Buckland said. “This will be a fun way to do that.”

The show will include a catered dinner by Sodexo consisting of Hunter’s chicken, vegetables, salad and dessert. Tickets are $25 for the evening, will proceeds benefiting Rotary projects locally. According to Street, those include distributing dictionaries to third graders in Hale County and Kress schools; a perfect attendance promotion with students in grades 5-8 and at the high school; work with a local Boy Scout troop and the Hale County Literacy Council.

For reservations, contact Street at 292-9944.