Wayland to host Christian University Theatre Festival

February 16, 2011

PLAINVIEW – Three sister schools will converge upon Wayland Baptist University for the annual Christian University Theatre Festival, planned for Feb. 28 through March 2. Joining WBU on the Harral Studio Theatre stage will be Hardin-Simmons University from Abilene, Howard Payne University from Brownwood and Lubbock Christian University.

The festival includes productions by each university participating, followed by feedback by a respondent and a chance for students to share feedback as well. The public is invited to each production, and the festival is a unique opportunity to see work from like-minded schools over the course of three days.

“The spirit of teamwork has really dominated this event from its inception,” said Dr. Marti Runnels, director of theatre at Wayland and one of the original organizers at least 15 years ago. “Everyone helps set up and strike the shows and load things. There’s a lot of teamwork and camaraderie and otherwise there’s no way it could happen in such a short time.”

This year’s respondent is Wayland theatre alumnus Cory Norman, assistant producer for Theatre Three in Dallas. Norman earned his bachelor’s degree in theatre from Wayland in 2002, then received his Master of Fine Arts degree in arts administration from Texas Tech. Before joining the Theatre Three staff, Norman held internships at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Texas Tech, and the Underwood Center for the Arts in Lubbock. He also spent four months in Seville, Spain, in 2006 studying theatre, advocacy and cultural policy.

Norman held many roles on the Wayland stage during his time in Plainview, most recently reprising his title role in The Elephant Man for Wayland’s production at the Spencer Theater in Ruidoso, N.M., in the summer of 2010.

To open the festival, student participants will benefit from a Monday afternoon workshop on the business of theatre from Norman’s perspective, something Runnels said should be helpful.

“This isn’t something most undergraduates at any of these schools are exposed to, so that’ll be good for them,” Runnels said.

Wayland’s contribution to the festival will be a reprisal of its homecoming production, Musical Mayhem, a production Runnels wrote and directs that incorporates drama, music, improvisation and audience participation into a comedic piece with a film noir feel. Several dozen Wayland theatre and music students are participating in the production, which is unlike anything ever done in the WBU theatre. The show will take the Harral Studio Theatre stage at 8 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 28.

Lubbock Christian will present the A.R. Gurney play The Dining Room, which takes place in a well-to-do household in the location where the family assembles daily for breakfast and dinner as well as special occasions. The action includes a mosaic of interrelated scenes, some of which are funny, some touching and others a bit sadder, but they all combine to create an in-depth portrait of the upper-middle-class white Protestant family and their experiences. The performance will take place at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 1, with direction by Dr. Laurie Doyle, LCU Theatre Director.

Howard Payne will present Grimaldi: King of the Clowns, written by Randy Murray. The play is based on the life of Joseph Grimaldi, Jr., the father of the modern day clown, and is a unique drama featuring some comedic clowning moments along with the poignant realities of Grimaldi’s background and struggles to fit in and succeed. Dr. Nancy Jo Humfeld, theatre director at HPU, will direct the show.

Hardin-Simmons will present Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, directed by HSU senior theatre major Spencer Williams. A satire on the medical profession, the play is a farcical comedy including song and dance, a character study on a hypochondriac named Argan, played by junior Ryan McBride.

Ronald Dean Nolen serves as theatre director at Hardin-Simmons, a Wayland ex from 1987.

Runnels said local theatre patrons will enjoy the opportunity to see several great plays over a short period of time from schools that share Wayland’s Christian mission, and the students benefit from seeing work by their peers from other institutions. Individual awards for acting, set design (if done by students) and other crew areas are given at the conclusion of the festival, but the plays are not competing for top awards overall.

Tickets to the productions of the Christian University Theatre Festival, which are open to the public, are $4 for general admission and $2 for students per show. Reservations are encouraged by calling the School of Fine Arts at 291-1060 but are not required.