WBU theatre brings Charlie Brown to life

October 3, 2012

PLAINVIEW – The Wayland Baptist University theatre department will bring to life the iconic figures of years past with the production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” on Oct. 18, 19 and 20 in Wayland’s Black Box theatre.

Charlie and all the gang will sing their way across the stage as the 2012 Homecoming musical presentation. Show times are schedule for 7:30 p.m. each night. Tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for students and are available online at www.wbu.edu, or by calling the theatre office at 806-291-1060.

For the first time since coming to Wayland as director of theatre in 1989, Dr. Marti Runnels is repeating a play that he previously produced on a Wayland stage. And much like the original cast and production 23 years ago, this show will feature a whole new cast working with Runnels for the first time as all the principal characters are being played by first-time Wayland performers.

“It’s really exciting to work with them,” Runnels said. “They are very directable and have great attitudes.”

Runnels said that combination will make for a great theatre experience for the whole family as Charlie, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the rest deal with the day-to-day angst of childhood. The show personifies the Charles Schultz comic strip, Peanuts, dealing with childhood issues in a comedic way. But Runnels said within the hilarity that ensues, you can find true social commentary on issues that face everyone.

“I just think everybody is Charlie Brown, or has been, or went through a phase where they felt like the epitome of Charlie Brown. I know I did,” Runnels said. “I went through a Charlie Brown era when I was in school. I was a little clumsy, overweight kid and nobody wanted to pick me on the team and all that stuff.

“As funny as this show is, and it is hilarious, even when I am sitting there directing, it always touches me. The poignant moments of the show still get to me.”

Written by Clark Gesner, the show is a number of vignettes featuring Charlie and his pals. Each piece basically stands alone without an overarching plot line to carry throughout the play. Coupled with a set design by Dr. Steve Wood and costuming by DeDe Runnels, the audience will feel as though they are part of a comic strip.

Runnels said an interesting dynamic that the cast must work through is connecting with a diverse audience that has varying degrees of connectivity with the Schultz characters. Years ago, older audience members were very familiar with the Peanuts gang, growing up with Charlie Brown television specials at Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween and Valentine’s Day, among others. Now, however, younger audience members’ connections with the characters mainly come through MetLife commercials.

“My generation grew up unlike this generation,” Runnels said. “Charlie Brown and those characters were iconography that we took for granted. If somebody walked into a room and said ‘Snoopy,’ or ‘Charlie Brown,’ everybody understood. Now if you did that, they wouldn’t know what you are talking about.”

The Wayland performers have the opportunity to play to both ends of the audience spectrum as they are offering four matinee performances on Oct. 17 and 18 for area school students ranging from kindergarten to middle school. Each matinee will be roughly half of the show, allowing for time limitations and to keep the cast and crew from exhaustion before completing the run.

Malcolm Stone, a sophomore from Lubbock, will play the role of Charlie Brown. Charlie’s younger sister Sally will be played by Haley Bonner, a freshman from Portales, N.M. Rachel Smith, a sophomore from Lubbock, will play Lucy. The role of Linus will be filled by Zachary Fisher, a freshman from Altus, Okla., and Schroeder will be played by Cameron Conner, a freshman from Dalhart. Snoopy will be played by Lillie Cooper, a freshman from Lubbock.