HAYS, KS -- Hays is known as the cultural center of northwest Kansas, and Fort Hays State University plays a big role in that tradition by mounting drama and music productions and hosting special events. One professor at FHSU hopes to see the university take on a slightly different role, though, by creating and producing works for experimental theatre.
Dr. Dan Kulmala, assistant professor of English, has been trying since November to organize an alternative theatre group for actors, playwrights, designers and musicians. The fruits of that labor will be seen for the first time Friday, March 8, with a script-in-hand reading of the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata at 7 p.m. in the Bijou Supper Club, 507 W. Seventh. This event is being held in conjunction with Women's History Month and the inauguration of the women and gender studies program at FHSU.
Kulmala -- in his first year of teaching at FHSU -- said he saw a need in the local arts scene for a theatre group of this type, specifically designed for aspiring writers and actors who need some performance experience.
"I was involved with experimental theatre while studying at KU, and I saw how beneficial it was there," he said. "I hope that it benefits students and the community here as well."
The Lysistrata performance involves 20 people, both faculty and students, from English, history, art and theatre/drama backgrounds. Kulmala said he's pleased with the group's success so far, but he hopes to see those numbers increase.
"We'll probably grow mainly by word-of-mouth," he said, "so it's going to take some time to develop. As I teach more students and we put on more productions, we'll get more and more people interested."
The group's level of activity is determined by rehearsal necessity; in preparation for Lysistrata, it is currently meeting once or twice a week.
"The group doesn't really meet on a regular basis," Kulmala said. "When we have a production in mind, then we'll meet to put those productions together." Anyone interested in getting involved with future alternative theatre productions should contact him at (785) 628-5817.
Kulmala said he hopes to mount a larger production next semester, possibly a piece written by a student.
"Ultimately, my goal is to create a venue to put works in progress by students on stage so they can get an audience response," he said. "Eventually, we're creating a group of people who will want to experience their own ideas of what drama is and what it can be."