Fort Hays State University theatre has boldly decided to spice things up this season with a unique fall musical, student-directed work and a classic farce in the spring.
Lack of funding has forced a decrease from the usual four major productions to three for the 2007-2008 school year, but it has also opened up the door to some new challenges and opportunities.
The slot for the second major production this season will be filled by Fringe Theatre, a group organized for students and non-students who have an interest in theatre and want to experiment with acting and pushing the rules of performance. It will be an opportunity for Fringe Theatre members to practice their skills and interests on a major production for the first time and to share their accomplishments with larger audiences.
Even with one production slot open, the performances FHSU theatre has chosen to take on are already proving enough to fill that extra rehearsal time.
The first production will be the fall musical, "Is There Life After High School?" The script is by Jeffrey Kindley, based on the book by Ralph Keyes. Music and lyrics are by Craig Carnelia.
"'Is There Life After High School?' is a montage of all the issues we each went through in high school," said Dr. Kim Miller, instructor of communication studies and director of theatre.
Miller said the musical focuses on "looking back and realizing how special those moments of innocence and innocence lost were."
Miller cast the musical and will direct it. Musical direction will be by Terry Crull, instructor of music, choreography by Alyssa Klaus, Hays junior, stage design by Bruce Bardwell, assistant professor of educational administration and counseling, lighting design by Chris Wilhelm, Hays sophomore, and costume design by Rebecca Jaquay, Hays senior.
The small cast calls for nine actors, five men and four women, each of whom will play several different parts. The musical opens on Friday, Oct. 5.
In the lead role, Man 1, is Calder Craig, Russell freshman. His previous performances include "Beauty and The Beast" and "Lights, Cameras, Kansas." Micah Dunn, Lakin freshman, is Man 2 and has previous experience in classic productions such as "The Music Man," "Guys and Dolls" and "Oklahoma."
Adam McElwain, Dodge City senior in the role of Man 3, has played in "Crimes of the Heart," "Kiss Me Kate," "A Doll's House" and "Voice of the Prairie." Chris Peavey, Plainville graduate student, is Man 4. He has acted in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," "The Movie Game" and "To Kill A Mocking Bird."
Karl Pratt, Hoxie sophomore, fills the final male role of Man 5. He has previous roles at FHSU in "The Impresario," "The Reluctant Dragon" and "Kiss Me Kate." He also participated in the production of "Guys and Dolls" at Heartland Community Theatre in the role of Nicely-Nicely Johnson.
Woman 1 is Amanda Hill, Salina junior. She was a chorus member in "Kiss Me Kate." Last year, Hill directed a show as part of the Public Relations evening to honor theatre faculty.
Woman 2 is played by Emily Cline, Lyons senior. She has acted in college musical performances such as "Gypsy" and "Bat Boy." Cline has also performed in many opera productions -- "Hansel and Gretel," "Dido and Aeneas," "Tickets Please," "Cosi Fan Tutte" and "La Cenerentola."
Laura Decker, Lindsborg senior, was cast as Woman 3. She is a senior at FHSU and has a large list of background experience in theatre, including roles in "Grease," "Gypsy," "Bat Boy," "Cabaret," "Kiss Me Kate," "Guys and Dolls" and "Most Happy Fella."
Woman 4 is Stefanie Stevens, Hays senior. She has been involved in theatre since high school, where she acted in "Singin' in the Rain," "Claptrap," "Rumors," "The Music Man," "Oklahoma" and "How to Succeed." Stevens has been in front of audiences at FHSU in "Rocket Man," "Cabaret," "Random Acts" and "A Doll's House."
Miller was proud to say that after only two rehearsals the cast has proven to be a skilled group of "vocal powerhouses between theatre and music."
The age range of the cast and crew spans generations, and yet all can relate to the high school experience the musical portrays.
"The show is written in a way in which it will touch on the universal high school experience," said Miller. "The show is going to appeal to people who graduated during any decade."
The musical will open at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, in Felten-Start Theatre and Saturday, Oct. 6, in Felten-Start, with a matinee at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7, in Felten-Start. Shows continue at 8 p.m. on Oct. 12 and Oct. 13, with a final matinee at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14.
Also coming to the stage this fall will be Fringe Theatre's production. The group has not yet decided on a piece for its fall production, which will open Thursday, Nov. 1 and run through Saturday, Nov. 3, with a matinee on Sunday, Nov. 4.
"We wanted to do a production that is student directed and basically student ran," said Adam McElwain, actor from "Is There Life After High School?" and president of Fringe Theatre.
One option being considered is a series of five one-act plays. Fringe Theatre members who will direct the second major production each had to direct one-acts as part of their Basics of Directing course and have experience directing.
"This is the first time that we will be taking our learned skills and using them for one of the major productions," said McElwain. "We thought it would be something a little different to help bring in more people who may show some interest in it."
The second option is to perform a play from a script that was written last year in one of the English Department's playwriting courses. Fringe members enjoyed it and are considering expanding it and using it as their major production. If they choose to fill their production slot with a full-scale show, these growing directors would target their skills as a group toward something new and big.
"We are looking over some different scripts right now and should make a final decision in the next two weeks," said McElwain.
Money raised will fund future Fringe Theatre endeavors.
The spring production, "Tartuffe," a farce by Moliere, will run March 6-9. "Tartuffe" relates the story of a generous and wealthy family man, Orgon, who, believing Tartuffe to be a devout man of religion, takes him into his home. He offers Tartuffe his daughter in marriage and wishes him to be the sole heir to his estate, rather than his own son. Tartuffe uses his power over Orgon's household to betray him and, when he is discovered, attempts to seize Orgon's property and have him arrested.
Show tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door from the FHSU Theatre box office in the main entrance of Malloy Hall. Phone reservations can also be made at the box office by calling (784) 628-4225. General ticket prices are $12 per show for students and $14 per show for the public.
Season tickets are also available through Oct. 14. Season ticket prices are $15 for students and $25 for the public. Season tickets include entrance into the fall musical, the Fringe Theatre production and "Tartuffe."