By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Plays and musicals spotlighting women's struggles with children, sexist bosses, dishonest lovers and more are on tap at West Texas A&M University.
In its 2017-18 season, the WT theater department will stage five productions — all featuring strong female characters who, in most of the shows, are the central focus.
"We do have a lot of female talent and strength in the program, and this season certainly allows for a good amount of opportunity for our female students," said Stephen Crandall, head of the art, theater and dance department and theater associate professor. "If we're considering past seasons, this season would certainly help balance the scales as far as female stories and casting opportunities, which is definitely a good thing."
The season will open with Rebecca Gilman's Luna Gale, a contemporary drama about a social worker's attempts to find a secure home for the title character, a 6-month-old girl whose teenage parents are fighting for custody against the teen girl's mother.
"Who decides who's capable of raising a child?" director Callie Hisek said, previewing the drama's themes. "Ultimately, each and every single one of these characters is doing what they think is right for the child. Hopefully, we're going to get the audience to think about judgment, about the broken (child welfare) system and how ... other people always tell people how to raise a child."
Luna Gale will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14 to 16 and 21 to 23, as well as 2:30 p.m. Sept. 24, in the Happy State Bank Studio Theatre in the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Complex.
The season will continue with Little Women, a musical adaptation of the beloved Louisa May Alcott novel by Allan Knee, Mindi Dickstein and Jason Howland. As in Alcott's semi-autobiographical novel, the musical depicts vignettes of the lives of the March sisters and their mother, Marmee, while they wait for their father to return home from the Civil War.
"We have some strong women ... and it's so hard with musicals because they'll feature one or two women," said director Andrew Barratt Lewis. "We really were looking for shows that would have good roles for men as well, but have a variety of roles for women."
Little Women especially fits that bill, he said.
"There are the four sisters and Marmee, so that's five really strong female characters," Lewis said. "And it's a great, timeless American classic."
Little Women will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12 to 14 and 19 to 21, as well as 2:30 p.m. Oct. 22, in the Branding Iron Theatre.
Up next is William Shakespeare's comedy Much Ado About Nothing, a mid-career play that's among the Bard's best.
"It's probably one of my favorite comedies," Crandall said. "It's really relatable because it's all about the concept of falling in love.
"In the two sets of lovers ... one is younger, Hero and Claudia, who are very young and passionate. Their love is very pure," Crandall said. "Then you have Benedick and Beatrice, who are more mature and wise. It's almost a kind of jaded love story.
"The juxtaposition of those two types of stories is interesting," he continued. "I feel like it allows both a younger and an older audience to appreciate what it means to fall in love, to fight for love, to have an identity as an individual as well as part of a couple or partnership."
Much Ado, which will feature theater professor Royal R. Brantley as Leonato, will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 to 11 and 16 to 18, as well as 2:30 p.m. Nov. 12 and 19, in the Studio Theatre.
The season continues in the spring semester with playwright David Ives' translation of the 1907 Belle Époque farce A Flea in Her Ear by French playwright Georges Feydeau.
"Some say it's the French farce," Hisek said, explaining how Feydeau packs it with fast-paced humor around mistaken identities.
Specifically, a dissatisfied wife, Raymonde, believes her husband Victor is cheating on her, so she schemes to catch him in the act at a hotel of no repute. Complications arise, and quickly.
"When you're doing a farce, you have more entrances and exits than you think you could possibly need," Hisek said. "When you're done performing, you should be exhausted and want to go to bed."
A Flea in Her Ear will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8 to 10 and 15 to 17, as well as 2:30 p.m. Feb. 18, in the Branding Iron Theatre.
And the season closes with the recent Broadway adaptation of the 1980 film comedy 9 to 5, featuring a score by the film's co-star, country music icon Dolly Parton.
As in the film, a trio of secretaries learn to fight back against their sexist, lying, hypocritical, egotistical, bigot boss, Mr. Hart.
"It's just a fun story in general," Lewis said. "The music is surprisingly good, I'll be honest. When it was first coming out and they were saying it was a musical by Dolly Parton, I was a little skeptical, but Dolly is a fabulous songwriter.
"It's a very fun, upbeat show to end our season with."
The musical will be staged at 7:30 p.m. April 19 to 21 and 26 to 28, as well as 2:30 p.m. April 25 and 29, in the Branding Iron Theatre.
Season tickets, which are expected to go on sale Tuesday, are $50 for one, $100 for two and $200 for four.
- Amarillo Museum of Art
- Amarillo Symphony
- Amarillo Little Theatre
- Chamber Music Amarillo
- Lone Star Ballet
- Friends of Aeolian-Skinner, Opus 1024
- Amarillo Opera
- Broadway Spotlight Series
Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.