PLAINVIEW - Tradition is important at any university, and Wayland Baptist University is no different. Among theatre fans, one annual production is becoming a tradition and a favorite for many.
Shorts, in its seventh year, is an evening of short plays combined to present a production with varying moods and talents. There's typically a good amount of comedy, along with a few more dramatic pieces, said Dr. Marti Runnels, director of theatre at Wayland. This year's production will be performed Oct. 2, 3, 4, 10 and 11 at 8 p.m. in the Harral Studio Theatre.
Produced completely by students with oversight by Runnels, Shorts is a hands-on directorial project for many in Runnels' directing courses, some of whom have never been in the director's role. Others may have directed previously and want added experience. In either case, they get it, having to follow the production from choosing the play, casting the roles, helping design sets and directing student actors in the rehearsal process.
Runnels begins the process by reading 50-100 short plays from various collections and sifting those down to 20-25. The student directors then read those plays to make their choices. Work for the set, which has typically been fairly traditional, calls for a bit of creativity as well, for Runnels and technical director Chris Moore as well as their students.
"This year, we'll have more ramps and platforms and such but still stay with some of the same set pieces as we've done in the past," Runnels said. "We try to bring some artistic unity to the night with the set, though these are all very different plays."
Runnels is excited to see a lot of new faces in the theatre department with new theatre majors and minors enrolling, and said the Shorts production is often the first exposure for many of these new students.
This year's production includes the following plays:
* "Wobblies," by Carolyn Myers, involves two ladies in a nursing home reminiscing about the past. Directed by transfer student Kelley Dunn, the play stars Lisa Angel and Jenni Combs.
* "Cover," by Jeffrey Sweet, is a story about a man trying to get his best friend to lie to his wife for him. Theatre veteran Milea Simpson stars, along with newcomers Andrew Oglesby and Craig Huckeby.
* "Manhattan Casanova," by Jenny Lyn Bader, is a monologue starring theatre veteran Jennifer Riley, playing a psychiatrist who finds herself in need of help. Lisa Angel directs.
* "Poodle with Guitar and Dark Glasses," by Liz Duffy Adams, is a play Runnels describes laughingly as "weird." Directed by Jennifer Riley, it features acting by 2003 graduate Tisa Whitfill, theatre veterans Brandon Campanella, Desi Pharis and Billy Boone and newcomer Doug Warren.
* "Shoppers" features two shopping addicts - played by Lisa Angel and Jennifer Ward - discussing the conflicts their habit raises. Directed by Jennifer Rutherford, the play is by Jean McConnell.
* "Last Tuesday," by Donald Margulies, is the more dramatic piece of the evening. "This play will strike home with people given the recent anniversary of Sept. 11," Runnels said. "It takes place on a New York subway as various people are trying to deal with their lives in the midst of tragedy." The vignette is directed by Milea Simpson and features acting by theatre returners Israel Cansino, Jennifer Rutherford, Desi Pharis and Billy Boone, newcomers Brandon McMillan and Leslee Matthews, and Robert Preston Riley.
* "Elizabeth" features a monologue by newcomer Kelley Dunn, directed by Brandon Campanella. The play is by Don Nigro.
* "Lost," a comedic short by Mary Louise Wilson, features two scatterbrained ladies - played by Jennifer Riley and Leslee Matthews - who find their world turned right-side up for once. Desi Pharis directs.
Admission for Shorts is $8 per person, or $4 for students or WBU alums. Half-price tickets are available with the donation of a grocery bag of nonperishable food items that will be donated to Faith in Sharing House, a local food pantry organization.
Reservations can be made by calling the theatre box office at 291-1089.
A reception for theatre patrons will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 2 in the atrium of the Mabee Learning Resources Center, featuring refreshments.