Fantasy and reality combine in a fast-moving play that will inaugurate the Chalmers Herman Theatre Thursday through Sunday [OCT. 22-25] in the new Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center at East Central University.
"Book of Days" by Lanford Wilson will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday [OCT. 22-24] and at 2 p.m. Sunday [OCT. 25]. Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for senior citizens and non-ECU students. ECU students, faculty and staff will be admitted free with valid ECU ID cards.
Tickets may be purchased at the door or from director Dr. Rick Groetzinger at 580-559-5600.
A suspicious Ruth Hoch, played by Natalie May, examines a shotgun after the supposedly accidental death of her boss, the owner of a cheese factory, in "The Book of Days" by Lanford Wilson. Watching are the factory owner's widow (from left), played by Lauren Durbin; the plant manager and Hoch's husband (James Weese), and the sheriff, (Rob Inman). The murder mystery will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday [OCT. 22-24] and at 2 p.m. Sunday [OCT. 25] in the Chalmers Herman Theatre in the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center at East Central University. Tickets will be available at the door or by calling 580-559-5600.
"It's a little bit murder mystery with some comic elements and some serious elements," Groetzinger said of the play.
It is a post-modern play with flashbacks, fantasy moments and a chorus of actors who speak in the present but tell the story in the past.
"It jumps around in time a little bit," he said.
"Book of Days" also is an adult play that contains offensive language and is not suitable for children, Groetzinger said.
The play is set in a small Missouri town whose main industry is a cheese factory. Ruth Hoch, the factory's bookkeeper, is married to the plant manager. She also has been cast as the lead in a community theatre production of Shaw's "St. Joan."
When the factory owner, the town's leading citizen, is killed during a freak storm, Ruth becomes suspicious. Was it an accident or was it murder?
"She gets too much into her character. She becomes Joan too much," Groetzinger explained. "She starts to sense something is wrong. She starts playing amateur detective and begins sticking her nose into places trying to get to the truth of what actually happened.
"We find out that parts of the story aren't true."
Some in the audience will guess the outcome because various relationships in the play are strained, the director said.
"Some will probably figure it out as it happens, but some will be surprised at the end," he said.
One of the play's post-modern moments occurs when the factory owner's widow learns that her husband is dead. The actor steps out of character and will not do the scene because she says she doesn't use that kind of language, Groetzinger said. Someone else comes out, plays the scene and then leaves.
"That can confuse an audience," he said. "There are fantasy elements interwoven with real moments.
"It will be a different experience," he said of the play. "Some people will really enjoy it, but it can be confusing. But by knowing you can be confused, you might not be confused," he said with a smile.
Groetzinger, an assistant professor of communications, said the offensive language is not intended to be gratuitous or for shock value. He said Wilson, the playwright, contrasts how some people in the town appear to be religious, and then how they really act at other times -- how those who swear regularly turn out to be better people in some ways than some who don't.
The play works really well in an adaptable space such as the Chalmers Herman Theatre, Groetzinger explained. It moves quickly from a factory to a house to a mansion, and imaginative lighting and images projected onto a background will suggest locations, along with sound effects for a storm, tornado and gunshots.
The theatre holds about 120 chairs and has five times as much lighting capabilities as the Dorothy Summers Theatre, he said.
"The actors may almost be stepping on your feet," he said. "Even the back row is only 12 to 15 feet from the stage."
Natalie May of Prague will play Ruth Hoch. Ruth's husband, Len, will be played by James Weese of Tulsa. Martha Hoch will be portrayed by Tia Long of Oklahoma City.
Members of the town's prominent family are Joshua Francis of Hugo as Walt Bates, Lauren Durbin of Atoka as Sharon Bates, Jomain McKenzie of Clarendon, Jamaica, as James Bates, and Cynthia Mellon of Allen as Louann Bates.
Other cast members are Heath Holt of Ada as Boyd Middleton, Barbara Tiry of Skiatook as Ginger Reed, Chris Hollopeter of Kalispell, Mont., as Earl Hill, Joseph Terrell of Elmore City as the Rev. Bobby Groves and Rob Inman of Ada as Sheriff Conroy Atkins.
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