UCO Presents the Haunting True Story RADIUM GIRLS

When radium was first discovered by famed scientist Marie Curie, it was touted as a miracle cure. The glowing substance was incorporated in everyday items from medicines to beauty products, and it was used to treat a host of ailments. In the 1920s, three U.S. radium factories hired young women to paint clock dials with radium-based paint. Known to history as the Radium Girls, these young women were hired for their smaller hands that enabled them to paint the fine details on clock faces.

The radium dial factory workers were instructed by their employers to lick the tips of their paintbrushes to maintain a fine point. The Radium Girls literally glowed. Their clothing and hair held the shimmering, other-worldly luminescence of the radioactive paint they touched, and ingested, for hours a day. Jobs in the radium dial factories were highly sought-after, especially for working class women during World War I.

When the young women began to fall mysteriously ill, the U.S. Radium Corporation dismissed the employees’ claims that radium was to blame. The young workers, many of them in their teens and early twenties, then began to die gruesome deaths from radiation poisoning. The radium companies continued to mislead and misinform their employees, and even as they were dying, the Radium Girls fought back.

What we know now as common health and safety practices in the workplace happened because of battles won by these women from their deathbeds. Over 50 radium factory workers died from radiation poisoning, and these women paved the way for workplace safety standards, protections for workers, and corporate transparency. The Radium Girls are credited with the eventual establishment of OSHA, as well as leaving an indelible mark on the scientific study of radiation.

UCO’s Department of Theatre Arts is presenting Radium Girls by D.W. Gregory. This play depicts the real-life story of Radium Girl Grace Fryer and the fight the Radium Girls faced against the corrupt radium industry.

Radium Girls is presented entirely online; a decision made in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Production Director Alicia Tafoya says “Due to the pandemic, this show has undergone a really interesting transition. It was originally envisioned as a large-scale production with a three-level set, period costumes, and a cast of 30 people. In response to social distancing limitations, the production has been completely revised, and there are only 9 actors, most of whom play multiple roles. We are required to social distance the blocking (onstage movement), and all of the cast must remain masked throughout the production.

“Creating live theatre in a new way has been such a challenge and a joy during these uncertain times. I am so glad we will get to share that with others through the streaming performance.”

When discussing the timeliness of this play, Tafoya remarks, “When we began planning this production, there was no way for us to have known just how timely this play would be. Radium Girls explores who is to blame for a series of illnesses and deaths. This invisible toxin is spread through the air and the chemicals that employees encounter while working. Some consider it a public health crisis, and others consider it fake news.”

Radium Girls stars Jillian Wheeler as Grace Fryer. The cast of nine also includes Justine Rogers as Kathryn Schaub, Society Woman, and Harriet Roeder, Sydney Cricklin as Irene, Katherine, and Board member 2, Annie Dunlap as Mrs. Macneil, Anna Fryer, Clerk, Elderly Widow, and Sob Sister, and Jaelin Gonzaque as Arthur Roeder. Nathan Rogers is Markley, Sochocky, Venecine Saleman, and Dr. Martland, Nathaniel Dennis is Lee, Dr. Drinker, Bailey, Flynn, and Lovesick Cowboy. Kailan Weidner is Tom, Reporter, Berry, and Dr. Knef. Candice Wood Bunce is Mrs. Roeder, Dr. Marie Curie, and Board Member 3. Swings are Ian Wehrenberg, Tyler Abbott, and Bellah Noelle.

The performers will remain socially distanced and masked for all performances.

Radium Girls streams October 22nd – 24th at 7:30 PM CST and October 25th at 2 PM CST via UCO’s streaming site: streaming.uco.edu.

It’s practically love for The Pollard’s Almost, Maine

Published February 17, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

The Pollard Theatre’s Valentine season play Almost, Maine is a love story in nine parts, featuring four actors who each portray several characters. Almost is a township that isn’t quite a town, and the citizens there are very nearly finding love on a snowy winter night. Though charming and simple, the challenge for the story is rather complex.

The actors must portray four or five characters each, all of whom are only in one scene. The characters are mentioned again in subsequent vignettes, but never appear on stage after the vignette ends. Every time a scene goes dark, the actors enter again as new people. This means that each actor has only one chance to convey the entire story of their character in that moment. The actors must also find a way to connect with each other, so together they can make the audience understand the past, watch the present, and imagine the future for the couples featured in that scene. This cast of skilled, experienced actors does just that.

Renee Krapff and Jared Blount begin the play as a young pair of sweethearts sitting on a park bench under the Northern lights. From that bench sparks the magical evening to come, one which guarantees that the people in Almost will never be the same.

Krapff is sweet and pure as Ginette in the prologue scene. Next, she’s heartbreaking as the widow looking for closure and a little help picking up the pieces in “Her Heart”. Then she’s the kind, unwitting ice-breaker between two ex-lovers who cross paths in “Sad and Glad”. Act I ends with “Getting it Back”, where she’s the long-suffering, but no longer having it, ex-girlfriend. Act II features Krapff as Hope in “Story of Hope”. Returning to Almost, Hope finds the life she left has gone on without her in unexpected ways. Each character is distinct and Krapff makes them all unique. A wide range of life experiences accompanies the five characters. From falling apart as Glory to perfectly poised as Hope, Krapff shows the depth, humor and heart of each one.

Blount is Pete in the prologue, followed by Steve in “This Hurts”, Lendall in “Getting It Back”, Randy in “They Fell”, and Danny in “Story of Hope”. Blount’s professionalism conveys the full experience of love and loss. He’s reluctantly in love, stubbornly resilient, devastated yet hopeful, innocent and seasoned. His characters are diverse and honest. Blount and Krapff have lovely chemistry together, with an ease of familiarity and friendship.

Timothy Stewart is East in “Her Heart” alongside Krapff, Jimmy in “Sad and Glad”, Chad in “They Fell” next to Blount, Phil in “Where It Went”, and Dave in “Seeing the Thing”. Trying to decide who Stewart interacts with the best is nearly impossible, and that impossibility continues in any attempts not to love him. Stewart is the good guy in every scene, even when he’s not the one you’re siding with. His onstage presence is warm and kind. Stewart is featured in two scenes that were re-written from the original text of the play, a decision made by the playwright in light of the “Me Too” movement and the changing social climate. Stewart is perhaps the ideal actor to handle each scene with humor and sensitivity, while preserving the integrity of the characters in those moments.

Kris Schinske Wolfe is the heartbreaker Sandrine in “Sad and Glad”, the healer Marvylin in “This Hurts”, the heavy-hearted wife in “Where It Went”, and finally the adventurous Rhonda in “Seeing the Thing”. She’s a versatile actress with exemplary comedic timing. Wolfe and Blount together in “This Hurts” make an unlikely pair that ignite warm memories of that painful first love. Wolfe’s characters show the beauty and rawness of starting over, the relief of new realizations and the excitement of a change of heart.

This small ensemble collaborates well together. They don’t outshine, but give each other room to sparkle and take their poignant moments in turn. This collaborative environment is in no small part due to director Matthew Alvin Brown. Brown’s direction is intentional and subtle. He has also exquisitely played up the magical elements of the play. Hearts are broken, and repaired. Love is lost, and found. Bonds are formed, and broken. Stars and shoes and people fall, and spirits are lifted. Simplicity and complexity comingle to create a dazzling, moving play.

So much of theatre, like so much of life, is a flashbang extravaganza of sensory overload and spectacle. As is often the case with The Pollard Theatre, it can be a sigh of relief to sit down to a quiet little play about people who share a past, or a future, and watching them fall in love. Almost, Maine will fill your heart in all the right places. Right where you’re missing a bit of romance, or simplicity, or human connection. It will make you believe in love and magic all over again.

3rd Act shines with Moonglow

Kim Carney’s Moonglow is a heart wrenching, true-to-life story about the effects of Alzheimer’s on patients and their families. 3rd Act Theatre Company reopens after a COVID-19 related hiatus to close out their first season with this beautiful production. Set in a Dementia and Alzheimer’s fulltime care home, Moonglow centers on Maxine and Joe, two mental health patients in the facility.

The play begins with a young girl dancing in her room, while two women swarm around her. They’re unpacking her things and getting everything in order. Business-like, but the girl pays them no mind. She talks about dances, music, and boys. Every typical thing a young woman would be preoccupied with. But then one of the women refers to her as “Mama” and it’s clear that she’s not as young as she sees herself at this moment. An older, calmer woman steps onto the stage as The Girl continues to ramble on, skipping and rehearsing her dance. This woman begins to recite The Girl’s dialogue along with her, simultaneously, while slowly approaching The Girl. When they’re next to each other, The Girl steps away and exits, leaving the older, white-haired grandmother in her place.

This is how it is for the mind of an Alzheimer’s patient. One minute they’re carefree, sock-hopping and sparkling, swinging ponytails and chattering on about the future. The next they’re realizing their future doesn’t exist, they’re not young, their troubles are many, and they’re slipping away from everyone they’ve ever loved. Many times, spouses are revealed to have died long ago, children are grown, and they have to rediscover the harsh reality of their lives over and over.

Jackie Smola is the older version of Maxine, who she is when she’s present and lucid. The Girl is portrayed by Lauren Peña. They are two versions of the same person, and each captures the complexity of such a brutal illness with their wide range of emotions. Smola does some heavy lifting, coming to terms with her present reality and dealing with anger and fear as those realities hit harder and harder. Smola expresses a deep shame when she comes back from each episode, hating her disease and the card fate has dealt her. Peña likewise carries a weight. She portrays a woman long gone, who may have existed at one time, but doesn’t any more. Like a living ghost, the audience knows she can’t stay, and every moment she’s there means that Maxine is slipping further away. They’re both commendable performers, showing the truth, and beauty, of a painful journey.

Joe is portrayed similarly, in the present by Rob May, and in the past by Dakota Lee Bryant. May is first seen sitting on a couch, watching TV while Peña sits next to him. She asks him to dance, and suddenly he’s taken back to his own past. Bryant enters as the young Joe, and in the past he’s a Sailor and a talented dancer. Bryant twirls and spins, a spotlight highlighting beautiful lines and casting a haunting glow over this memory. As Bryant takes over, May exits, and again we’re left with the person Joe thinks he is in the moment.

This transition happens several times throughout the show. Maxine and Joe slip back and forth from the past to the present, all the while being portrayed by two actors each. It could easily get confusing, but director Don Taylor has designed a beautiful show that is not hard to follow.

Bryant as The Sailor is very present and real. He’s pure of heart and truly an honorable man. As the character transitions and May takes over, those qualities remain. May and Bryant are brilliant, nuanced actors, and this character couldn’t be put in better hands. May speaks with emotion and it’s enough to bring the audience to tears.

May and Smola together are pure magic. When Maxine and Joe find each other, they quickly form a bond that transcends time and circumstance. Often the suffering of Alzheimer’s makes it seem like a terrible journey, one fraught with confusion and shame, and it is. But there’s also beauty. As Maxine and Joe get to know each other, they’re simultaneously grappling with a disease that’s taking their short and long-term memories away.  But their bond is powerful, and as a result, they slip into a world that is wholly their own. While Joe is not really Maxine’s ex-husband Bob, and Maxine not his dead wife Teresa, to them, in that moment, it doesn’t matter. They have each other and that’s all that matters.

May and Smola dance together, to an old song called “Moonglow”. It’s nostalgic and heartbreaking, but it’s perfect. Who needs reality when they’re happy and together in their imaginary one? Memories are reality to the mind, and in this case, reality is memories.

On the outside of this reverie are their children. Grown and dealing with their own lives, they struggle with guilt over putting their parents in the care facility. Rosemary Orwig Rogers is Maxine’s daughter Diane. Chris Briscoe is Joe’s son Greg. Rogers is a caring daughter. She’s patient and protective of her mother, but her emotions run high and powerful. Rogers conveys the longing every child must feel as they watch their parent slowly disappear. Rogers is a powerful presence on stage, full of heart and compassion. She’s guilty at times, hopeful, desperate, and even hysterical. She feels and conveys every emotion, often in a single scene, in this convincing and adept performance.

Briscoe as Greg is quite relatable, even when he’s making tough choices. Greg is worried and scared for his father, and often resorts to scare-tactics and threats, even manipulation. Briscoe takes a would-be villain and refines him into something much more complex. He’s outwardly confident, but inwardly falling apart. Briscoe and Rogers have fire between them. They’re fighting against each other, but they’re on the same team. They both want to hold onto parents they know they’re losing. There’s no other bond like that. Briscoe is bold, a smooth and polished performer with a rough edge of emotion just below the surface.

Mikie Gillmore is Benita, the caretaker and head nurse at the long-term care facility. Gillmore is patient and long-suffering. She brings understanding and peace to a situation where there is little to be found. Gillmore spars well when the patients get belligerent and holds her own when their families do the same. Any caretaker can see themselves in her, and she does justice to this often-complicated role. Caretakers too get attached. They too have feelings and lives. They too are powerless against an unforgiving disease.

Alzheimer’s patients are often fearful, angry, and confused. They live between two worlds- things that are happening in the present, and the remembered events of decades past. They often don’t recognize their own children or spouses. As the disease progresses, they return to lucidity and the present moment less and less. Alzheimer’s cruelly steals not just the future, but the present and the past from those who suffer from it. Adding to that pain is that families have to stand by and watch, powerless to prevent it while they lose their loved ones by inches every day.

Moonglow does not mince words. There’s no silver lining or fairytale cure. But there is hope, and happiness. It sheds a glowing light on a painful disease. Losing a loved one is never easy, no matter how it happens. Whether you lose them bit by bit, or suddenly, or unexpectedly. It’s a unique pain.

I lost my father to suicide in March of this year, and this is the first play I’ve reviewed since. I’m so thankful that my long-awaited return to the theatre was for Moonglow. It gave me a much-needed sense of peace, and is sure to bring some healing and comfort to those who have ever loved, and certainly to those who have lost.

3rd Act’s Season closer Moonglow runs until June 28th. The performance on the 28th is online only. Social distancing and strict safety measures are in place to adhere to the CDC’s guidelines regarding COVID-19. For more information on tickets and their upcoming season POWER, visit 3rdacttheatreco.com.

We’re all plane people, and we all Come From Away

Published February 5, 2020 | By Adrienne Proctor

September 11, 2001 is a day the world changed forever. Those who remember it consider it a dividing line. There is now only pre 9/11 and post 9/11. Those who were born later grew up in a world where the ideas of terrorism, Xenophobia, and fear of flying are a part of our daily lives. On the day the world changed, commercial aircraft bound for the U.S. were diverted to Canada for safe landing while the U.S. air space was under attack.

Come From Away tells the true story of a small town in Newfoundland called Gander where 38 planes were diverted for emergency landing on September 11th. The town of 9,000 opened their community and homes to 7,000 strangers. The travel industry was in chaos, and the world was in turmoil. But the people of Gander found a way to make a community for themselves and the “plane people” who were brought there by horrible circumstances.

Oklahoma City is no stranger to terrorism. It seems a fitting combination that the Come From Away national tour stops in Oklahoma City, a place so deeply affected by acts of hate. Oklahomans simply can’t think of 9/11 without recalling what we went through on April 19th, 1995. To commemorate one is to remember the other. We have much more in common with the people of Gander than we realize, and the emotions are high as we relive two of the most horrific tragedies our country has ever seen, one right here in our own city.

This cast handles the difficult subject matter with great appreciation and sensitivity. They all play multiple roles, switching costumes and accents on stage as the musical continuously flows. Marika Aubrey is Captain Beverley Bass, Annette, and others. Captain Bass flew for American Airlines as their first female captain and was flying Paris to Dallas on September 11th. Aubrey is a powerhouse, a strong female lead with a tender side. Captain Bass is a galvanizing figure. Responsible for her plane, keeping her passengers calm, and trying to get in touch with her family, her story is complex and unique. The pilots and air crews suffered a different kind of tragedy on 9/11. The attacks were personal in a way that nobody else experienced. The terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them into buildings, changing aviation as we know it forever. With her livelihood and lifelong passion under attack, Captain Bass still has to remain calm and get her passengers back home somehow. Aubrey shows a deep commitment to her passengers and her career. Her song “Me and the Sky” is a late number that leaves no dry eyes in the house.

Julia Knitel is Janice and others. Janice is the town’s only journalist. Knitel is quirky and quick on her feet, a journalist who’s doing the best she can with the unusual and tragic circumstances. Sharone Sayegh is Bonnie, a local member of the SPCA and a true voice for the animals left on board the 38 planes. Sayegh is comedic relief for the weighty circumstances. She makes a sympathetic sight, breaking into the airport to rescue animals in the cargo holds.

Danielle K. Thomas is heart-wrenching as Hannah. Her son is a firefighter in New York City, and she anxiously awaits news of his whereabouts. Being so far away, in a place they never meant to land, only adds to their longing for home. Thomas bonds beautifully with Julie Johnson as local Ganderite Beulah. Beulah’s son is also a firefighter. While they wait and pray, they share stupid jokes to make each other laugh, and form an intimate and powerful connection. Hannah too is a real person, represented and honored here for her story. She also represents the first responders and the life-altering events they went through that day and in the following years. Hannah and Beulah remain friends to this day.

Brandon Springman is Oz, the Gander policeman who, like everyone in Newfoundland, drops everything to help the “Come from Aways”. Loyal and hardworking, Oz is an everyday hero. Springman is a standby performing in the role, and he’s a welcome addition to the cast of 12. Another standby performs as Kevin T/Garth and others. Aaron Michael Ray is hilarious as one of a pair of Kevins. Partners in business and in life, the Kevins face harsh truths about their relationship while they wait out their time “on the edge of the world”.

Nick Duckart is his partner Kevin J. Duckart also portrays Ali, an Egyptian and chef who’s stuck in Gander at this, the emergence of a new level of Xenophobia, particularly in the United States. Duckart is heartbreaking in this role. He represents all the people who were suddenly perceived as “threats” to the U.S. Normal citizens who were traveling, who lost loved ones, and who suddenly could never truly come home again. Duckart’s performance is a standout in a cast of distinctive talent.

Christine Toy Johnson is Diane and Chamberlee Ferguson is Nick. This real-life couple met in Gander, and the innocent way their flirtation plays out reminds us that life can still be beautiful and hopeful even in the face of tragedy. James Earl Jones II is Bob, a New Yorker displaced in Gander. Bob is naturally wary but comes around in the most touching way. Jones II has levity and humor, a relatable and natural Everyman.

Kevin Carolan is the true hero as Mayor Claude. Claude is instrumental in getting the “Come from Aways” off the planes and into a school gym for shelter. Carolan portrays a Ganderite through and through. He’s honest, resilient, and full of humor and heart.

Come From Away does not stop moving. It flows seamlessly. The set is paired down to 12 people and their chairs, and with minimal props and no distracting lighting or effects, those 12 tell a beautiful and honest story. It’s one that shows the power of what happens when we simply reach across and help our neighbors in need. It’s storytelling at its finest, and other grand-scale, technical marvels on stage should take note.

Christopher Ashley won a well-deserved Tony Award for Best Direction, and Kelly Devine was nominated for Best Choreography. In all it was nominated for 7 Tony Awards, and lost the Best Musical accolade to Dear Evan Hansen. (Hansen will come to OKC next season, at which time OKC audiences can determine if it deserved to edge out this deeply moving story).

Come From Away celebrates the best of humanity at the worst time in history. The people of Gander remain humble and still hold that they’re just doing what anyone would do. They opened their homes and shared their food, clothing, shelter, and families with people who never would’ve thought to come there. For five days, different cultures, religions, nationalities, races, and personalities meshed and found common bonds.

Come From Away restores your faith in humanity. It teaches us the most important lesson, one we in Oklahoma City know all too well. That in the face of the worst kind of hate, love will always win.

Two friends, one front porch: Ages of the Moon at Carpenter Square

Published January 22, 2018 | By: Adrienne Proctor

The scene before us is a familiar one; two friends sharing a drink on a front porch in August, somewhere in the south. They’re waiting out the heat of the day and anticipating an upcoming lunar eclipse. The two reminisce over bourbon, and under the broken ceiling fan, which oscillates intermittently in the breeze. But this is no ordinary front porch. This is Sam Shepard’s Ages of the Moon, presented by Carpenter Square Theatre.

Rob May is Ames and Michael Kramer portrays his long-lost friend Byron, summoned by Ames for an over-due visit. Together the men recall their 44-year friendship, both the good and the bad times they’ve shared. Complex is this friendship, yet simple too. The best ones always are, and this show is a celebration of that delicate dynamic.

The two actors in this play complement each other well. They’re both on stage for the entire show, however, they each have individual moments to shine. While May is gruff and harsh, Kramer is reassuring. When May turns loud and aggressive, Kramer dips into a soothing drawl. There are moments when the dialogue lulls to a sleepy crawl, much like the analogies of the droning fan or the slowly approaching eclipse. Despite that, the actors keep the audience engaged with their lively chemistry. This is a blissful friendship to witness, whether they’re clinking their glasses to years gone by, or physically tussling and scrambling on that ever-present porch.

There are moments when May carries the show alone. He’s a powerful vision on the stage and he seems comfortable both in his character and in his spotlight. Kramer does well to contend with May. Kramer is somewhat stiff in the beginning, but he warms up quickly. He finally gets his own time to shine, very near to the end of the show. This turning point in his performance is worth the wait.

Terry Veal directs, and he has used the set to further the tale. The physical objects in the show become not just background devices, but characters in their own right. The methodical way the actors circle each other, not just in movement but also in conversation, creates powerful imagery that reminds the audience why we’re here- to see this relationship change.

The evolvement of that relationship is not only a touching surprise, but also extremely subtle at first. Tiny cracks can be seen in the expectations they have set for each other, until finally new revelations are made. Suddenly their roles in each other’s lives are changed forever. May and Kramer carry this knowledge with them throughout the show and release it with a cathartic mix of emotion and humor. It’s a long build-up, but a worthwhile pay off.

From a surface perspective, this play is a simple little tale- two friends, sharing a drink and a laugh. But mere minutes into the show, it proves itself to be much deeper. The two performers portray a bond that anyone who’s ever had a best friend can relate to. Some things are left unsaid, while others need to be brought out into the open. Kramer and May are convincing in their roles. It’s easy to believe they’ve known each other their whole lives.

This delightful play is fun, warm and moving. It’ll leave you longing to call your old friends. It will kindly remind you that while our time on earth may sometimes seem long, it’s also terribly quick, soon to be eclipsed, and ever changing like the moon.

A theatre reviewer rambles: Meet Adrienne!

Published January 20, 2020 | By Adrienne Proctor

Hello! I’m Adrienne, the writer of this blog! I graduated in December 2019 with a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Administration & Logistics from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant. It has NOTHING to do with theatre, but it’s helped me in all aspects of my writing! I started writing for my local theatre scene in 2017. The first show I reviewed was a directed reading of “Bathrobe Club” by Adam Davies. The first full production I reviewed was Sam Shepard’s Ages of the Moon at Carpenter Square Theatre, and it’s still one of my favorites! I loved the quiet dialogue, the dynamic and history between the two characters, the eclipse, and the ceiling fan! It was such a quiet yet deep story. It’s hard to remember all the musicals I’ve reviewed, but one of the first ones was My Fair Lady at the University of Central Oklahoma.

I’m so excited you’re here!! My favorite theatre to cover is University Theatre, especially my alma mater UCO (GO Bronchos!). But I cover everything, all the way from high schools to Broadway tours, and even the occasional out of town show. Come, browse, read some, or read all!!

I am a lifelong theatre lover! This opportunity has turned two passions into a career and I love every second of it. If you meet me, I’ll try to find out what your favorite shows are. And if you can’t name any, I’ll help you find yours! Let me tell you about mine!

HEDWIG and the Angry Inch: Hedwig isn’t the most popular show, but it has a unique following that has persisted for over twenty years. Hedwig is the most interesting, broken, and beautiful character I’ve ever seen, and she’s the reason I am a writer. I’m a PROUD Hed-Head, and any chance I get to see the show live, or watch the movie, or listen to the music, I will, usually with my blue eyeshadow and Hedwig outfit on! Any time I can introduce a new fan to this amazing story is a good day for me. Hedwig truly changed my perspective, not just on theatre, but on life. My favorite podcast to listen to is called “Hedwig: Inch by Angry Inch”. It’s hosted by a sassy Brit named Jonfen and they break down the movie version of Hedwig chapter by chapter. Give it a listen, I’m on the first episode!

GIRLFRIEND: I saw Girlfriend in 2019 at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, and like Hedwig, it changed my life instantly. It’s a sweet, simple story about two recent high school graduates falling in love, figuring out their relationship, and coming to terms with their sexuality. It’s such an important story, and a brilliantly written piece of theatre. Todd Almond wrote it and used the music from Matthew Sweet’s ’90s album, Girlfriend, which was actually about a breakup that Sweet experienced. The music, paired with the story, and the ALL-FEMALE rock band, makes Girlfriend one of the best things I’ve EVER seen. It’s a universal story told from a unique, honest, and real perspective. It celebrates first love, with all the awkwardness and nostalgia that it brings up. The dialogue is so relatable, I still hear things in every day conversation that remind me of this show. I truly believe that Girlfriend will always be with me. I think about it every day, nearly a year after seeing it. Only the best art does that. It stays with us.

HAIR: What can I say about Hair that hasn’t been said a thousand times already? Hair is iconic. It’s from 1969, but it holds relevance and weight today, maybe even more so now than in decades past. It’s about war and peace, love and anger, fear and hope. Hair lets you experience every emotion you can muster, rips your heart out, and leaves you somehow hopeful. Hair is nothing if not powerful, shocking, and heavy. It’s also hilarious! And the MUSIC. I’m sensing a theme here… YES Hair is THE quintessential rock musical, and without it, the world would’ve never been given Rent, Spring Awakening, or Hamilton. It defined the very idea of protest art, and it’s everything that I think theatre should be- thought provoking, important, and bold. It shies away from NOTHING and teaches you what those who came before us learned too well, that in war there are no winners, and we send children to fight grown men’s battles.

The biggest motivator for me when I became a writer for the local theatre scene was that I knew what it felt like when I couldn’t find much info about the shows I wanted to see. I felt deterred more than once because I wasn’t confident going into a show and buying tickets (that’s an investment) when I couldn’t find ANYTHING about my local productions! Now that I’m a writer, it’s still my main motivator. I want to get as much information out there as possible about the WONDERFUL theatre we have here in Oklahoma and in the surrounding communities.

So if you have questions, or you’re seeking information about a specific show, hopefully you can find it here and it’ll inspire you to get out and see some live theatre!! Much love… XOXO

UCO’s Snow Business is simply divine!

Published December 7, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

UCO’s Musical Theatre Christmas concert is a lovely holiday revue featuring Christmas numbers from a variety of stage musicals. There’s No Business Like Snow Business is a gloriously festive night at the UCO Jazz Lab. The show opens with the full cast performing “We Need a Little Christmas” and then breaking into smaller ensembles and solos. There are performances from several well-known Broadway shows, and they’re sung professionally by the UCO Musical Theatre students. The titles are helpfully displayed onscreen above the stage, and the numbers are eclectic and different, ranging from twangy country to all-out 1970s rock.

The Elves and Elfettes are joyful and cheery as they dance and sing in a rainbow of colors in “Sparklejollytwinklejingley”, a cute number from Elf:The Musical. The Elves are portrayed by Logan Boyd, Avery Ernsburger, Cale Smith, Logan Wright, and Pierson Van den Dyssel. The Elfettes are Ashlea Stewart, Isabella Emamghoraishi, Sophia Mullican, Libby McCormack, Sophie Mings, Skylar Hemenway, Alexis Lanzo, and Sydney Brown.

Maura McMurray is touching and forlorn in “Christmas Lullaby” from Songs For a New World. Hagen Wano is hilariously happy in “That Man Over There is Santa Claus” from Here’s Love: The Miracle on 34th Street Musical. A crowd-pleasing stunner of a performer is Madison Eckerson in “Hard Candy Christmas” from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Eckerson’s voice is perfectly fitting for this song, and it’s a good thing. No self-respecting Christmas revue would forget to feature a Dolly Parton song.

The most impressive number yet closes out Act I with Libby McCormack and the Elves and Elfettes performing “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out” from A Christmas Story: The Musical. This number is a catchy earworm and leaves the audience humming it all through intermission. It’s a spectacular display of choreography, including complicated chair maneuvers and TAP DANCING! It’s always exciting and an audible and visual delight to see tap, which is a woefully underutilized style of dance.

Act II pulls out all the stops! Odra Chapman is beautifully introspective in “Where are You Christmas” from How The Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical. Sierra Sikes sings “A Place Called Home” from A Christmas Carol: The Musical and it’s an aptly charming and emotional solo. Hagen Wano and Denver King are quietly sentimental in “Christmas Is my Favorite Time of Year” from Catch Me If You Can. Wano is once again seen as a sweet and encouraging elf alongside Sikes in “A Christmas Song” from Elf: The Musical. A sleeper hit is “Christmas” from The Who’s Tommy, sung with alluring magnetism by Shafer Wilkerson. Olivia White brings the house down as an embittered Mrs. Claus in “Surabaya Santa” from Songs for a New World.

The show closes with the full cast in a sparkly spectacle of evening gowns, vests and an abundance of blue and white with “Snow” from White Christmas.

Snow Business is artfully choreographed by Amy Reynolds-Reed and skillfully directed by Kassie Carroll-Downey. The gorgeous costumes are designed by Alyssa Courtier. The wonderful band playing us into the Christmas season is made up of Mariann Searle on piano, Bill Rapavich on drums, and Bryson Goad on bass.

There’s No Business Like Snow Business is a beautiful, twinkling show that gets even the Scroogiest in the audience in a festive Christmas spirit. UCO’s Jazz Lab is a cozy, close venue where you get to know your neighbors and strike up interesting conversations with your tablemates. If you’re looking for live music, there’s no better place, and the UCO Musical Theatre department delivers a dazzling display of holiday cheer! The only thing missing is the leg lamp!

OCU’s school of Theatre presents the intriguing drama Arcadia

Published December 3, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia is an intriguing and complex drama about the influences of science, nature, truth, time, and sex on our lives. The play is set in two time periods and centers on a grand English estate. In 1809, a young girl and her tutor are delving into deep issues, of the romantic and intellectual variety. In present day, two scholars seek to unlock the mysteries of the house and the secrets of those who lived there. Oklahoma City University’s production of Arcadia promises to be mysterious, deeply intricate and provocative. The School of Theatre presents Arcadia at The Burg Theatre on OCU’s campus.

OCU Junior Zachary Prall stars in Arcadia, and he answered an in-depth Q&A about the show and his role as Septimus Hodge. His exclusive Q&A is below!

AP: Tell us about Arcadia! Who do you play? What are you most excited for audiences to see?

Zachary Prall: I play Septimus Hodge in Arcadia! I absolutely love this play and this character! This is hands down the hardest role I have ever had the privilege of playing and I have grown so much since we started this wonderful process. Arcadia is an incredibly intellectual play written by Tom Stoppard and is set in two different time-periods. The time-period in which I get to play (the 1800’s) revolves around a very intelligent young girl named Thomasina Coverly and how she is thinking and feeling her way through the world around her. She is faced with not only mathematic and scientific challenges within her studies but also with the challenges of the physical world: the relationships between people and the emotions and passion that goes along with that.

I play her tutor, who is charged with guiding this young genius in her studies and sometimes indulging in her curiosities that don’t exactly line up with the educational atmosphere. I am so excited for audiences to see the wonderful connections that happen when the physical and the intellectual worlds combine and waltz together in a way like no other. Everyone in this show is absolutely stunning and they give a performance that is so stimulating and so natural that it takes my breath away every time, and I am most excited for audiences to see the wonderful work my cast mates are doing!

AP: Arcadia bounces back and forth between the 1800s and present day. It even blurs the lines between past and present. How has that been a challenging, and exciting, aspect to this play?

ZP: When starting this process, I had no idea how we were going to pull off the connection of the two different periods. I have to be honest; I was intimidated when I first read the play. Over the process though, this blur between the two worlds has become my favorite part of the show. One aspect of the show that helps connect the eras is the math and science of the play. Math and science help connect us to those who discovered amazing things in the past and those who find new discoveries in the future.

Although this is true, periods are not just connected through scholastic means. One theme that is preached throughout the show is the fact that times may change, clothes may change, titles may change, but the relationships formed between people and the overall beauty of the human experience is timeless. People will always feel deep emotions and will always be driven by personal wants and needs, whether we are wearing coats and tails or not.

AP: Arcadia is both art and a science lesson. What do you think is most interesting about that unique quality?

ZP: I think what is most interesting about that is that science and art are incredibly intertwined. The beauty of science is the art that it creates with calculations and predictive measurements. Art is found all throughout science and is really what is fascinating about it. We can use science to figure out why something looks the way it does and why, for some seemingly absurd reason, it is perfect in the eye of the beholder. We can also use science to see the ugly and the destruction of the world. That fact in and of itself is beautiful. The fact that we can use science to understand beauty or apparent perfection and also destroy it too is art. I don’t think, especially in the context of this play, art and science are all that different.

AP: Yet another complexity is that the play is both a tragedy and a comedy. Do you think it’s more of one or the other?

ZP: I honestly don’t believe this play is strictly either, or even just a mix of the two. This play holds up a mirror to the human condition and demands that people see that life, science, sex, love, and even calculus all fit within the same vein of our lives. We can describe life with science facts but we can also describe life with our hearts and our emotions and that is truly what is beautiful about this play. That, although we think our brains and our hearts act independently, all of our livelihood is living under the same roof and they all work together to shape our experiences. Yes, this play is funny, and yes this play has tragic elements, but you are really missing out if you try to shove this wonderful piece of art into a singular box.

My advice to audience members is to let the show reflect some of the humanity they see in themselves and others onto them and let it change the way they view certain of aspects of life. This show is meant to get you thinking and makes you create your own personal interrogation of your life and the life of others around you. This play is way more than just a tragedy or a comedy.

Arcadia also stars Olivia Laskin as Thomasina, Mary Taylor Hesterberg as Hannah, Duke Bartholomae as Valentine, Maxwell McIntire as Bernard, and Owen Whitham as Chater. Carolann Stout is Lady Croom, Sydnee Lasseigne is Chloe, John Metcalf is Noakes, Isaac Sorell is Brice, Casey Kassal is Jellaby, and Bret Williams is Gus.

Lyric Theatre’s A Christmas Carol honors the holiday season

Published December 3, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

A central theme of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol is honoring Christmas. Not just during the holiday season, but year-round. Shortly after the publication of the famous novella, it was adapted for the stage and began its first production run in 1844. The Victorian Era story of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and the transformation he undergoes one fateful Christmas Eve is ubiquitous during the holiday season. Lyric Theatre’s adaptation by Producing Artistic Director Michael Baron is now in its ninth consecutive year, and it’s a story that is beautifully produced and eloquently told at Lyric’s Plaza Theatre.

Dirk Lumbard returns in his fourth consecutive production to play Scrooge. He’s dark and menacing early on in the show, a grumbling and angry man. He doesn’t stop working to celebrate Christmas Eve or even to mourn the anniversary of the loss of his business partner Jacob Marley.

Scrooge’s employee Bob Cratchit is portrayed by Charlie Monnot. Monnot’s performance is endearing. This character is the epitome of good-hearted. He works for the meanest man in literary history and yet still carries hope in his heart and Christmas cheer in his step. Monnot’s so pleasant and upbeat, and his Bob Cratchit is happy beyond his circumstances.

Natalya Fisher is glorious as the Ghost of Christmas Past, sweeping in on the fly rail in a dazzling display of Holiday Cheer. She floats and flies in a rather lengthy scene, and the athleticism she displays is impressive. She makes being strapped to the ceiling look not only easy but rather fun, and with her twinkling voice and angelic costume, she’s a weightless, sparkling spirit.

Quite jovial indeed is Mateja Govich as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Govich is nearly unrecognizable in this scene, and when he pops up in several other scenes throughout the show, the audience is none the wiser. Govich is simply delightful, cheery and warm, living in the moment as the youngest and most short-lived spirit. He only lasts for the Christmas at hand, and his presence serves to remind Scrooge how important it is to enjoy life while you have it. It’s a good reminder to the audience, too.

Thomas E. Cunningham undergoes several transformative moments as the ghost of Jacob Marley, Mr. Fezziwig, and Old Joe. Cunningham is multifaceted, frightening as Marley and nearly clown-like as Fezziwig. The dance scene at Fezziwig’s Christmas party is a highlight of the show.

Andi Dema is wonderful as Scrooge’s nephew Fred. He’s the only one who still holds a candle for his uncle, and Dema is compassionate, even seeming to worry for Scrooge. Matthew Alvin Brown is Topper, a quirky bachelor who can’t handle the affections of Susan Riley as Fred’s cute, flirtatious sister in law. Lexi Windsor is Belle, the former love that Scrooge lets slip away, and it’s his loss.

Nakeisha McGee is sweet and perfect as Mrs. Cratchit. McGee and Monnot together make a loving family unit, and they stand to suffer the most from Scrooge’s greed. Their little Tiny Tim’s health is declining, and if Scrooge doesn’t change his ways, Tiny Tim will surely die. Caedmon Glossup is Tiny Tim, and he is an engaging and terrific young actor! The Holly Cast also features Gracie Boyd as Belinda, Jamaal Jackson as Peter/Boy Scrooge, Jonathon Lewis as Turkey Boy/School Boy, Lexi Sendall as Martha, and Sydney Starr as Fan.

It’s here that Scrooge starts to see the error of his ways. Lumbard is an astute actor, and his change of heart is insightful and profound. Scrooge goes from being a horrible, ungrateful man to a happy, thankful, joyful old chap. It’s truly uplifting, and although the show is dark and even scary at times, it leaves you with a certain gratitude in your heart. Lyric’s A Christmas Carol provides audiences a much-needed reminder- to keep Christmas in our hearts and honor it all year long.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is a unique holiday experience

Published December 2, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Christmas is a busy time for theatres. Everyone seems to get into a Dickens-y spirit this time of year, with ghosts and Humbugs in every theatrical production you can find. A welcome break from tired traditions is It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. This production heralds back to the days of yesteryear, before iPads and streaming services flooded our airwaves, and brainwaves, at a constant, break-neck pace. Radio plays featured casts reading scripts over the air, breaking for commercials and using their diverse voice skills to play several characters each. Foley artistry provided the sound effects, and a fully produced play could enter homes on a nightly basis. The art form reached peak popularity in the 1930s to 1960s, before disappearing almost entirely in the U.S.

The Pollard Theatre Company in Guthrie revives it for their production of It’s a Wonderful Life, the radio and stage version of the famous black and white movie from 1946 that starred Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Joe Landry’s adaptation provides a full color experience for patrons. The theatre audience becomes the studio audience as the cast, set to voice the famous characters, enters from the back of the house.

David Fletcher-Hall is William Buckingham/Clarence the Angel. Clarence is sent to George Bailey on Christmas Eve to prevent him from committing suicide. On the brink of financial ruin, George is desperate and sees himself as more valuable dead than alive. Clarence gives George a glimpse into what life would be like, and how his hometown of Bedford Falls would suffer, if George had never been born. Fletcher-Hall is delightful in this role. A kind-hearted and compassionate angel, he helps George see the importance of valuing himself and all the things worth being thankful for in his “wonderful life”.

Longtime Pollard favorite Joshua McGowen reprises his role as Jake Laurents/George Bailey. He’s demure and flirtatious as Jake, winking at audience members and reviewers alike on his way to the stage. McGowen as Laurents is unassuming, surely not to be affected at all by the story he’s about to read over the air. But then he becomes George Bailey. Let’s not mince words here. This. Is. McGowen’s. Role. Those who’ve watched McGowen essentially grow up on the Pollard stage have seen the emotional depth and heart he puts into every performance. This role still tops them all. McGowen shows a range of emotions, from overjoyed, downtrodden, sly, sneaky, and proud, to frantic, even desperate. His revelations about the life he wants to throw away on Christmas Eve are intense and moving. McGowen’s abilities as an actor and the quality of his talent are never better than as George Bailey. He has a similar drawl and old-timey dapper look that’s reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart. But this role is wholly his, and he’s a heart-melting leading man. Even critics who’ve “seen it all” shed tears.

An actor is only as strong as his scene partner, and there’s no better match for McGowen’s performance than Kara Chapman as Sally Applewhite/Mary Hatch. Chapman as Sally is glamorous, a radio actress who charms and entertains the audience. She’s innocent and wide-eyed as Mary Hatch, but she knows what she wants in life. Chapman is so captivating, she immediately has the whole audience in love with her. When George Bailey offers to lasso the moon for her, it’s easy to see why. Chapman and McGowen have great chemistry with each other. When troubles arrive, they’re in the thick of it together. Chapman feels and reflects McGowen’s pain, and carries it in her own way. The scene in which George Bailey’s own wife doesn’t recognize him is heartbreaking, a turning point in the play and a gripping moment of emotion for both actors. Chapman proves herself the real heroine of the tale, demonstrating with finality that if men would just listen to the women in their lives, their troubles would be lessened definitively.

Kris Schinske Wolfe is Lana Sherwood. She also plays several other roles, including Violet Bick and George Bailey’s mother. Wolfe is distinct in each role, and she stands out delightfully as Violet. She’s a dynamic actress with a strong presence on stage. As Violet she suffers the most from George’s absence. Schinske Wolfe is multi-faceted and brings a unique persona to each character.

Timothy Stewart is Harry Heywood, Uncle Billy, and Harry Bailey, brother to George. Stewart is energetic and jovial, bouncing from one microphone stand to another as he switches back and forth from character to character. He plays so many roles, it would be hard to keep up with who is whom, except for the many voices Stewart employs to distinguish them. Stewart is capable and spirited, as fun to watch as he is to listen to.

James A. Hughes is Freddie Filmore/Henry Potter. Mr. Potter is a true villain, out to get the Bailey family, and opportunistic to a fault. Hughes is sinister, sly and vile as Potter. Hughes is otherwise genuinely likeable, with a lovely smile and a smooth voice in both roles in the show. He plays up the drama and devilishness to a fine degree as Potter, making him appropriately snakelike.

The main characters are portrayed as children early on in the show, and the same actors appear again as the children of adult Mary and George. The young talents on display here are Jackson Daigle as Young George/Tommy, Kodi Hare as Young Harry/Pete, Rianna Stottemyre as Young Mary in a role reprisal from last season, Irah Strader as Young Violet/Janie, and Molly Mosman as Zuzu. They’re a dazzling bunch of young artists with poise and professionalism to spare! Director W. Jerome Stevenson has honed their blossoming skills well and the audience is in for a treat watching them shine. They’re sure to delight audiences in future productions for years to come.

Jared Blount provides sound effects as the Foley Artist. Foley artistry is rarely seen on stage. It utilizes common items to create the sounds heard throughout the show, and everything from a comb, to a set of keys in a glass jar, and even a door opening and shutting are used to create the world of the play. It’s so interesting to watch, and even better, to close your eyes and listen to. That is, after all, what radio plays are for- listening and imagining the story.

The Pollard has created a new, welcome tradition to the holiday festivities in downtown Guthrie. It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is a breath of fresh air and a break from other over-produced Christmas stories. The trials of George Bailey are familiar and represent classic American cinema nostalgia. The most famous lines from the movie remain in the play, and the story serves as a beautiful reminder of just how precious and pivotal every life is. There’s no better time to remind ourselves and our loved ones of that than at Christmas. This production, like its name, truly is wonderful.