Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124, [email protected]
CANYON, Texas — A play with an early 20th-century bent will help the West Texas A&M University theater department solve a very 21st-century problem.
WTAMU Theatre will open its 2020-21 season with “Vintage Hitchcock,” which presents as radio plays three of the suspense master’s early films — “The Lodger,” “Sabotage” and “The 39 Steps.”
In the production, actors will be placed at microphones, performing as any number of characters in abridged versions of all three movies, while other cast members will provide live sound effects. It’s just like radio dramas were performed live in the studio in the early 20th century, and just like playwright Joe Landry intended when he adapted the films into the script.
But, due to safety measures around the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, WTAMU Theatre won’t be performing the play for a live audience. Instead, the drama will be livestreamed to ticketholders via a private link at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25 and 26.
“You’ll still experience it as if you’re in the black box theater with us,” said director Callie Hisek.
“It’s a blessing and a curse, this whole thing,” Hisek said. “Yes, it is difficult to come to terms with the fact that we’ll have no audience in our house. We do theater because we love the interaction, the thrill of the audience being there. But by doing it via livestream, we may actually be getting more patrons to watch the show. My cast members already have family members around the country asking how they can watch it, which they wouldn’t have been able to do before.”
The structure of the play itself is challenging to the student actors, too.
“I’m used to being all over the stage,” said Nolan Quintanilla, a sophomore from Canyon. “For this show, my feet are stuck in one place.”
“As a theater actor, being able to move physically around the stage helps you build character,” said Jared Bartley, a sophomore from McLean. “But I’m finding this really enjoyable because voice acting has always been in the back of my head as a future career. Getting to play with different dialects and building these characters is exhilarating.”
“I really like embodying the characters physically,” said Coco Dietz, a junior from Tahoka. “Having to become them physically, even in subtle ways, is always important to me. So, I’m learning how to do that, but subtly, at the microphone.”
Hisek said the performance should remind audience members of another popular form of 21st- century entertainment.
“We have modern-day radio shows — podcasts,” Hisek said. “This will allow the audience to see what a ‘traditional’ radio play would look like, but viewers may already be familiar with this if they listen to podcasts like Thrilling Adventure Hour.”
Cast members include Quintanilla; Bartley; Dietz; Benjamin Nitschmann of Moorpark, Calif.; Bridgette McFall of San Antonio; Anna Holmes of Lubbock; Sophia Johnson of Lubbock; Caitlen Richison of Wichita Falls; Aidan Tsichlis of Plano; and Hunter Martinez of Dallas.
Tickets are $15 for the general public, and free for WT students, faculty and staff, who must contact the Box Office for a code for their complimentary tickets and specify the date which they wish to watch. A service fee will be charged by the streaming service on paid tickets.
Box office hours are 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For tickets, call 806-651-2804, email [email protected], visit the WTAMU Theatre Facebook page or visit the WTAMU Theatre website.
Support of arts and entertainment is a vital component of the University’s long-term plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.
About West Texas A&M University
WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. With enrollment of more than 10,000, WT offers 60 undergraduate degree programs, 38 master’s degrees and two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 15 men’s and women’s athletics programs.