Every year West Texas A&M University’s Theater Department puts on around four to five productions, ranging from Shakesperian dramas to musical comedies. Each summer the production list is announced to the public, and usually includes a play or two, a musical or a song cycle and something experimental or smaller in scale. This year, after WTAMU’s decision to return to normal, the productions, which are found on the WTAMU Theatre webpage, are “You On The Moors Now,” a feminist piece of slice of life metafiction, “Monstersongs,” a Halloween-inspired song-cycle, “As You Like It,” a Shakespearean play, and “The Spongebob Musical,” a surprisingly beloved musical version of the Nickelodeon cartoon.
But how and why did these four productions find themselves on this season’s list? According to Callie Hisek, Assistant Professor of Theatre and director of “You On the Moors Now”, the shows, up until now, have all been picked by the Theatre Faculty. They take suggestions from their students while gathering scripts, but ultimately the decisions are still up to faculty. However, this semester that stands to change.
“We’re embarking on a new approach this fall for next year’s season,” said Stephen Crandall, the Department Head of Art Theatre and Dance, Professor of Theatre, and Theatre Program Director. This new committee will involve a, “play selection committee comprised of students and faculty, which will start on Oct. 1.”
“We are currently taking nominations for both student and Theatre Faculty to join a Play Selection Committee,” Hisek said. “Once selected, this committee will gather and read plays (…) and they will select about 10-12 titles. From there the faculty will read them all and make a final decision. It is our hope that we will get better representation, continue to pick shows that will challenge our students academically and still be entertaining for our audiences.”
Regarding this year’s interesting choices, Hisek explained that the committee tried bringing the fun-factor to its maximum. “The last two years have been hard as we work and live with COVID,” Hisek said. “So when we were picking shows for this current season we wanted to stick with comedies and comedies with various representation via our playwrights.”
With this year’s productions being done in-person for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the pandemic still claiming lives all across America, the theater department has tried to adapt to the University’s decisions without losing safety precautions.
“I mean, we are never fully back to normal, just about as normal as we can be as we slowly work our way to getting audiences back into the theatre,” Hisek said. “It was important to bring the audience back while still ensuring the safety of our students. We navigate each show just like we did last year.”