University Theatre gearing up for regional festival performance

As the University of the Ozarks Theatre prepares for the prestigious regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Professor Bruce B. Brown and the students are finding that their production of BUG continues to evolve.

The University Theatre was one of five university theatres from the five-state Region VI selected to participate in the festival, scheduled for Feb. 24-27 in San Angelo, Texas. It will be the company’s third round of performances of thriller by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tracy Letts. They performed the play for three shows in early October to open the theatre’s 96th season and they also performed it at the state competition later that month.

“Getting back into rehearsals for BUG has been challenging and rewarding,” said Brown, who also is the director of the production. “It’s been challenging because the show has been dark for three months, and rewarding because we’ve found that we were not finished with these characters or the telling of this story. It is exciting to come back to this production and shape it and help it mature even more. We continually make new discoveries in rehearsals and have been able to make subtle character changes that have really made the production stronger and the storytelling more dramatic.”

Brown said working on BUG has been one of the most rewarding experiences in his 20 years at Ozarks.

“Working on this production has been an amazing experience for all of us,” Brown said. “Our students continue to be true, dedicated professionals. We are so proud of them and what we have all accomplished with this show.”

The University Theatre’s production of BUG was the Arkansas premiere of the play, which is set in a seedy Oklahoma City motel room. The story revolves around lonely cocktail waitress Agnes, who is hiding from her violent ex-con ex-husband Jerry. One night, her lesbian biker friend R.C. introduces her to Peter, a Gulf War veteran who might be AWOL. She gets involved with Peter, who grows increasingly paranoid about the war in Iraq, UFOs, the Oklahoma City bombing, cult suicides, and then secret government experiments on soldiers–eventually drawing Agnes into his delusions. The play deals with the issues of love, paranoia, conspiracy theories, and Agnes’ slow descent into insanity under Peter’s influence.

The cast includes, Annie Williams as Agnes White, Haley Hanks as R.C., Rhett Sells as Peter Evens, John Davis as Jerry Goss, and James Allen as Dr. Sweet.

Along with serving as the play’s director, Brown will serve as house manage and handle scenic and costume design. Other crew members include, Meghan Mansur as production stage manager, sound board operator, and sound design; Lucas Hoiland as technical director and lighting design; James Allen in graphic design, Sandra Davis as rehearsal stage manager and properties manager, and Eleazar Coronado as assistant stage manager and light board operator. Other crew members are Jessica Jobst, Ryan LeClair, Kassie Schrader, and Ben Howard.

U of O was the only theatre company from Arkansas chosen to compete at the regional festival. Ozarks will be joined by theatre companies from University of Oklahoma, University of Central Oklahoma, Bossier Parrish Community College, and Sam Houston State, at the festival,

The University Theatre will perform twice at the Kennedy Center festival on the campus of Angelo State University. Both productions will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 11 a.m. and then again at 8 p.m. This is the second time in three years that Ozarks has been selected to perform at the regional festival.

“Being selected as one of the five best productions in our region shines a positive light on our students, program, and university, making all the hard work totally worth it,” Brown said. “This opportunity to represent our region at the festival is a true honor and we plan to present a great show. I hope those who are able to come to San Angelo and support us will join us on Wednesday, February 24.”

The University Theatre will also perform the play during a special performance on the Ozarks campus at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 19, in the Seay Theatre. Tickets are free and can be secured at the box office on the evening of the performance.

The play contains adult language, violence, drug use and partial nudity and is for mature audiences only.