Theatre to offer simultaneous student-directed shows

The Sam Houston State University department of theatre and musical theatre will present two student-directed productions throughout the week.

“God’s Man in Texas”

Shelby Escamilla – Contributing Reporter

Faith, tradition and inner struggles between what is right and wrong are just a few of the topics covered in David Rambo’s 1999 play, “God’s Man in Texas,” which the Sam Houston State University Theatre Department is bringing to life in their newest production of the semester.

“God’s Man in Texas,” led by first-time student director and senior musical theatre major Michael Mora, tells the stories of three men and their relationships with the Houston Rock Baptist Church, a mega church with over 30,000 members, complete with bowling alley, gym, swimming pools, and a dinner theater.

Senior theatre major Christopher Preslar plays Dr. Phillip Gottschall, the 81-year-old Pastor of Houston Rock Baptist. Junior mass communications and theatre Major Jacob Spadie, plays Dr. Jerry Mears, a middle-aged Pastor who begins to deliver guest sermons at the church under Gottschall’s watchful eye.

Junior theatre major Swayde McGaughey plays Hugo Taney, the church’s audio and visual operator who was once a slave to alcohol and drugs saved by the church and his faith. In the show, Meers is set to become Gottschall’s successor as head pastor of the church as he is old and nearing the age of retirement. But as the show progresses, Gottschall’s grip tightens on his church as he realizes he is not quite ready to let go of the congregation he has built or his place at the pulpit.

With only three characters in the play, each actor plays a vital role in completing the play’s overall ensemble. Although the play is centered around religion, Mora and the cast believe audience members will be able to pull their own conclusions from the production.

“I honestly don’t think that this play is about religion,” Mora said. “Ego and power play a lot in this script. The main focus of this script is the fight for morals and what is right.”

“This play is not meant to convert you”, Preslar said. “At the same time, this play is not meant to shatter what your beliefs are. It’s to see these lives, the lives of these men. No matter how well respected an individual is…all people are vulnerable. We all have our weak points, we all have our strong points…we are all human.”

The cast of only three male actors agreed that they were able to connect on a much deeper and personal level and become a family because of the smaller cast.

“For such an intimate show, it’s great that it’s such a small cast because you can really spend a lot of time working with one another and working with the director to make those connections.” Preslar said.

“It helped all of us connect on some level,” Spadie said. “Our director did a really great job of making sure we connected. [He] has a lot to do with us being so close knit by the end of the show.”

The actors agreed with Mora, in the sense that the play’s main focus is not on the church or religion, but rather, the journey these three characters go through and the relationships they make between each other.

“This show is about a battle between three men,” McGaughey said. “The battle for power between three men and how they stay grounded using the other people.”

The cast members explained how one of the more challenging aspects of working on this show was the fact that they are all playing characters much older than themselves.

“These are men who have had an entire lifetime worth of experiences…being able to relate to that, finding that…bring that out of myself, rather than to just put it on as a caricature, was a big challenge.” Preslar said.

“Age is so hard to play.” Spadie said. “Also making these characters believable and not making them into caricatures.”

Another big challenge the actors expressed was the amount of memorization they were required to do. With the show running approximately two hours, each actor had his own hefty share of lines, much of which were lengthy monologues. In the case of Preslar and Spadie, who play the pastors, many of these monologues were sermons.

Mora hopes that no matter what the beliefs are of the audiences who attend the show, that they will walk out afterwards, feeling as if they know something they did not know before.

“I hope that it will have some kind of impact on people to go out and fight for things that they believe in.” Said Mora.

“God’s Man In Texas” performances will be held in the University Theatre Center’s Showcase Theatre between Nov. 18 and 22.

Evening performances begin at 8 p.m. with house opening at 7:30 p.m. A Saturday matinee will show November 22 at 2 p.m., with house opening at 1:30 pm..

Tickets are available at the University Theatre Center Box office or at 936-294-1339.

“The Storytelling Ability of a Boy”

“The Storytelling Ability of a Boy” written by Carter W. Lewis, will be this semester’s final production from Sam Houston State University’s department of theatre and musical theatre.

The third student-directed production of the semester will give the audience an in depth and dramatic look into the eyes of teenagers and the personal struggles and triumphs they experience while trying to make it out of high school and the painfully awkward adolescent years.

Senior theatre major and “The Storytelling Ability of a Boy” director Lex Laas said preparation for the show required him to revisit memories from high school.

“It definitely brought me back to high school,” Laas said. “I kind of had to revisit my high school self.”

Unlike the run of the mill teenage melodrama that highlights the lives of the kids who seemingly have it easy in high school, this show spotlights the students who are a little more out there.

Tanith Albright, freshman theatre major plays Dora, a sassy, goth-like outcast. Trey Brake, sophomore theatre major plays Peck, who is Dora’s best friend and a social outcast himself. AnJunior theatre major Anna Drake plays Caitlin, Dora and Peck’s teacher who is fighting a battle of her own.

The actors prepared for their roles by talking about playing high school students and how even though they are still students themselves, it was different and challenging experience.

“You think it would be easy to portray someone who is our own age, but it’s really not,” Albright said. “You have to figure out what the characters individual wants and needs are and kind of separate them from your own as an adolescent.”

For Anna Drake, she was playing a woman seven years her senior. She expressed how it was a lot more difficult than one would think.

“There’s a difference between 20 and 27,” Drake said. “Seven years doesn’t age you a lot, but twenty-seven is older so it’s hard finding that middle ground.”

This show deals with particularly heavy themes that are dramatic and shocking, but still true to what happens in real life. Audiences will find themselves relating to many of the experiences these young individuals go through whether they are sympathizing with the characters’ pain or laughing at the memory of a similar experience.

Realistic to actual high school students, the show contains language, sexual situations and references to violence with intensity that adds to the believability of the show. The actors said these themes taught them life lessons.

“These are three people who are on the periphery of life,” Drake said. “They’re not the center, they’re not the focus…in highschool you don’t really hear about the kids being bullied, you hear about the bully. It’s those people who are cast out. This is the story of these three people who are broken and alone and disheartened by everything that’s going on around them coming together and finding love in each other when they didn’t feel like they could love before.”

The show presents a cast of only three members, just as the second show that is currently running, “God’s Man in Texas.” Laas has worked hard to create close relationships between himself and the actors in order to convey believable performances, real emotion and depth on stage.

“We all clicked and meshed really well,” Laas said. “We all knew what our goal was and what we needed to accomplish and we would come into rehearsals and we would just dissect. With three actors you can spend more time with each character. We just found out who these people were.”

The actors said the pros of working with an intimate cast have helped them develop relationships between their characters as well as themselves as actors and colleagues.

With the show touching on heavy subjects such as bullying, acceptance, healing, and devotion to another person, the director and cast all hope that the audience walks away form the show feeling something meaningful.

“It’s okay to be yourself,” Laas said. “We all have gifts inside of us that might be hard to share. It’s just okay to be okay with those gifts and to share them with the world. We’re always trying to figure out who we are. Saying you know yourself is really hard we’re always changing, we’re always moving forward but trying to grasp that idea of ‘do I know who I am?’”

“I hope [the audience] leaves and thinks about the one person in this world that they would do anything for and…let that sink in and how important that person is in their life.” Said Drake.

Laas thinks overall, the show is a love story, albeit a different kind of love story.

“This show is a love story between the three of them,” Laas said. “These characters are all misunderstood, they’re all pushed aside…they all want love. They all want to be loved and they want to give love too.”

Laughter, tears, trips down memory lane and inspiration are all emotions that could be divulged while watching “Storytelling Ability of a Boy”.

The play opens Nov. 19 and will run through Nov. 22 at the University Theatre Center’s Showcase Theater.

Performances begin at 8 p.m. with house opening at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the University Theatre Center Box office or at 936-294-1339.

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