Tonight marks opening night for the first year student’s show: Wiley and the Hairy Man. The lobby of the Blaney Theatre has been transformed into a dark swamp-like setting that only continues to add effect once you take your seats inside the Blaney Theatre, now known as the Tombigbee Swamp while Wiley and the Hairy Man is running.
Wiley and the Hairy Man explains the story of Wiley, a conjure-woman Mammy, Wiley’s dog and the villain that haunts Wiley, the Hairy Man. Members of the chorus create a mysterious atmosphere through their sing-song rhyme lines that follow Wiley through his adventure in the swamp and battle with the Hairy Man. Wiley must first figure out how to conquer his fears before he can conquer the Hairy Man and rid him from this swamp.
This show is now the second ‘First Year’ show directed by JP Staszel, following last year’s performance of The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet. Staszel explained how this show is perfect for the holiday season and is a great example of how fun and detailed theatre can be. He also offered advice for their future audiences,
“It’s [show] a lot of fun. It [show] is meant to be for children but we worked to make it very accessible for all audiences. We want it to be as interactive as it can be with the audience vocally participating and cheering.” Staszel stated.
Last night the first year students were able to perform for their first live audience during department preview. Department preview allows students and faculty involved in the theatre department to have the first look at a show before opening night takes place. This preview also allows those taking part in the show itself an opportunity to perform for a very supportive and interactive audience.
“It was hot but it was very fun. I really enjoyed it. I like making people laugh,” freshman Reece Williams, who is one of the two actors that play the Hairy Man, shared what it was like to perform for their first real audience. “Whenever I looked at the audience, seeing how everyone was so interested and everyone had a smile on their face was my favorite part.”
Due to the large amount of actors that auditioned to take part in this show, both the role of Wiley and the Hairy Man were double cast. Hannah Burns and Sara Pickens share the role of Wiley while Reece Williams (quoted above) and Derek Shaffer both play the Hairy Man. As four people take on the two main lead roles, Sarah Sproul is the sole actor to play the final lead role of Mammy. Cynthia Obiekezie, a freshman Psychology major, plays a strong comedic relief supporting character and savior to Wiley as Dog.
Both Burns and Pickens not only take on a lead role as Wiley but they also had to learn how to play a young boy. Burns explained the largest challenge she faced while developing her character,
“Trying to having a boyish stance because I already have the short hair so I don’t have to wear a wig but trying to always puff my chest out and have big muscles. Also trying to be scared and just acting young again. That was mostly the hardest part, how do I be a young little boy?”
Audience members have the opportunity to see both sets of actors by attending two shows between Thursday at 7pm, Friday 7pm and Saturday at 2pm and 7pm. Tickets are $0.50 for students with a Cal Card and $12.00 for non-students.