Vanguard Theatre presented a multi-play event for its spring production Feb. 23-26 at the Harriet Fulton Theatre.
The event included four short comedies that belong to a larger work, “Durang/Durang,” written by contemporary playwright Christopher Durang. The first act was composed of three plays, “Mrs. Sorken,” “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls” and “Medea.” The second act was “Beyond Therapy.”
The event opened with “Mrs. Sorken,” a one-woman comic monologue that featured Melanie Hollis, a theater assistant in the Department of Visual and Theatre Arts. The character Mrs. Sorken served as hostess for the evening and attempted to explain the roots of modern theater in her own uncoordinated way.
The second play, “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls,” was a parody of the Tennessee Williams play “The Glass Menagerie.” In the play Lawrence, played by Ron Peckham, a Martin native, was the socially inept son of Amanda, played by Kim Gibson, a junior English major from Fayetteville.
Ginny, a feminine caller played by Senior Theater major Adrien Eubank, from Crossville, calls on Lawrence one evening. Eventually Amanda and Lawrence discovered Ginny had a girlfriend and would no longer come to see Lawrence.
The final play of the first act, “Medea,” was co-written by Wendy Wasserstein and was a parody of Euripides’ classic Greek tragedy “Medea.” Natalie Horbelt, a freshman Theater major from Memphis, played Medea, who was distraught after discovering that her husband Jason was unfaithful. Jason was played by Dusty Stringer, a sophomore Graphic Design major from Martin.
The second act, “Beyond Therapy,” was a satire of modern life and people’s dependence on therapy to solve their problems.
Prudence, played by senior Theater major Jennifer Baumgardner, from Mckenzie, answered a personal ad posted by Bruce, played by Will Cook, a senior Graphic Design major from Martin. Bruce’s male lover Bob, played by Brandon Douglas, a freshman Theater major from Jackson, objects to Bruce seeking a girlfriend.
Bruce introduces Bob to his therapist, Charlotte Wallace, played by Allyson Truly, a sophomore Social Work major from Memphis. The audience soon discovered that Wallace and Prudence’s therapist, Dr. Stuart Framingham, played by UTM graduate Anderson Nichols, needs therapy more than their clients.
“Mrs. Sorken,” “Medea” and “Beyond Therapy” were directed by theater professor Ken Zimmerman. “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls” was directed by Hollis, who was also in charge of costumes.
“Melanie is an extremely accomplished director and it was a good opportunity to give our students a chance to work with a different director,” Zimmerman said.
The unconventional style of the play made for unique entertainment. “It’s not so much the story that’s the entertaining part,” Zimmerman said. “It’s the style of production that gives it its entertainment value.”
The event also presented special production challenges for the cast. “Our play, ‘Medea,’ is short and sweet- five pages, 12 minutes,” said Stephanie Dowell, a senior communications major from Nashville. “It requires a lot of work to keep the show tight and the energy moving.
“You can’t give the audience time to think about it,” Dowell said. “You have to keep going and going.”
“It was a little long,” said Heather Hamilton, a freshman dental hygiene major from Memphis. “It was good though. It was funny.”
“I would say I liked pretty much all of it,” said Adam Shobe, a sophomore Computer Science major from Dresden. “I liked the controversial nature of it. It was pretty good.”
The event was the last play to be presented by Vanguard Theatre this year. The Harriet Fulton Theatre will host the Voices of the South on April 21-22 and 28-29, which will be student-directed plays presented in the Lab Theatre. For more information contact either Ken Zimmerman or Dr. Doug Cook, Chair of the Visual and Theatre Arts Department.