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News and information from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Church social hall inspires performance

The next performance scheduled by the Pittsburg State University Theatre covers subject matter just about everyone in the Four State area can relate to. “Macaroni and Jello” is an original work by PSU faculty member Cynthia Allen that reflects life in a small-town church social hall. The production will be presented by the Advanced Performance Ensemble April 26-29 in the Studio Theatre on the PSU campus.

“It isn’t that everyone grew up going to church,” Allan said, “but anyone who has ever been frustrated with organizational meetings, well-intentioned volunteer efforts, too much Jello salad, and the general chaos that occurs when diverse people try to run something in their spare time can appreciate this play.”

Allan said she chose the location of a church social hall because it best represents a neutral meeting space used by many different groups, especially in small towns.

“The social, or fellowship, hall is the ‘middle’ space of a church,” Allen said. “It isn’t a sacred space, but it’s not really secular, either. I like creating work that shows the tension between opposing facets of real lives.”

“Macaroni and Jello,” like “American Edit,” which premiered at Pitt State in 2003, is a structured improvisation. This means that Allan writes the framework of the play and then works with actors over a period of weeks to develop the “meat” of each scene.

“This is an improvisational work,” said Allan, “and though the actors have a sense of what they want to accomplish during the scene, everything is really up for grabs. The show will be different from one performance to the next.”

Members of the advanced ensemble include Lucy Miller-Downing, Chelsea Smith, Austin Laverty, Daley Leintz, Todd Hoover, Roy Hatcher, Jodie Buster, Deidre Galloway, and Bekah Grieb. Set and lighting design are by students Jodie Buster and Deidre Galloway, respectively, with Stephanie Schartel serving as stage manager. Lisa Quinteros is costume designer, which was no small task given the range of possibilities for each scene.

“Lisa had to prepare an extensive amount of items for us to use in each performance,” Allen said. “It was as new an experience for her as it was the students.”

Allan stressed that she could not develop her improvisational work unless there was a good pool of talent and that is why she enjoys teaching at Pitt State.

“I have such creative people – both students and colleagues -- to work with. They are willing to push themselves to try something new.”

The play runs Thursday through Saturday, April 26-28 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 29 at 2 p.m. in the Studio Theatre. The entrance to the theater is on Joplin Street across from the Axe Library. Tickets are $8 for the general public, $6 for faculty/staff, $5 for under 17/over 65, and free to PSU students with a valid PSU photo I.D. Tickets are available through the PSU Ticket Office in the Overman Student Center or at the door approximately 45 minutes prior to curtain. Reservations are encouraged due to limited seating in the theater. Audience members are encouraged to bring a donation of “macaroni and/or Jello” products (Jello, pudding cups, canned fruit, spaghetti sauce, pasta, etc.) to be given to the Wesley House food bank at the end of the show. To make reservations, call the Ticket Office at 620-235-4796.

---Pitt State---