Theatre Wesleyan’s production of “Important Hats of the Twentieth Century” will be a show full of firsts.
The biggest one is that the show is a comedy fresh off Broadway.
“We are actually going to be for what we know the regional premier (of this production),” said junior theatre major Kimberly Owen. “It’s cool because other shows have preconceptions about what it should be, but for this show we’re getting to kind of make it up right from the beginning, which is nice.”
According to txwes.edu, the show is a comedy featuring multiple timelines. In the 1930s, Sam Greevy’s top fashion designs are challenged by Paul Roms’s crazy new creations from another time, while in 1998 a teenage stoner keeps losing his clothes to a man bursting out of his closet.
“Important Hats” will premier Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the Thad Smotherman Theatre and run six more times. Student admission is free.
“We’re going to make you laugh,” Owen said. “It’s right around Valentine’s Day so we keep saying it’s the after party for Valentine’s Day. It’s just a wacky, feel-good show with a lot of fun characters. The set is going to be in a round so the audience is looking in on this crazy world. It’ll be a really cool experience for them.”
This is Owen’s first opportunity as assistant director, which is something she has been working up to since she got to Texas Wesleyan.
“I have been kind of everything up to this point,” Owen said. “I have stage managed, I have acted, I’ve done dramaturgy, I’ve been a publicity designer, and my goal has been to lead up to directing. Now being able to assistant direct the production after experiencing all the other elements has been a really cool experience.”
Owen will be assisting director Bryan Stevenson, who selected the play for its unique material.
“I’ve been a part of every show that he’s (Stevenson) done since I was a freshman, and he loves things that make people think, travel, and are comedies, so this show was perfect for him,” Owen said. “He read it with a group of alum, and he thought it would be perfect for us. It was hard to find, but when we all found it and read it everybody loved it. We’ve had a really good time working on it.”
This is Darin Martin’s first comedy and his first lead role at Wesleyan. He plays Paul Roms, the antagonistic character of the play.
“He (Roms) uses the important hat of the twentieth century to travel forward in time and steal clothes,” Martin said. “He brings them back to the 1930s and starts his own business to get ahead on the competition. He’s kind of a wacky kind of person, or at least that’s how I’m playing him. To prepare for that I kind of wanted to do a certain voice that was very wacky to kind of fit his standpoint in the production.”
Martin, who perfected his voice and portrayal of Roms over numerous read-throughs of the show, is excited for the opportunity.
“It’s definitely been very fun to jump over here from high school not expecting to get roles, but then to actually get roles,” Martin said. “It was really exciting for me.”
For junior theatre major Alfredo Tamayo, who plays T.B Doyle, “Important Hats” is also his first comedy, but his second main role at Wesleyan. He called the rehearsals fun but also “controlled chaos.”
“I think at first, all of us going through it we kind of like thought about how weird it was, what we were going to do with it, how we were going to do it,” Tamayo said. “Now further into the process, I think we have a ground ready and we’ve all collectively hit a single, ‘This is how we’re going to do it.’”
He says the play will have a lot of crazy events, flip-flopping, and jokes. According to sophomore theatre major John Traxler, when rehearsing students had to pause for laughing at times.
“It’s one thing to read the script and see where the writer has put in jokes,” he said, “but whenever someone adds their physicality to it and their timing it just makes it a lot funnier. Often times, we have to pause during rehearsals just to laugh at what someone’s done. It’s very funny.”
Traxler will also be playing his first lead role in one of the big four Theatre Wesleyan productions as Sam Greevy.
“He’s (Greevy) eccentric because he makes a lot of outrageous and flamboyant dresses for a lot of starlets in 1937,” Traxler said. “I’ve prepared for this role by studying all my lines and by looking at way other actors have portrayed characters similar to him.”
Traxler also values the rehearsals since they’re a chance to get a better grasp on his character.
“The most challenging part has been probably learning all the lines,” Traxler said. “I’ve never been one with a good memory, but it’s just something that you do again and again. You start to learn more about the script and the characters as you just do it a thousand times.”
Traxler says the play will have a focus on fashion and humor.
“This play is about the importance of fashion, at least from my point of view,” Traxler said. “I think it’s a lot of how different time periods express their confidence in different forms of fashion and how other people may not necessarily see it as that. Then there’s a lot of other absurdist kind of themes to the show and it’s very funny. If an audience is coming to see this, they should be prepared to laugh.”
Traxler says if the audience takes anything away from the play it will be a good time from all the comedic aspects.
“They’re going to take away that it was a fun night and that it was just a good time,” Traxler said. “It’s a great date night because it’s something that is just silly enough that it’s fun to be at.”
“Important Hats of the Twentieth Century” runs Feb. 15-17 and Feb. 22-25 at the Thad Smotherman Theater. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. except for Feb. 25, when showtime is 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 for senior citizens, faculty and non-Wesleyan students; general admission is $10. For more information, go to txwes.edu.