When a classic piece was needed for Theatre Wesleyan’s season, Dr. Connie Whitt-Lambert jumped at the chance for Blithe Spirit to fill the space.
“I’m a huge fan of Noel Coward,” Whitt-Lambert, professor of theatre, said, “and I’ve always wanted to direct one of his pieces.”
Whitt-Lambert doesn’t have a very long list of plays that she has to direct in her lifetime, but Blithe Spirit makes the cut.
Blithe Spirit tells the story of Charles Codomine, a remarried writer, who is literally being haunted by his previous marriage, when some research goes wrong and his dead ex-wife Elvira is brought back from the dead to live with him and his current wife, Ruth. The show opens Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. and runs to Oct. 1 in the Thad Smotherman Theatre.
A period comedy written by Coward in the 1940s but set in the ‘30s, Spirit is a piece she has often taught to her classes.
“It is a piece of classic drama that has a lot of history,” Whitt-Lambert said. “He wanted to write something light-hearted that his fellow Londoners could go see and laugh at, which is why he set it in the 1930s before the war actually took hold, and they started getting bombed. There’s a point behind the play; it’s not just to make people laugh, but to make people, who were in a pretty miserable situation, feel a little better about life.”
Malik Offor, the stage manager of the production, believes the humor in the show is the reason the audience will come out to see it.
“It’s a fun show,” said Offor, a sophomore theatre major. “It’s really funny, it’s very witty, and there’s lots of very subtle jokes in it. If you don’t pay attention you’ll miss them.”
Offor also says there will be other big surprises during the show, but the production has also had its challenges as well.
“(One of the challenges) not for me personally, but for the actors is the script,” Offor said. “It’s very wordy and very British. It’s from the 1940s so there’s a lot of big words right after each other. The hardest part for (the actors) probably is making sure that they are verbatim.”
Brianna Hunter, a sophomore theatre major, says that along with the rehearsals there’s also a lot of research and planning that has gone into the show.
“There’s a lot of studying and research that goes behind it (the production), it’s not like we’re just throwing something together,” Hunter said. “Everything that goes into one play is highly researched and highly worked. (Spirit has) a British accent, so we have a dialect class just sitting in and helping everyone with their accents.
“We have spirits and stuff throwing things across the stage to factor in. Set and props have to figure out how we are going to make this happen, so that it doesn’t look tacky. It’s a factor that has to be extremely thought out and well planned, because the safety of our cast is influenced. Everything, even colors and set props, has to be thought through, which is what I find amazing especially since this is not a modern piece, it’s a time-period piece.”
Whitt-Lambert also believes the props and set designed by Dr. Joe Brown, professor of theatre and mass communications and dean of freshman success, will also be another big draw because of the 1930s setting.
“They’re all putting in a lot of extra time to ensure that all of the details and marks are hit,” Whitt-Lambert said. “It’s a very detailed piece not just in the British dialect, but in the detail work physically on set. It’s going to be visually a banquet, a splendid banquet.”
Whitt-Lambert believes the student talent and work ethic is what is going to make this play great.
“We have amazing students, who work far harder than anybody understands,” Whitt-Lambert said. “So many people show up at the theatre and go, ‘Oh that was nice,’ but not realizing the weeks, months, and sometimes years of work that has gone into getting the production ready. I just think that every time in every production, we do really showcase the depth of talent of our theatre majors, even though people don’t realize it all the time.”
Hunter’s favorite part about the production is having the whole department come together for big projects like Blithe Spirit.
“Our whole major comes together and works toward one goal, which is really cool,” Hunter said. “We don’t just go mediocre, we go above and beyond, and we always try our best. My favorite part is working together to achieve new heights.”
Whitt-Lambert said the overall goal of the production is to draw in the audience and lift their spirits.
“Hopefully they’ll walk away from this in a kind of light hearted and fun mood,” Whitt-Lambert said, “because we’ll have achieved some laughter along the way.”
Blithe Spirit will open Thursday, Sept. 21 and run seven shows until Oct.1. Individual tickets for students, staff, and senior citizens are $5 and $10 for adults. All Texas Wesleyan students can receive free tickets through the Student Theatrical Experience Fund (STEF) by using the code “SGA”. The doors will open at 7 p.m. on opening night. For more information, go to txwes.edu.