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Summer Theatre Returns for 65th Season

May 20, 2019

Emporia State’s Summer Theatre program celebrates its 65th birthday this season. The program was begun in 1955 by Karl C. Bruder and is the longest running summer stock theatre on the Great Plains. Celebrating the past as well as our future, this year’s season features two popular productions from previous seasons. This year’s season features “What I Did Last Summer” (June 12-15), “America’s Songbook, A Musical Revue” (June 26-29), “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, abridged” (July 10-13) and “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs” (July 24-27).

The Emporia State Alumni Association will host a reunion for members of season’s past to return to campus, reminisce and enjoy the opening production of the 65th season. Also planned are a campus tour and the chance for alums to work alongside current students. The reunion will include a Theatre Guild Dinner where Charles Hill, an alum and former professor, will receive a service citation award. In addition to his roles as student and professor, Hill was one of the founders of the Emporia Theatre Guild, the homecoming musical and the summer theatre program. For more information about the reunion visit the Emporia State Alumni page.

“What I Did Last Summer” by A.R. Gurney is a comedy set on a well-to-do vacation colony on the shores of Lake Erie during the final stages of World War II. Charlie is a rebellious 14-year-old hoping to spend the summer loafing and socializing with his friends before being sent off to boarding school, but the need for spending money forces him to take a job as a handyman. He is hired by Anna Trumbull, an iconoclastic, bohemian art teacher. Sensing a kindred spirit in Charlie, she tries to stretch his mind by teaching him painting and sculpture — and exposing him to “radical” ideas which, in time, persuade Charlie to reject the notion of going back to school. The result is a family crisis and a showdown between Anna and Charlie’s mother. 

Under the direction of Dennis Turney, the set is designed by alum Ben Williams and Professor Emeritus Susan J Mai returns to design the costumes. The lighting is designed by Nancy J. Pontius. The stage manager is Jasmine Hall (Independence) who is assisted by Gabby “Parker” Hernandez (Hutchinson).  Members of the cast are Lucas Coble (Olpe), Evan Grantham (Girard), Elizabeth Higbee (Emporia), Miranda Kimble (Mullinville), Erin McNeley-Phelps (Lenexa) and Isabelle Nelson (Olathe).

“America’s Songbook, A Musical Revue” revisits many of America’s most popular and beloved songs. Audiences will be taken on a nostalgic and informative journey from colonial times to the civil war; from Tin Pan Alley and the golden age of Broadway right up to our own time. Featuring songs by famous composers like Irving Berlin and George M. Cohan, the revue features songs and tales that recount America’s story. “America’s Songbook” was one of the highlights of the 52nd season of summer theatre in 2006. The show was devised by Jim Bartruff, who once again serves as the director. Lindy Bartruff provides the choreography.

Melinda Groves and Tiffany Budke are the production pianists and Stephen Holbert (Olathe) is the music director. The set is designed by Ben Williams and the costumes are designed by Amanda Dura. The production stage manager is Riley “Jack” Greenwood (Valley Center). The assistant stage manager is Erin McNeley-Phelps (Lenexa). The cast is Colton Adams (Wichita), Jasmine Hall (Independence), Miranda Kimble (Mullinville), Hewleek McKoy (Olathe), Weiqi Meng (Beijing, China), Alum Landon Noll (Kansas City), Zulema Renteria (Emporia) and Emily Sanderlin, a student at Benedictine College whose hometown is Crumrod, Arkansas.

“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield is an irreverent, fast-paced romp through the Bard’s plays. “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” was London’s longest-running comedy having clocked a very palpable nine years in London’s West End at the Criterion Theatre. This production was first presented in the 48th season of summer theatre in 2002.  Bob Hart, an ESU Theatre alum will direct the production. The three-person cast is Elizabeth Higbee (Emporia), Ben Johnson (Wichita) and Emily Sanderlin, (Crumrod, AR). Alums Ben Williams (Emporia) and Tricia Stogstill (Chanute) are designing the sets and costumes.

“The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs” by Robert Kauzlaric, Paul Gilvary and William Rush is based upon the best-selling children’s picture book by Jon Scieszka. It tells the familiar tale from the point of view of the Big Bad Wolf. The action is set at the trial of the wolf who has been brought to justice in Piggsylvania’s Trial of the Century. Although the outcome seems clear, can Wolf get a fair trial in a corrupt piggy court? The audience at each performance becomes the jury, deciding the wolf’s fate and the show’s ending.

Although based on a popular children’s book, the show is recommended for the entire family. It is under the direction of Jim and Lindy Bartruff and features Colton Adams (Wichita), Jasmine Hall (Independence), Gabby “Parker” Hernandez (Hutchinson), Erin McNeley-Phelps (Lenexa), Weiqi Meng (Beijing, China), Brian Percival (Olathe) and Zulema Renteria (Emporia). The stage managers are Miranda Kimble (Mullinville) and Ben Johnson (Wichita). The set is being designed by Chris Lohkamp and the Costumer is Susie Williams.

The Emporia State Alumni Association will be hosting a reunion for members of season’s past to return to campus, reminisce and enjoy the opening production of the 65th season. Also planned are a campus tour and the chance for alums to work alongside current students. The reunion will include a Theatre Guild Dinner where Charles Hill, an alum and former professor, will receive a service citation award. In addition to his roles as student and professor, Hill was one of the founders of the Emporia Theatre Guild, the homecoming musical and the summer theatre program. For more information about the reunion visit the Emporia State Alumni page.

Each production of our summer season will be performed in the Karl C. Bruder Theatre in King Hall on the campus of Emporia State University.

Tickets purchased in advance for our Summer Season are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students. Tickets purchased at the door on the day of a performance will increase to $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $8 for students. Tickets for all ESU Theatre productions can be purchased online at tickets.emporia.edu. Tickets are also available in person from the University Ticket Office in the Memorial Union or by calling 620-341-6378.

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