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Summer Theatre Opens 65th Season with Gurney’s Charming Memory Play

June 7, 2019

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The 2019 ESU Summer Theatre company pauses for a photo in front of King Hall.

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. Season 65 begins with “What I Did Last Summer,”a charming memory play from A.R. Gurney, the author of “The Dining Room,” “Love Letters”and “Family Furniture.”Each has been performed on ESU stages in previous seasons.

“What I Did Last Summer” 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 (Lucas Coble, Ople) 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 (Elizabeth Higbee, Emporia), 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, played by Miranda Kimble, a 2019 alum from Mullinville.

Under the direction of Dennis Turney, the set is designed by alum Ben Williams (BFA, 2010), 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 Hernandez (Hutchinson). Other cast members are Evan Grantham (BFA 2019, Girard), Erin McNeley-Phelps (Lenexa) and Isabelle Nelson (Olathe).

Members of the student production staff include Emily Rayson (Ottawa, Costume crew head), Cameron Webb (Shawnee, Propmaster) and Mason Nicks (Leavenworth, Assistant Lighting Designer). Technical Director Chris Lohkamp and Costume Shop Supervisor Amanda Dura round out the production team.

The Emporia State Alumni Association is hosting a reunion for members of past summer theatre seasons beginning on June 12. The reunion includes a Theatre Guild Dinner where Dr. Charles R. “Charlie” Hill, an alum and former professor, will receive a University 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.

“What I Did Last Summer” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. June 12 through 15 in the Karl C. Bruder Theatre in King Hall on the campus of Emporia State University.

Tickets for all ESU Theatre productions can be purchased online at Tickets are also available in person from the University Ticket Office in the Memorial Union or by calling 620-341-6378. Tickets purchased in advance cost $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.




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