October 1, 2020
East Texas Baptist University's School of Communications and Performing Arts lifted the curtain last weekend on their production of the classic Broadway thriller Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott. The 1966 play, turned into an Oscar-nominated film starring Audrey Hepburn, was directed in this iteration by ETBU Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Joshua Scott.
Wait Until Dark marks the University's first in-person performance since March's well-received production of The Addams Family. With a condensed five-week rehearsal schedule due to a shortened semester, ETBU's Theatre Department allowed for students to be more involved in the logistics of staging, blocking, and set design under the supervision of Director Scott, lighting designer John Dement, set designer Ryan Gillam, and costume designer Melanie Hudson. With its complex set and lighting design, this unique show was further complicated by the need for special health and safety measures to ensure the well-being of the cast, crew, and audience. These increased safety measures tested the participant's critical thinking and ability to perform under pressure.
"We made sure that during and outside of rehearsals, we followed all of ETBU's guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19," freshman Koby Hankins said. "The costume crew made masks tailored to each actor's face for rehearsals and performances. Adding the masks made things a bit more challenging, but they eventually became part of our characters."
ETBU's production of Wait Until Dark, centered on the themes of light and dark, featured the ensemble cast: freshman Koby Hankins (Mike), senior Josh Bumpas (Carlino), senior Codi Arndt (Roat), freshman Alexa Smith (Susy), and senior Kelley Malin (Gloria). A unique challenge of the show was navigating a blacked-out stage.
"A lot of our blocking came from the incredibly detailed script, but Mr. Scott allowed movement that happened outside of important plot points to be improvised by the actors," Smith commented. "It was a challenge at first because I have never really been responsible for my own blocking before. It was also tricky playing a blind woman because she was unable to make eye contact with anyone, and she needed to be able to walk around her house with confidence."
The play's conclusion culminates with the blind main character's apartment falling into complete darkness, giving her an edge over the seeing antagonists, and allowing the play's central theme to shine through.
"Thematically, there are obvious Kingdom principles in Wait Until Dark that folks of faith are automatically attracted to," Scott shared. "It would be easy to assume the character of Susy is weak due to her loss of sight. Yet, by the story's end, the hope is that patrons walked away with the satisfaction of the blind being able to see in the midst of the darkness, good winning over evil, and truth conquering the lies of the enemy."
The ETBU Department of Theatre Arts' spring production of Shrek the Musical will be open to the public following government health and safety protocols. Shrek the Musical will run February 25-28 at the historical Memorial City Hall in downtown Marshall. To learn more, visit www.ETBU.edu/theatre.