UMW Theatre opens its 2022-23 season with a show that has college students performing a play about college students performing a play.
The descriptor might be redundant, but the outcome is riveting, said Department of Theatre and Dance Chair Gregg Stull.
The Play That Goes Wrong is the story of a cast of wannabe stars committed to pulling off their opening-night presentation of Murder at Haversham Manor despite boundless blunders and missteps. Packed with comedic elements and technical touches, this play within a play stretches the talents of UMW students who act like actors in a murder mystery gone awry. The show – onstage in Klein Theatre tomorrow, Sept. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 2 – kicks off a season specifically designed to coax theatregoers into continuing to return to in-person performances.
“The very nature of this play is so different from what people expect from theatre,” said senior computer science and theatre major Ethan Pearson, who’s cast as Chris. “The dominoes keep falling to make things worse and worse, and you just can’t wait to see what fails next.”
Walking the line between portraying Max Bennett and the two characters Max plays, was challenging, said Seth Drenning, a junior theatre major with an arts administration minor.
“This show requires a lot of quick, creative decision-making, so I need to be thinking on my feet at all times,” he said. “I couldn’t see myself a few years ago doing a show like this, but through the skills I’ve developed in my classes and past productions here, I feel much more confident in my abilities as an actor.”
Billed as “a hilarious hybrid of Monty Python and Sherlock Holmes,” The Play That Goes Wrong boasts a set so elaborate, Stull said, he considers it an additional character. A variety of props creates an uncertain world for actors determined to see their début presentation through to fruition despite the disasters that threaten to derail it.
UMW Theatre’s 2022-23 season continues with three more performances, each standing out in its own way. Cult classic musical The Rocky Horror Show draws on audience participation. Men on Boats includes a hilarious reframing of history. Pride and Prejudice calls on actors to play multiple roles across gender expectations. In the works for about a year, each season lineup strives to give students and audiences a range of periods, genres, authors and styles, while maximizing opportunities for students to take the stage.
“Our patrons love seeing our students work, grow and develop while they’re with us,” Stull said.
Madison Baylor, who’s cast as Sandra in The Play That Goes Wrong, said her involvement with UMW Theatre has given her a better self-understanding. A junior majoring in English and theatre, she learned a lot as an actor portraying an actor – and had a lot of fun along the way.
“By the end of the show, every audience member will have picked a favorite character,” she said. “This production is brilliantly designed as an entertaining murder mystery gone wrong.”
For more information about upcoming shows, including, dates, times and ticket prices, visit UMW Theatre’s 2022-23 Season online.