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"The Great Nebula in Orion"

December 3, 1977

College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA

Written by: Lanford Wilson
Directed by: Steven Culp

For Every Light on Broadway

If you are a young college student with a great amount of talent and desire to work in the theatre, where did you go to showcase all your abilities? William and Mary provided the opportunity to try out those talents through Premier Theatre. Under the supervision of Dr. Louis E. Catron, the entire program was created by students, from scriptwriting (overseen by Dr. Catron in his playwriting class), to directing, producing, and of course, acting. These efforts culminated during the fall semester in a program of five plays produced by Linda Nichols, which met with full houses and enthusiastic audiences at each performance during the three night run.

The first play, "A Time to Die," written by Erin Munday and under the direction of Denise Trogden, featured Richard Leahy, Kathy Barton, and Julie Kelly. In a series of impressionistic flashbacks, a condemned relived his life, from a guilt-ridden childhood, through a love affair to murder, concluding that the best life comes only after death.

Writer Terri Smith contributed "The Graveyard," directed by Lisa Burma. In this bittersweet story, Dan Izzo played a satiric down and out who formed an unlikely attachment with an orphan he met in a cemetery, portrayed by Karen Tolson.

Time regressed back to 1917 with Julie Opel's play "Don't Start the Revolution Without Me." Granville Scott directed this wildly ironic look at two Russian aristocrats played by Steve Smith and Sheryl Anderson, and their highly philosophical and ridiculous passion, while a bumbling servant, Blair Just, futilely tried to announce the impending revolt.

Bob Lewis presented an intense study of the encounter between a patient and a deranged, homicidal doctor in "Still the Jungle." Carolyn Good played the patient who slowly realized the horrible truth about her physician, John Stephan.

The evening's finale was a light, touching script for M.A.S.H. written by Karen L. Hall. Ms. Hall and director Terri Smith captured the zany yet poignant atmosphere of the popular television series, as B.J. and Hot Lips Houlihan agonized over their marriages while the camp prepared for a beauty contest. Howie Kelin as Hawkeye. Dylan Baker as B.J., Julie Opel as Hot Lips, and Bill Stuntz as Frank Burns led the cast, which included Steve Greene (Col. Potter). Marty LeClerc (Radar), and Bruce Eells (Klinger).

Premiere Theatre continued to be a popular outlet for student talent and experimentation throughout the rest of the year, scheduling a second series of shows for early April.

The setting: the PBK Lab The action: student directors faced by trusting and dependant casts and crews. The object: to learn that the art of direction involves much more than sitting in a personalized canvas chair, barking "cut!" to movie stars. Aspiring directors must acquire the confidence and skill that the pivotal job demands; so the Director's Workshop program (connected to Dr. Louis E. Catron's direction class) was created a few years ago to offer students that chance. It has become a popular staple of the theatre department, not only allowing students to produce and direct a wide spectrum of professionally written shows, but increasing the number of acting opportunities for a growing pool of performers. And local theatre fans are provided with another chance to enjoy the department's work, at no cost.

Four plays reached production levels this December. Terri McMahon directed This Property is Condemned, the touching story of a young boy who encountered an orphan wise beyond years along the railroad tracks. In contrast, director Maggie Vincent chose Mother Love, a nineteenth century tale of an innocent girl's shocking discovery that her mother is a prostitute. The focus shifted to the disillusionment of adults in Great Nebula in Orion, under the guidance of Steve Culp. Old college buddies reunite to discover well-hidden truths about themselves and each other. The program was rounded out by The Golden Fleece, a seriocomic modernization of the Medea/Jason myth, directed by Jimmy Schultz.

The success of these shows, presented on Saturday afternoon, December 3, counterbalanced the cancellation of the Sunday afternoon set, which were withdrawn for a variety of reasons. Despite a few individual problems, Director's Workshop planned to continue into the second semester, aiming for another series of shows to appear in mid-spring. (c) Colonial Echo Yearbook, College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA), Class of 1978, Volume: 80, p. 288-289

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