Curtains Up On Hilltop Players

Opening the season with the American theater classic, “The Crucible,” West Liberty University is planning a season to entertain and delight at Kelly Theatre.

“Our season includes something for everyone. We start off with a chilling American drama then move onto a dark comic tale in the Irish storytelling tradition. Next is a student-directed, student-produced existential play and finally we end with a blockbuster musical,” Michael L. Aulick, director of theater, said. “We invite the community to join us for each production and enjoy live theater with the Hilltop Players.

“Our theater program continues to grow. We went from eight majors to 22 this year, plus we had 54 people try out for our fall auditions, another sign of growth. So we are happy to report that theater is hot on the hill,” he said.

Aulick trained as an actor and director at the University of Louisville. He spent a few years touring with the acclaimed Louisville Repertory Theatre Company before spending nine years as a professor at Northeast State Theatre in Blountville, Tenn., then joining WLU.

Aulick uses his training in the Stanislavski System in connection with Kristin Linklater’s vocal techniques and a physical movement approach to help his students create a realistic performance that includes the mind, body and voice. While he has directed everything from Greek tragedy to farcical comedy to musical theater to Shakespeare, his true passion is in the art that reflects life today.

As the second oldest student organization on the Hilltop campus, West Liberty’s theater program and its Hilltop Players have earned the reputation as a vibrant program with talented student actors.

Technical Director Meta Lasch has been at the helm for more than 31 years and works hard to make sure each production is cohesive and professional. A 1976 graduate of West Liberty, she teaches a variety of courses including costuming, makeup, lighting, drafting and stagecraft.

Her professional experience includes work as a regional Emmy judge (set design category), casting director and costumes for Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau commercial series, technical support for the West Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts, the Arts in Industry Show sponsored by Oglebay Institute, Ohio Valley Summer Theater and the Three River’s Shakespeare Festival.

“I love working with our students and I’m proud of the opportunity that West Liberty offers them. The freedom of expression that you find here is very valuable for students as they explore professions that include theater and performance,” she said. “Our goal is to provide our students with an outstanding undergraduate education in theatre so they can transition into a graduate program or entry-level position in a professional theater.”

Performances take place in Kelly Theatre, located in the Hall of Fine Arts on the WLU main campus.

The Hilltop Players season for 2012-13 includes:

“The Crucible,” by Arthur Miller, 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Oct. 18-19; 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 25-27, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28.

Miller may be best know for “Death of a Salesman,” but there is no greater tragic protagonist than John Proctor. This play focuses upon the farmer, his wife and a young servant-girl who maliciously causes the wife’s arrest for witchcraft. Proctor brings the girl to court to admit the lie, and it is there that the monstrous course of bigotry and deceit is terrifyingly depicted. The farmer, instead of saving his wife, finds himself also accused of witchcraft and ultimately condemned with a host of others.

Winner of the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play, this drama about the Puritan purge of witchcraft in old Salem, Mass., is both a gripping historical play and a timely parable of contemporary society.

“The Cripple of Inishmaan,” by Martin McDonagh, 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 29-Dec. 1, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2.

Set on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland in 1934, “The Cripple of Inishmaan” is a strange, dark comic tale in the great tradition of Irish storytelling. As word arrives on Inishmaan that the Hollywood director Robert Flaherty is coming to the neighboring island of Inishmore to film the movie, “Man of Aran,” the one person who wants to be in the film more than anybody is young cripple Billy, if only to break away from the bitter tedium of his daily life.

“Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” by Bert V. Royal, 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 21-23, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24.

When CB’s dog dies from rabies, CB begins to question the existence of an afterlife. His best friend is too burnt out to provide any coherent speculation; his sister has gone goth; his ex-girlfriend has recently been institutionalized and his other friends are too inebriated to give him any sort of solace. But a chance meeting with an artistic kid, the target of this group’s bullying, offers CB a peace of mind and sets in motion a friendship that will push teen angst to the very limits.

Drug use, suicide, eating disorders, teen violence, rebellion and sexual identity collide and careen toward an ending that is both haunting and hopeful. This play is a parody that imagines characters from the popular comic strip “Peanuts” as teenagers. It is both student-directed and student-produced.

“Chicago: The Musical,” book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, April 11-14 and 3 p.m. Monday, April 15.

In Roaring ’20s Chicago, chorus girl Roxie Hart murders a faithless lover and convinces her hapless husband Amos to take the rap – until he finds out he’s been duped and turns on Roxie. Convicted and sent to death row, Roxie and another “merry murderess,” Velma Kelly, vie for the spotlight and the headlines, ultimately joining forces in search of the American Dream: fame, fortune and acquittal.

This sharp-edged satire features a dazzling score that sparked immortal staging by Fosse.