The annual freshman play opens this Friday amidst other Homecoming festivities and it promises to be a hit. This year’s production is “Harvey,” a Pulitzer-Prize winning comedy written by Mary Chase in 1944. The play was made into a classic film starring James Stewart six years later.
“It’s really funny, but there is definitely a message,” Jan Lauderdale, director of the play, said. “That’s my favorite kind of play, something that will entertain people, make them laugh, but has a message for them also.”
Harvey tells the story of Elwood P. Dowd, who has an imaginary friend, a six-foot tall rabbit. Comedy unfolds as Elwood’s family thinks he is crazy and attempts to have him committed to a sanitarium.
Lauderdale said she has been considering the play for several years now, but explained that it needs a strong lead actor because the role of Elwood is not easy to play. With so many new students at the University this year, Lauderdale was sure she would find enough qualified students to fill the 12 roles in the show.
One of those students is Emiley Horton, freshman construction management major, who plays sanitarium nurse Ruth Kelly. With years of high school theatre behind her, Horton was excited to audition and get involved with something she wouldn’t get to do within her major.
“That’s why I really wanted to audition,” Horton said. “I knew it would be a great time to get involved in something totally different.”
“I was a little nervous at first just because there were only six female roles in the play, and I wasn’t sure how many people were auditioning,” Horton said. Despite her initial nerves, Horton was naturally suited to theatre. She is confident in expressing herself and loves being in front of people onstage.
“I was a little bit familiar with the play before auditioning,” Horton said. After signing up at Early Registration, she received an email announcing the play, and her mom suggested they watch the movie. “I actually ended up falling asleep in the middle of it,” she said. However, she quickly came to enjoy her role in the play and relates well to her character.
Horton said she would encourage other students to audition for plays at the University.
“It absolutely helps bring out self-confidence,” Horton said. She has also built a close relationship with her castmates.
Horton said the first person she met at the audition was her fellow cast mate, Josiah Coroama. Coroama, currently undeclared, plays a fellow sanitarium employee, Duane Wilson, the security guard.
“I don’t think he enjoys his job,” Coroama said, describing his character. Coroama sees the character of Duane Wilson as a gruff, expressive man who works hard to provide for his family.
“Theatre is something I’ve always had a passion for,” Coroama said. Like Horton, he acted in plays throughout high school and has considered auditioning for more shows at the University in the future.
Ashley Burger, freshman photography and communication major, also came from a theatre background. However, she had no intention to try out for the play.
“I was just dropping off a friend and wasn’t planning on auditioning, much less getting cast,” Burger said. She was cast as Myrtle Mae Simmons, a sassy but sweet young woman who is always trying to get a husband.
“I’m really glad I got involved, even though I wasn’t expecting it,” she said. Burger said she is definitely considering going out for other University plays and musicals in the future.
The show opens tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. in the Berry Performing Arts Center, with a matinee at 1 p.m. on Saturday and 7:30 p.m. showings on Oct. 9 and 10. Ticket prices are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and alumni, $3 for JBU students and $6 for other students.