By Rob Bradfield
Baylor Theatre’s latest production gives audiences a glimpse into the world of contemporary plays, as well as a chance to see two premieres from the Baylor Theatre community.
“Quartet with Grand Piano: An evening of Four Short Plays,” directed by Dr. Deanna Toten Beard, associate professor and graduate program director for Baylor Theatre, runs this week in the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center.
Student actors will perform four short plays in Theatre 11 — Baylor’s black box theater. The four plays, while different on the surface, are united by central themes. “They share themes of memory, loss and the power of beauty to help us be brave,” Beard said.
The premieres include “Aftermath,” written by Baylor theater professor Thomas Ward, and “The Trapeze Artist,” by Baylor alumna Mary Laws.
“Aftermath” shows a disturbed young man’s reaction to his father’s death, and “The Trapeze Artist” deals with a troubled relationship between a father and daughter.
These plays are joined by “Johannes, Pyotr & Marge,” by playwright Jeffery Essman, and “Little Airplanes of the Heart” by playwright Steve Feffer.
According to Toten Beard, instead of each play being performed as an individual production, “Quartet With Grand Piano” will be presented as one work, showing how each play connects to the other.
The production features a large cast and crew, which is what Toten Beard said drew her to the form of combined plays. Using contemporary plays also gave the cast and director a chance to work without having to conform the performance to past productions.
“It’s different from a traditional full-length play; we created this,” Toten Beard said.
Toten Beard and the actors also had the opportunity to work with a playwright during the rehearsal process.
Ward, a member of the Baylor theatre faculty, began writing “Aftermath” over a year ago and got to see his work come to life on the stage for the first time early this semester.
Ward said his play was intended to come across much darker than it does, but seeing the early performances changed his perceptions about the work.
“The most surprising thing is that the play is funny,” Ward said. Seeing a new play staged can be important for the playwright.
According to the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Co., a Washington, D.C.-based theater company that focuses on new play development, an audience is essential to “activate and refine” new plays.
Ward, who has premiered both plays and films, is still excited to see his new work performed, especially because of the opportunities to work with the actors and director during rehearsals.
“It’s a really amazing thing for me, because the whole process from beginning to end was a collaboration,” Ward said.
“Quartet with Grand Piano: An evening of Four Short Plays” began Tuesday and runs through March 6. Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. each night, with 2 p.m. matinees on March 3 and 4.
Performances before March 6 are sold out, but tickets may become available, according to the Baylor Theatre.
Tickets and information can be obtained by calling the Baylor Theatre box office at (254) 710-1861 or ordering online.