‘Oklahoma!’ comes sweeping into UWF theater

 

 Oklahoma! will be the first production the Department of Theater will put on this semester. The second, “On the Verge” will open in April. Photo courtesy of UWF.edu/music

Oklahoma! will be the first production the Department of Theater will put on this semester. The second, “On the Verge” will open in April. Photo courtesy of UWF.edu/music

By Sydney O’Gwynn
Staff Writer

The University of West Florida’s Department of Theater is kicking off its 2016 season with “Oklahoma!” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb 19, at the Mainstage Theater in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts.

The show features an all-student cast and is directed by Sara Schoch, assistant professor of Musical Theater. Schoch performed in regional theaters across the nation before joining the department in the fall of 2015.

“Here at UWF we have some of the nicest, kindest, most hardworking young people in the industry,” Schoch said. “They are very open to the creative process, they are kind, they are generous in their performing, and they like to have a lot of fun, and it makes the production all the better because of it. We have an enormous amount of talent here at UWF.”

“Oklahoma!” follows cowboy Curly McClain and his love interest, Laurey Williams. It is set in Oklahoma territory in the year 1906.

Schoch, who has bachelor’s degree of fine arts in theater from the State University of New York at Fredonia and a master’s degree of fine arts in acting from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass, said she loved this musical in particular and believes it is one of the best love stories ever created.

“This show is so unbelievably American,” she said. “It is the story of us. A lot of people consider this musical to be old; I consider it to be timeless.”

Jerre Brisky, director of the CFPA, said this production is important because the release of “Oklahoma!” was a milestone in the world of musical theater.

“‘Oklahoma!’ was really the first show within musical theater where the songs helped advance the plot and helped advance the story,” Brisky said. “It’s not often that you get to see what was probably one of the greatest influences on the history of musical theater.”

Schoch said she thinks there are a lot of challenges performers face because the production is a musical.

“I think the challenges in musicals are to create real characters – real characters who happen to be larger than life,” she said. “I think that is a challenge for any young actor, how we make these people believable and relatable at the same time.”

Schoch also said that the actors in the production range from freshman to senior students.

“We have people who have had many years of experience on the stage, and we have people who have not much experience on the stage,” she said. “So we have all levels, and they are all so enthusiastic and the show, in my opinion, is really beautiful.”

She said the people working behind the scenes- controlling the lighting, changing wardrobes and setting props –are just as vital to the production as the actors, and that the whole department works together in preparation for the production.

“We have all kinds of people,” Schoch said. “It’s not just the 22 actors on stage, it’s a hundred people that touch this production.”

Charles Houghton, chair of the Department of Theater, is in charge of lighting and scenic design for the production. He said he feels optimistic about the production from what he has seen in rehearsals.

“The show is going really well,” Houghton said. “It’s a very great energy with the cast. It’s going to be a fantastic production.”

He also said that Schoch is doing well with the actors and said he sees this production as the “complete package.”

“It’s one of those shows that, if you like musical theater, you are going to love this show,” he said. “If you haven’t been to see a show at UWF, I think it would be a great one for you to come and see what amazing talent we have here with our students.”

Brisky said he believes it is important for fellow students to come show their support for the student performers because of all the hard work they do.

“Seeing live shows is a completely different experience than going to a movie,” he said. “Students may or may not have ever seen a show before, this is a great introduction.”

Schoch echoes Brisky’s thinking about theater performances, calling what is done in the theater “magical.”

“Live theater is incredible. It’s an experience that hundreds of people share at one time, and I think that’s really rare,” she said. “It will never happen that way again, those people will never be in that room at that moment ever again.”

Tickets for current UWF students are free when they present their Nautilus card either at the Service Desk and Ticketing Center in the University Commons, or at the CFPA box office between the hours of 1 and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tickets for the general public can be purchased at both locations for $16 for adults, $12 for senior citizens/active military, $10 for faculty/staff and non-UWF students, and $5 for youth. The production will run Feb. 19-21 and Feb. 26-28.

For more information, or to see the department’s full spring schedule, visit the website.