West Liberty, W.Va., Sept. 12, 2017 — The West Liberty University Hilltop Players 2017-2018 season is expected to be the biggest and most memorable season ever, according to Theatre Director Michael Aulick.
“We are pleased to announce, not just an aggressive four-production season, but two special events that are planned for this season,” Aulick explained. The two special events include a first time Hilltop Players Wall of Fame ceremony that will honor three longtime professors during Homecoming 2017, and an all-new studio-lab production for theatre students in late October.
“Our season this year includes this wonderful look back at our origins as we honor Dr. Helen M.T. Kelly, Mr. Stanley Harrison and Mr. John E. Reilly at a special evening event on October 14. It is also a nod to the future, as we added the new studio-lab performance. We wanted to get all of our students involved and because of the growth of the program, we needed an additional show to do it. Please join us on the Hilltop and enjoy the magic of theatre and the talents of our students,” he said.
“These three Wall of Fame inductees represent approximately 60 years of teaching at West Liberty, impacting the lives of thousands of students. Their hard work and dedication to establishing, building, and maintaining the standard of education and production excellence that the Hilltop Players are known for make them perfect choices to be the first class of Hilltop Players Wall of Fame honorees.”
The ceremony begins at 5 p.m., Oct. 14 in Kelly Theatre and will be followed by a reception and a performance of the season opener, “As It Is In Heaven” which includes a special price ticket.
A 2001 play featuring an all-female cast, “As It Is In Heaven,” was written by actor/director Arleen Hutton. Directed at WLU by Aulick, the play centers around a religious community that is changed when a non-believer has an ecstatic experience. With a simplistic Shaker set, hymns are sung a cappella to punctuate the scenes of the play, which also includes joyful Shaker singing and ecstatic dance.
Described as a slice of Americana, it is set in the 1830’s Shaker society of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. The action begins with the arrival of Fanny, who upsets the harmony of life. The other Sisters suspect her to be a “winter Shaker” or one who suddenly converts when life gets too hard on the farm. Fanny sees angels in the meadow, and soon all the young women are receiving spiritual “gifts” of songs, drawings, ideas and giggles, completely upsetting the community. The leaders question her intentions and honesty: Is this a resurgence of the original Shaker celebration or something manufactured by Fanny so that she can remain with the Shakers?
Times and dates for “As It Is in Heaven” are at 7:30 p.m., October 5-6 and Oct. 12 – 14, and 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 15.
The Studio-Lab Performance is the second addition to the typical Hilltop Players’ season.
“We are pleased to have this bump in our enrollment that makes it necessary to add our new Studio-Lab ‘Collection Of Scenes.’ This show will allow more of our students to work on the craft of acting,” Aulick said. This production will focus on the acting technique, not the finishing elements of costumes, lights, and set. “Students who are not cast in the first production, have an opportunity to work on their craft as part of this new Studio-Lab performance.”
Directed by Professor John Hennen, students will be instructed using the Michael Chekhov approach to acting. Times and dates for the Studio-Lab “Collection of Scenes” are at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 26-28 and 3 p.m.,Sunday Oct. 29.
Just in time for the holidays, the Hilltop Players will stage “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson. With a massive cast and crew, this amazingly popular children’s book, turned into a stage play, has become a hilarious Christmas classic. A couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant is faced with casting the Herdman children, probably the most inventively awful kids in history. While the laughs abound, the power of the play is in its ability to transform the audience, through the transformation of the Herdman family.
“Children who begin the play with no knowledge of ‘the Christmas story’ end up understanding better than most of us ever will,” Aulick said.
Times and dates for “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” are 7:30 p.m., Nov. 30-Dec. 1 and Dec. 7-9 and 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 10.
WLU’s winter show, this year is a new work by Cody Daigle called “18 Victoria,” written in 2013. Professor of Voice Maggie Balsley, will work with the small cast of three performers to tell the story of siblings who are trying to deal with dark happenings in the past that fractured their family.
“The need to come to grips is intensified due to the news that a huge asteroid is projected to collide with the earth in less than three weeks, setting off devastating consequences for life on earth. The three siblings scramble to mend their family ties and make sense of the devastating secret that originally tore them apart,” Balsley explained.
Times and dates for “18 Victoria” are: 7:30 p.m., Feb. 15-16 and Feb. 22-24, and 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 25.
The season closes with the most famous love story in the world of literature, “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare.
One of Shakespeare’s early poetic masterworks, “Romeo and Juliet” follows two star-crossed lovers from love at first sight to eternal life hereafter. Caught tragically between two feuding families, alike in dignity and in enmity, Shakespeare’s immortal young lovers try to fashion a new world amid the violence of the old, but cataclysmic choices and tragic twists propel them toward a final confrontation with fate.
Times and dates for “Romeo and Juliet” are 7:30 p.m., April 12-13 and April 19-21 and 3 p.m., Sunday April 22.
Tickets for all Hilltop Players productions will be available through Brown Paper Tickets and on sale 30 days prior to the opening of each production. For more information, please call Michael L. Aulick at 304.336.8103 or email [email protected].