– Taylor Deutscher
The writer is a student in Comm 240 News Reporting.
The Fort Hays State University Department of Music and Theatre continues to entertain students and citizens of Hays with its production of “Harvey” by Mary Chase, which opened March 6 and continues through March 9 in Felten-Start Theatre in Malloy Hall.
The play is set in early spring of 1944, taking place in the old Dowd family mansion and the reception room of the psychiatrist clinic called Chumley’s Rest. In the opening act, viewers learn Veta Louise Simmons (Samie Pfeifer, Hays community member) and her daughter Myrtle Mae (Hannah Keil, Hays sophomore) live in the family mansion with Veta’s bachelor brother Elwood P. Dowd (Braden Pruitt, Hutchinson freshman).
Characters soon reveal that Elwood can see a large, white rabbit named Harvey. Elwood believes Harvey is his best friend, as they tell each other everything. Veta grows tired of the nonsense and takes her brother to Chumley’s Rest to have him treated, but a number of problems occur that make the process much more difficult.
Before the heartfelt conclusion, audience members will experience an ironic twist.
Members of the cast represent various ages and classifications.
“I was nervous because I got the lead as a freshman,” Pruitt said. “That really creeped me out for a while.” He said he later found that it was easy to work with the other cast members. Jill Herbert, Wichita sophomore, said, “This is the best cast that meshed” that she has been a part of. “It made putting on the show a lot more fun.” Herbert plays Ruth Kelly, a nurse at Chumley’s Rest.
Tim Tarkelly, Chanute senior, plays Dr. William Chumley. He said the experience was “zero drama, a lot of fun.”
Some cast members were not familiar with the play prior to their auditions, though for others, the possibility of appearing in “Harvey” was the inspiration for continuing theatre in college.
“I had heard of it when I was looking into colleges,” Herbert said. “I visited friends and they had a preview of ‘Harvey’ and that was the moment I was like, ‘I really want to do theatre in college,’ because I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to continue it,” Herbert said.
Like Herbert, Tarkelly is fond of the production.
“I saw the movie a million and half years ago,” he said. “It’s one of my favorites.” The black and white film stars Jimmy Stewart in the title role.
Pruitt was not as accustomed to the play as his fellow cast members, though he had heard of it before.
“I didn’t really know what the show was about, so I didn’t really know what I was diving into,” Pruitt said. “That was the most nerve-wracking part for me.”
The unfamiliarity was no problem, for the cast has put countless hours of work into the preparation of the show.
“There’s so much outside of just being here,” Pfeifer said. “Outside you memorize your lines and you get into character. Then we get here, do each other’s hair and makeup, costuming, set props. We’re here hours in advance,” she said.
Tarkelly put the workload into perspective.
“If you think about it,” he said, “like Tyler [Wayman], for instance, is in scene shop 10 hours and rehearsal 15 hours a week, and he has to memorize his lines and do all of his character work. That’s a part-time job.” Wayman, McLouth sophomore, plays the role of Duane Wilson, an orderly at Chumley’s Rest.
“It’s a much more intensive extracurricular, as people like to call it, than they’d imagine,” Pfeifer said.
Director Tomme Williams and the actors encourage students and community members to support the theatre. “Harvey” will be performed on March 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. and March 9 at 2:30 p.m. The production costs $10 for students, children and seniors and $15 for the general public.