Tale of lovers told in Performance Hall production

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October 17, 2019
Staff Spotlight: David Orr
October 17, 2019

Tale of lovers told in Performance Hall production

Students reherse for Voice of the Prairie production in Performance Hall, BJU, Greenville, SC, October 15, 2019. (Chris Harmony)

So it’s more painful when they’re separated,” Stegall said, “and maybe sweeter when they’re reunited.”

Students from various majors will perform John Olive’s time-hopping play about the early days of radio, The Voice of the Prairie, from Oct. 24 to 26, at 7:30 p.m. in Performance Hall.

Jeff Stegall, a faculty member in the theatre department, will direct the production. The play takes place in two different years, 1895 and 1923, and follows David, who tells stories of his childhood on the radio for the con man Leon.

As he relays the escapades of his youth, he reencounters the blind girl Francine whom he was separated from as a kid. After reuniting decades later, their childhood interest blooms into romance. Stegall said that because they realized they had feelings for each other once they were separated, their separation is almost more heart-wrenching.

“So it’s more painful when they’re separated,” Stegall said, “and maybe sweeter when they’re reunited.” The original production of The Voice of the Prairie featured only three actors playing 21 characters.

“We decided to cast it with seven actors here,” Stegall said, “just to give a few more people opportunities.”

Students make up the full cast, including Jacob Napier, sophomore history major; Alyssa Chapman, sophomore theatre major; Aaron Marquez, sophomore theatre major; Justin Mears, freshman cinema production major; Amanda McBrayer, senior communication disorders major; Alex Matthews, sophomore premed student; and Isaac Stephens, a graduate assistant pursuing a second degree in graphic design, who will play both the lead role of David as well as David’s relative, Poppy, in the 1895 scenes.

The crew contains many theatre undergrad and grad students as well, such as Kaylee Baker, assistant scene designer; Jordan Ford, lighting; and Beth Adkins, sound designer and assistant director.

“Probably a third of the theatre arts students have been assigned to [The Voice of the Prairie],” Stegall said. Another theatre student involved in the production is Dani Bailey, who will serve as costume designer to fulfill her senior capstone.

As costume designer, Bailey needs to take measurements of the actors, create or rent costumes and keep these items organized.  Additionally, because the actors play multiple characters, the costumes had to be versatile and easy to change.

“Expressing the characters through the clothing was a big challenge,” Bailey said. “But it’s a fun job.”

Because the production switches between locations quickly, care also needed to be taken in the set design process. Stegall chose to keep his sets sparse, using furniture that could communicate different locations when combined with dialogue and lighting.

“What we’re trying to do is just create it with the minimum, absolutely obligatory pieces of furniture, things that can be neutral enough that we can imagine,” Stegall said.

This marks the third time Stegall has directed this play. Soon after the play was released in the 1980s, Stegall worked as a costume designer for a production while he was in grad school. After the director stepped down partway through the production for personal reasons, Stegall took over directing duties.

Later, when he returned to BJU, Stegall directed a new production of the play in the 1990s.  Tickets will be sold for the three showings on bju.universitytickets.com for $8.