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ASU Holiday Dinner Theatre Serves up Classic ‘Lilies of the Field’

October 20, 2010

Angelo State University’s Arts at ASU program will present the film classic “Lilies of the Field” for its 2010 Holiday Dinner Theatre Nov. 12-15 and 19-21 in the ASU Modular Theatre.

Show times will be at 8 p.m. Nov. 11-13 and 18-20 with dinner served each night at 7 p.m. A matinee performance is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, with dinner served at 1 p.m. The Modular Theatre is located in the Carr Education-Fine Arts (EFA) Building, 2602 Dena Drive.

Adapted from the William E. Barret novel and 1962 film, “Lilies of the Field” features recently discharged veteran Homer Smith, who decides to travel around the country sleeping in the back of his station wagon and stopping occasionally for a day’s work. In the remote Southwest, he encounters a group of German nuns working in dusty fields and offers to help them.

However, Smith has trouble communicating his desire to be paid so that he can move on. He stays for supper, and then works day by day until he finds himself drawn into the nuns’ lives, giving them English lessons, doing chores, singing with them in the evenings and, finally, coming to share their dream of building a chapel, Mother Maria Marthe’s fondest hope.

Discouraged by the severe conditions, no pay and no real hope for success, Smith decides to leave. Mother Maria is convinced that God sent Smith to the nuns and knows he will return, which he does. Unexpected assistance from local farmers and a gift of adobe bricks help make the chapel a reality. With his work done, Smith leaves, but his and the nuns’ legacy remains. Fame and success come to the nuns who hold lasting gratitude for the simple man who came along in their time of need and unselfishly gave them his all.

“The play follows the film and book pretty closely,” said Dr. Bill Doll, director of ASU University Theatre. “It relies pretty heavily on a narrator, Father Gomez, who helps fill in some of the gaps in the progress of our story and helps us visualize some of the action we can’t play on the stage.”

Father Gomez shepherds a church congregation in Piedras, a small town near where the nuns live.

The production features ASU students Bernardino “Chito” Hernandez as Father Gomez, LeRoyal Tutt as Homer Smith, Amber Horton as Mother Maria Marthe, Katie Hejl as Sister Elizabeth, Whitney Willis as Sister Gertrud, Jordon Shocklee as Sister Agnes, Molly Schwencke as Sister Albertine, Michael Lopez as Jose Gonzalez and Matthew Posey as Orville Livingston.

Technical director is Matt Smith, who also designed the sets. University Theatre costumer and costume designer is Eldra Sanford, stage manager is Janna Pinson and Marshall Van Pelt is the assistant stage manager.

“We can’t build a structure on the stage during the play,” Doll said. “I’m told the film compressed some of those scenes much more visually, so Father Gomez creates a lot of the visual action for us. It’s a fascinating play, and one of the difficult parts is that it has five or six locations. So, we grappled with how we would create settings.”

The production will be presented differently than most ASU dinner theatres, utilizing four different stages in four areas of the Modular Theatre.

“Generally,” Doll said, “with dinner theatre, to get everybody in, we try to do a setup where the audience faces directly toward the stage, but we are going to change it up a little bit for this one. We have to easily move from one scene to the other with a lot of the action signaled by the narrator.”

A variety of accents and dialects will also be used, including southern, southwestern, Spanish and German. Music will weave through the plot with Smith and Music Director David Engelman playing guitar and singing, and the nuns will also sing.

Tickets are $12.50 for ASU students and activity card holders, $15 for non-ASU students and Arts at ASU subscribers, and $20 general admission. The ASU box office opens Thursday, Oct. 28, for subscribers and Monday, Nov. 1, for the general public. Reservations should be made at least three days before the desired performance by calling 942-2000 weekdays between 2-6 p.m.

For more information about the production and cast, call 942-2085.