The Ohio University-Chillicothe theater program will mark its 50th performance with the premiere of Fall Collection, a thought-provoking drama that is written and directed by OU-C faculty member Ken Breidenbaugh, at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, and Saturday, Nov. 21, in the Bennett Hall Auditorium.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $9 for senior citizens, free for OU-C students and are available at the Bennett Hall Information Desk during business hours and at the OU-C Box Office the evenings of performances. Group rates of $8 per ticket are also available.
To mark the 50th production, three former OU-C student-actors are joining current students in the 10-person cast.
Set in Indiana, the play concerns Edith Whiting, an old couturier whose life has been spent selling and enjoying ultra high fashion. With her sister, who is now gone, she has operated a dress shop in a small town for 50 years. Now, in her 80th year, Edith finds herself having to decide what to do with her own extensive personal collection of important clothes. Should she give the articles to a professional collection of fashion housed at a state university?
Her decision is complicated by the recent arrival of a man whose past astounds her, by a local museum member whose driving ambition has been to pry the clothes from Edith’s home and by the director of the costume collection at the university. Old Mr. Kellough, a gentleman farmer and lifelong friend, assists in the quandary, as does William, Edith’s nephew.
“The play deals with personal identity and lifelong passions and also explores the complicated relationships between siblings and extended family,” Breidenbaugh said. “We are asked to think about interesting questions: What have we done in life, what objects identify us and who will be interested in those and in us when we are gone?”
“Writing, shaping and now staging this story, which is entirely fictitious, is pretty exhilarating, and the experience for the students and alumni actors to work together is valuable,” he said.
Since presenting its first performance in March 1997, OU-C’s theater program has become a staple of campus life and has continued to support the cultural life of the campus and community as well as the vitality of life on campus.
“A vibrant theater program indicates that OU-C is an active campus,” said Breidenbaugh, assistant professor of fine and comparative arts. “Theater is a fairly large part of the liberal arts quality of the campus environment.”
“The theater program plays an important role in adding to the vibrant environment on campus,” OU-C Dean Richard Bebee said. “Through theater, many students become especially connected to campus, and extra-curricular activities help students feel a part of the campus community. Our students have diverse talents and interests, and it is important to offer opportunities for them to grow and develop beyond what they learn in classrooms and labs. Theater offers an opportunity for many students to discover and develop their creative abilities. Their time on stage makes them better students and better professionals after graduation.”
The richness that theater adds is reflected in the quality of work performed by OU-C students.
“We have presented a number of classics from 19th and 20th century theater by playwrights such as Ibsen, Williams, Hellman, Shaw and Inge. I feel an obligation to produce theater that is part of the substantial body of important theatrical literature,” Breidenbaugh said.
The OU-C theater program has nurtured the stage careers or pastimes of several students, who have landed roles in productions such as “Tecumseh!” and professional children’s theater.
The upcoming production promises to continue the quality of the OU-C theater program and both entertain and engage the audience.
“The play is a psychological drama, and I think that people will enjoy it,’ said Daniel Jalbuena, one of the alumni actors in the performance. He plays the role of Will, the nephew of the main character and a State Department diplomat. “The writing is very intelligent and presents an interesting subtext to the play. It is about a culture that is gone and has been lost. This play offers a lot for the actors to work with and much can be done beneath the dialogue. I hope we rise to the level of writing.”
Margaret Breidenbaugh, a Chillicothe High School and Capital Conservatory graduate, plays the lead character 80-year-old Edith Whiting. “This was a difficult role to learn since I do not have the same life experiences that my character possesses. I learned to play the role through my recollections of the strong women in my life, such as my grandmothers. The play is an amazing paring of concepts, such as old and new and how ideas of beauty and design change over time.”
Torre Hatfield, a Unioto High School graduate, plays the role of Audra Stark, a professor who is in her 30s. “I like this character and find her to be very interesting. She has a way of getting what she wants.”
“The story is timeless. I love this play. Mainly, I love my character,” said A.B. Johnson, an Adena High School graduate who plays the role of ex-con Jack. “He has so much personality, depth and grit. He knows how the world works and he’s not afraid to tell you.”
Unioto High School graduate Katie Tackett plays the role of Madeline, a college student. “She’s not mean, but she knows what she wants. As a college student myself, it is easy to relate to her. Overall, she is mature, but she is immature about this situation.” This is the first OU-C production for Tackett, who performs locally in a civic theater group.
Colt Chaney plays Mr. Kellough. “He is a rich, old farmer who has been at it for generations. He is the type of person I have known all of my life and is much like many individuals in this area. The play is fun. It is always enjoyable to do an original work.”
Carly Joseph, a Zane Trace graduate, plays the role of Brenna, a sidekick of Madeline’s. “She is a very bubbly, happy person who causes awkward moments but generally causes joy in people’s lives. This is a very good story and fun to do. It has funny moments but is also very serious. It offers everything you could want in a play.”
Participants in the OU-C theater program participate in the entire gamut of the production. Tomorrow’s on-stage star may well spend today pushing a broom backstage or involved in some other technical aspect.
Each quarter, students participate in readings, analyze scripts and take a lead role in determining what play to produce, then bringing it to fruition.
Breidenbaugh works with the students to determine what play to produce based on the type of talent in the class.
“We match each play to the company and the pool of talent we have,” Breidenbaugh said. “We do four shows a year, and each is a full-scale production.”
Theater is offered as a minor at OU-C and is required only of students pursuing that academic option. The remainder of the actors and stagehands are giving up their time and talent to broaden themselves and experience new challenges. All receive academic credit.
Breidenbaugh, a Chillicothe native, joined the OU-C faculty in 1989 while completing his Ph.D. He earned his bachelor’s degree in theater from the Athens campus.
“Theater matters,” Breidenbaugh says emphatically. “If there is a more concise articulation of the human experience, I haven’t found it.”