USAO News Bureau

'Mankind' on trial Halloween night

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

There is an epic battle between good and evil brewing this Halloween and the prize is the soul of Mankind.

Luckily for the citizens of Chickasha and surrounding communities, the battle will be contained on the stage of the Davis Hall Theater at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma as the Theatre Arts department delivers three performances in one night of the classic morality play, Mankind.

[WATCH A PROMO VIDEO FOR 'MANKIND']

The performances begin at 7, 9 and 11 p.m. on Halloween night and are expected to run for an hour.

The show is offered for audiences ages 13 and up and tickets are $10.

Mankind was originally written for English audiences of the late 1400s, but director Katie Davis, associate professor of theatre arts, feels she has adapted the work in a way that will directly engage modern Oklahomans.

“The original English audience was only 100 years removed from the devastation of the black plague, where more than one-third of the population had died,” Davis said. “There was a bloody civil war and the economic situation was dire.”

“In our version, Mankind is a farmer attending a tent revival on Black Sunday during the Dust Bowl. He is less than 20 years removed from another epidemic, though for us it was influenza, in a different time of economic hardship. Nature and Evil seem to be against him and all of the temptations of the modern world are built around the coming technological revolution of the 20th century that will be tempting him away from his simple life as a farmer.”

While much of the imagery will be familiar to the audience, the stage will be unlike anything ever produced in the Davis Hall Theatre.

The production is staged to simulate an old-fashioned tent revival with the audience sharing space with the performers. The audience is limited to 75 per showing and will be led backstage and seated in bleachers on the stage itself.

Attendees are being encouraged to arrive 30 minutes before their preferred showing to ensure seat availability.

Each performance will be preceded by a performance of period gospel songs to set the tone for the show.

Davis is hoping that the audience finds the show interactive in ways that they may find surprising.

“This play is very conscious of the audience,” Davis said. “The first character on the stage is Mercy who declares that, ‘I am God’s Mercy personified,’ and then goes on to explain how character and audience member alike has come by God’s mercy and why they should be thankful for it.”

The remainder of the show is a struggle between Mercy and various temptations determined to lure Mankind, and the audience, away from grace.

To demonstrate the power of these distractions, Davis explained, the audience will be provided temptations of its own, specifically money and food.

“The point is to tempt the audience with all the things that would tempt Mankind and let them see that the temptations win a lot of the time,” Davis said.

Due to the potentially frightening imagery, Davis recommends an audience of 13 and up for the show.

The cast for the show includes: William Benzel, a junior theatre arts major from Tulsa playing the role of Mankind; Ben Gaskins, a freshman theatre arts major from Lexington in the role of Mercy; Ford Filson, a sophomore theatre arts major from Chickasha in the role of Mischief; and Olen Cox, a senior music major from Grant in the role of Titivillius.

Also appearing are Cynthia Cunningham, a sophomore music major from Tulsa in the role of New Guise; Cord Courtney, a sophomore theatre arts major from Blanchard in the role of Nowadays; Corey Orum, a freshman theatre arts major from Cement in the role of Naught; and Katelyn Rempe, a freshman theatre arts major from Anadarko in the role of Wife.

JD Meyer, a senior theatre arts major from Mustang, and Eva Wilcox, a deaf education major from Norman, will appear in the roles of Things That Go Bump in the Night.

The box office opens 30 minutes before each show. More information about the show can be obtained from Davis at 574-1310.