I’ve been wanting to get over to West Liberty University for ages, to see what Michael Aulick is doing. I know Michael because we’re both on leadership for KCACTF Region 2, and I’ve been impressed with the work his students have brought to the festival, as well as with his intense recruiting. At a time when many small college theater departments are shrinking or closing, WLU’s is thriving.

So I responded to The Secret in the Wings.

It was SO GOOD.

My co-respondent actually knows Mary Zimmerman and costumed the original production of Metamorphoses, and she said that this production captured what Zimmerman’s work should feel like. It was chaotic, but in a controlled, orchestrated way. The set allowed for flexible use, including some clever items like having a washer and dryer on the upstage wall that served as costume storage.

The ensemble was very strong–so much so that we had a hard time selecting nominees for the Irene Ryan competition. The storytelling was clear, and everything had total commitment (proof, again, that you can get away with pretty much anything if you don’t apologize). The different stories had different textures, and they were all super clear, so that when the play cycled back through the stories, I always knew exactly where and when we were.

The best thing, though, was that this super strong show was largely designed and directed by students. The lights, sound, set, and costumes were all student-created, and the director was a student as well. I love seeing good work driven by students, because it’s the thing I think is best about small departments. The students have a huge number of opportunities to work, and sometimes, if they’re lucky, they take them.

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