Opening Oct. 24, the BJU theatre arts department will bring The Voice of the Prairie to the Performance Hall stage. The John Olive play follows the story of young Arkansas farmer David Quinn. Discovered by a radio shyster, Quinn becomes famous by retelling stories from his childhood. His fame brings back memories and restores an old friendship.
Finding the Play
Theatre arts teacher Jeffrey Stegall is directing the first production of this year’s Performance Hall season. But this isn’t the first time Stegall participated in this play. “I was introduced to this play 30 years ago,” he said. While he pursued his graduate degree, Stegall was asked to create the costumes for a production of The Voice of the Prairie at a small professional theater.
But then an emergency left the play in Stegall’s hands. “I did the costumes and halfway through the rehearsal schedule the director’s house burned down. So she asked me if I would take the show over.”
In 1994, Stegall directed the same play in Performance Hall with three of his undergraduate students. Twenty-five years later, The Voice of the Prairie returns to Performance Hall.
Building the Story
Because the seven-person cast will also work as stagehands, the design and direction of The Voice of the Prairie are carefully built. The story takes place over a span of 28 years and in multiple locations. From hardware stores to a cliff to a high-class hotel, the diverse locations demand seamless scene changes.
The collaborative design will help transport the audience throughout the play. “It’s such a challenging project for the scene designer and costume designer,” said Stegall. The costumes—created by senior theater arts major Dani Bailey as one of her capstone projects—sets and props visually define the different periods and locales.
“But the lighting designer and the sound designer are equally important because within seconds they must create new spaces,” said Stegall. The lighting and sound cues will help the audience share the immersive experience of old radio days and relate to Frankie, Quinn’s childhood friend who is visually impaired.
See Also: Setting an Unsinkable Stage
Enjoying the Product
The cast of graduate and undergraduate students has worked for the past five weeks memorizing the script, blocking and cues while keeping up with classwork. The result is a beautiful story played on stage. Stegall invites students and faculty to take time away from midterms and relax with the characters the students have created and their “funny, quirky, romantic, adventurous” story.
The production has “so many things that will help the students just have a wonderful night out,” said Stegall. “A couple hours break from their studies and they’ll go back refreshed and inspired to study again when they’re done with the show.”
Allow David Quinn and his stories transport you to his days of adventure on the prairie.