Stillwater News Press

February 10, 2013

Cast digitally interacts with play audience at Town & Gown

By Mark Rountree
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Have you ever wanted to text a message to a coach at halftime of a football game or exchange emails with a city council member during a break in the meeting?

In Town & Gown Theatre’s current production, “Greater Tuna,” play-goers can do just that.

The community theater is encouraging audience members to digitally visit with cast members at intermission of the performances.

Actors Seth Phillips and Kyle Shifflett said they received numerous tweets from the audience at intermission when the play opened Thursday at the south Stillwater theater.

Phillips said he received a tweet from an audience member and replied as one of the characters in the play.

“Great idea,” said Sonja Gentry, who attended opening night and sent a tweet to the cast during the 15-minute intermission.

“We live in an age when everything is so interactive and generational, we just thought it would be fun,” said Phillips.

Fun is an apt word to describe the audience’s digital interaction with the cast, but it is also a fitting way to describe director Patt Curtain’s two-hour comedy.

Phillips and Shifflett portray 20 different and unique characters who live in Tuna, Texas’ third-smallest town whose inhabitants listen to Patsy Cline, are suspicious of liberals and have town meetings to vote bad words out of the dictionary.

“Other theaters have done this (play) with four, six, 10 people,” said Phillips. “But just having two actors, it adds to the magic of the show.”

One of the delights of “Greater Tuna” is the backstage crew’s ability to coordinate dozens of complex costumes changes.

“It’s such a choreographed dance backstage,” said Phillips.

Set director Paul Weber said that because of work schedules and travel times — Phillips lives in Tulsa and Shifflett works in Oklahoma City — the cast was able to rehearse only on weekends.

Phillips is a marketing strategist for a television company in Tulsa and Shifflett lives in Stillwater but works as a staff attorney for the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Phillips said he enjoys the intimacy of community theater, especially at Town & Gown Theatre, which features a so-called three-sided thrust stage.

“The audience is just right there,” he said. “Sometimes, they are just six inches away from you. You can hear them breathe.”

There are four more chances to catch the show. The play will run Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. There will be a 2:30 p.m. performance on Feb. 17. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students. Seniors will be admitted for $10 during the Sunday matinee.