WOU in the news: Realism Brings Intimacy

Published by: Polk County Itemizer-Observer
by: Emily Mentzer

MONMOUTH — Even small-town America is subject to greed, political and religious corruption.

The residents of Dublin, Mo., are finding that out as a suspicious death clashes with a cheese factory and community theater production.

Thinking about that circumstance may induce a smile, but director of Western Oregon University’s production of “Book of Days,” David Janoviak, assures that this is more of a drama than a comedy. The play opens Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s ‘Our Town’ meets ‘Blue Velvet,’” he said.

American Playwright Lanford Wilson uses the town of Dublin “as a microcosm of the rest of the country,” Janoviak said. “He makes a broader statement about the American dream, about the rot that lives beneath the Mayberry veneer.”

In the play, Walt Bates, the owner of the cheese factory, dies in a hunting accident.

“I don’t think there’s been a murder,” said Zach Warner, who plays Sheriff Conroy Atkins. “Janelle’s character talks to some people and I tell her don’t worry about it, I have the facts.”

Janelle Davis plays Ruth Hoch, the bookkeeper at the cheese factory and budding actress at the community theater. She suspects foul play, and, in her search for justice, creates dissention in the little town.

Ruth lands the role of Joan of Arc in the play, “Saint Joan,” making “Book of Days” a sort of play within a play.

Davis said she enjoys that aspect of the production.

“There is an audition scene, (where) I get to use Shakespeare, so that’s cool to incorporate other parts of theater,” she said.

Big-shot — or burnt-out — Hollywood director Boyd Middleton, played by Nick Halscher, at first enjoys the small-town atmosphere.

“He really likes it at first,” Halscher said. “Because everyone knows each other and gets along.”

However, Halscher’s character is soon dragged into the real-life drama of Dublin.

The play calls for cinematic realism, Janoviak said. Actors are intent on being real and honest.

It’s a new style of acting for the cast, but they are shining through the challenges, Janoviak said.

“I have a uniformly strong cast,” he said. “The cast is a good mix of seasoned college veterans, people in the middle of their training, and those in the beginning of their training.”

Being a character-driven piece, Janoviak said, “You really get to know and get attached to these characters.”

Davis said she has learned a lot about acting in the last few weeks of the fall term.

“Realism, for myself, I’m finding really difficult,” she said. “It’s been really great, but it’s been challenging.”

Warner said the production is an emotional roller coaster. The intimacy created by the acting style is compounded by the theater-in-the-round style seating and cozy set.

“Really, just let yourself immerse in it,” Halscher added.

Travel to Dublin, Mo.

What: Western Oregon University’s production of Lanford Wilson’s, “Book of Days,” directed by David Janoviak.

Where: WOU’s Rice Auditorium.

When: 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, Saturday; 2 p.m. on Sunday; 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 18, 19, 20 and 21.

Admission: General admission, $12; students, $7; seniors $10.

For more information: wou.edu/theatre-dance/events.