A lone man sat in the audience of the Harris Recital Hall. Everyone else who had shown up had been ushered onto the stage to participate in the staged reading of "Wealth and How Not to Avoid It." The man in the audience was Charlie Mehler, the author of this musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's "Major Barbara." He directed the reading as well as performed the songs and read the role of Peter Osgood Flax.
Mehler wrote the play as his final project for his master's degree in speech/theater from Kansas State University, where its first staged reading was performed. Since that time, he had revised the script and was eager to direct another reading, to evaluate the changes.
Mehler met Julie Sparks, an English professor at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, at a George Bernard Shaw conference at the University of Southern Florida. Sparks, a die-hard Shavian, asked for information about his play, hoping to show part of the first reading to her Contemporary and Modern Drama class this semester. Instead, Mehler offered to come to UAM to talk to her class and Sparks offered to put together a new reading for him here.
Sparks asked for volunteers for the reading from her classes and the unofficial drama club that she sponsors. She received enough interest to warrant confidence in the reading. However, on the night of the event, attendance was low, leading her to conscript those who came expecting to observe. Kellie Nichols, who read the role of Major Barbara, was one of those drafted into service at the event.
“I just came to watch, but the girl playing Barbara didn't show up, so they asked me to read her part,” she said.
Nonetheless, Nichols said she had fun. Other participants expressed an interest in doing this again, leading Sparks to speculate about the Theater Club performing a regular “reader's theater.” Charlie Mehler agreed with the idea.
“One of the things I like to do, for pure recreation, is to get a group of people together to sit around the living room and read a script,” he said. “I wish more people would take this up as a leisure activity.”
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© The Voice, 2005
Revised 050325 http://www.uamont.edu/Organizations/TheVoice/2_16/play.htm