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‘Charley’s Aunt’: BC goes back to its infancy for upcoming play

‘Charley’s Aunt’: BC goes back to its infancy for upcoming play

Mon Sep 24, 2018

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Tom Kinney, left, and Dana Andersen-Wyman, the only drama directors in Brazosport College’s 50-year history, pose for a photo recently at the Seidule Drama Theatre at Brazosport College. Andersen-Wyman’s drama department is set to present the farce, “Charley’s Aunt,” beginning Oct. 4. Kinney’s “Charley’s Aunt” was the first play presented on the current Brazosport College campus back in 1971.

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Tom Kinney, who directed the Brazosport College Drama Department for 30 years, poses for a photo in the school’s 1975 yearbook.

For Brazosport College’s 50th anniversary, the school’s drama department is returning to its roots.

For its first play of the 2018 fall semester, the BC Drama Department will present its production of “Charley’s Aunt,” a classic farce comedy that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

Opening night is 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4 at the Seidule Drama Theatre on the Brazosport College campus. The play will have six showings, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from Oct. 4 through Oct. 13. All showings will be at 8 p.m. and admission is free. 

“This will be a very funny play,” said Brazosport College Drama Director Dana Andersen-Wyman. “It’s a farce. When it premiered in 1892, it was the longest-running comedy farce. It still plays well today.”

Also of significance, “Charley’s Aunt” is a return to where Brazosport College started, as it was the first play presented on the College’s campus nearly 50 years ago.

In fact, the play was the first event of any kind on the current campus.

At the time of its original production in 1971, construction of a new campus was in its final stages. Brazosport College, which opened a few years earlier in 1968, was in its infancy, holding classes at the Brazosport Education Extension Center in Freeport.

While the school was in Freeport, then-BC Drama Director T.K. Kinney staged three plays — beginning with the drama, “Roshomon” — despite not having an actual theater.

With the opening of the new current campus, nestled between the banks of Oyster Creek in Lake Jackson, Kinney would finally have a home for his drama productions.

It still had plenty of challenges, however.

“At the time, the theater was in what we called a general utility room,” Kinney said of the area commonly known today as Gator Hall. “But the play was the first anything on this campus. There were no classes going on and people hadn’t moved into their offices yet.

“There was nothing going on here, not even air conditioning,” he added with a laugh.

Although they had air conditioning for the actual performance, Kinney vividly remembers the obstacles he faced as he prepared to bring “Charley’s Aunt” to the public.

“We were only allowed one rehearsal in the building, so I simplified everything,” he said. “There was no fancy lights or fancy sets. We did it totally in the round and just used furniture. I knew it would be difficult if we tried to build sets and move them in there.”

Despite the challenges, “Charley’s Aunt” opened on July 7, 1971 and featured a small cast of talented BC drama students.

After “Charley’s Aunt,” Kinney went on to produce around 110 more shows during his nearly 30 years as director of the BC drama department. He retired from BC in 1998, with current director Andersen-Wyman hired to fill the open position that same year.

Today, Kinney, a 1991 Piper Professor award winner, spends much of his time writing plays, two of which —“Cream Puffs from Outer Space” and “Ripping Good Times at Whitechapel” — having been performed at Brazosport College.

As for Andersen-Wyman, he has spent the past 20 years leading the BC Drama Department, directing four or five plays each year.

Just like Kinney before him, Andersen-Wyman has a simple philosophy on college drama presentations.

“Our job is to teach and get our students to a higher level,” Andersen-Wyman said. “Our plays should be entertaining and enjoyable, but they should have meaning, teach you something and make you a better person.”

That sums up Andersen-Wyman’s version of “Charley’s Aunt.” It will, without a doubt, be entertaining and enjoyable for everyone but, for some, the play will bring up unforgettable and historic memories from many decades ago.

“I’ve told a few members from our old group about this play and they think that it’s marvelous,” Kinney said of the return of “Charley’s Aunt” to Brazosport College. “It’s a classic and I’m looking forward to it.”