The protagonists of Theatre Wesleyan’s second play of the semester, Certificate of Death, find themselves in such a situation. The play was written by Wesleyan alumnus Walter Wykes, and was the winner of Theatre Wesleyan’s 2009 Playmarket Competition.
Wykes said he got the idea while watching the Wizard of Oz, and listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album.
“I got the idea for the play while watching Dark Side of the Rainbow,” Wykes said. “You watch The Wizard of Oz without sound and play Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. It’s pretty cool.”
“The album seems to be scored to the movie,” Wykes said. “In the scene following the tornado, the munchkins present Dorothy with a Certificate of Death for killing the witch, but without the [movie’s] sound you lose that context, and it just seems like they’re presenting her with a Certificate of Death and dancing around all gleefully, and Dorothy looks very confused. That got me thinking.”
Connie Whitt-Lambert, professor of theatre and director of the play, described it as a mixture between a tragedy and a comedy.
“The play is incredibly unusual,” Whitt-Lambert said. “It is about a certificate of death. People start receiving these for unknown reasons. For example, the two main characters in the play, Stan and Eugene; each receives a certificate of death.”
Whitt-Lambert said one character receives a certificate for a parking ticket and the other for unpaid bills.
“They set about trying to fix it, and in the process of trying to fix it, they encounter many other people who have received [certificates of death]. They all band together and create this little society on their own,” Whitt-Lambert said. “Unfortunately, some pretty severe consequences happen because of the actions they undertake.”
Whitt-Lambert said the play, which is more than five acts, starts out as a comedy but turns serious as the story progresses. Whitt-Lambert said she considers it a thought-provoking piece.
“There is a very strong underlying theme of spirituality and religion,” Whitt-Lambert said. “It should, I hope, make people look at their lives and go ‘what if Jesus where here; what if Buddha where here; what if [the audiences] holy entity was [on earth]?”How would we be treating him or her?” Whitt-Lambert said. “If we thought it was another person?”
Whitt-Lambert said there are many surprises in store for the audience, from the story, to the way the theatre will be arranged. Whitt-Lambert said it is an unusual scenic design that is perfect for the play’s script.
“When the audience walks in, I told my set designer, I don’t want them to know where to sit,” Whitt-Lambert said.
Whitt-Lambert said she is very excited about this play and hopes the faculty, staff and students will turn out to support the play.
“I hope everyone will leave really talking about the message,” Whitt-Lambert said.
Wykes said it feels great to have Wesleyan performing his play and still enjoying its message.
“It’s great to have the play produced at Wesleyan,” Wykes said. “I have a lot of great memories from my college days at Wesleyan, and it’s nice to come back in a different capacity and see that the department lives on.”
Eduardo Aguilar, senior theatre major, said he enjoys playing his character Carpenter and has a few things in common with the character.
“I think that my character and I are similar in the sense that we’re both good-hearted people,” Aguilar said. “We are easy going and down to earth, and it’s great playing him.”
Aguilar said his character does something that will surprise the audience, which made the role fun.
Brittany Adelstein, junior theatre major, said when she auditioned for the play she was confident.
“I love auditions,” Adelstein said. “I auditioned for that role because it was one of the female roles that I felt I could bring humor to. [Miriam] is hilarious.”
David Vaughn, senior theatre major, portrays a character known as the Vagrant who is a bit of a con-man.
“At auditions, as I was reading for many different parts, the Vagrant stuck out to me,” Vaughn said. “As I was reading it alone, I had a very silly character in mind. But as I was reading it out loud in auditions, I noticed that the Vagrant had so much more dimensions in him, so I immediately grew interested in this character.”
Vaughn said he loves the challenge of playing the character because the Vagrant is nothing like him.
Kristi Taylor, senior theatre major and Whitt-Lambert’s assistant director, said she is excited to be working on the play.
“I loved the script,” Taylor said. “It is witty, funny and entertaining.”
Taylor said this is her first time serving as an assistant director, and she has enjoyed the process of working with Whitt-Lambert on this play.
“Connie and I are very similar. We have a clear vision of what we want, and we work well together to achieve it,” Taylor said. “She is a very patient person, and takes the time to help me understand exactly what needs to happen at certain key times throughout the play.”
The play will be presented in the Thad Smotherman Theatre in the Law Sone Fine Arts Building from Nov. 8–18.
Tickets are $8 for general admission, $6 for all Wesleyan faculty and staff and $4 for all students with ID.
Tickets go on sale on Tuesday Nov. 6. The box office will be open Tuesdays to Fridays 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and one hour before curtain on show days.
For reservations please call the Wesleyan Theatre box office at 817-531-5867.