Nov. 7, 2005 -- University of Wyoming senior playwright Dana Formby says she didn’t start out to write about war as the theme of her first full-length, fully-supported production, "FREQUENCY 98.6," which opens to sold-out audiences this week.
The original play, with staging and direction by Department of Theatre and Dance Professor Leigh Selting, is a comedy with an edge about four lonely fugitives hiding out in a public park on the day of draft lottery in July 1970.
While the play implicitly comments on the Vietnam War and the current situation in Iraq, Formby says she initially just wanted to find an innovative setting for a class project.
"I was in directing class and I thought, how cool would it be to have a park in a theatre in the round? Think of all the levels you could play with," she says.
"I wondered what kind of story could take place there? Why do we leave these childhood places? That's when I decided to write a coming-of-age story," adds Formby.
Even then, Formby didn't set the piece in 1970.
"My friend Jesse was looking at going to Iraq this June, and I was thinking about what war is and what it does to people. My dad is a Vietnam vet, but he can't really talk about it much," Formby says.
"So I changed the era of my play to Vietnam. It didn't really change the theme of the play -- it actually was the thread I needed to sew the whole thing together," she adds.
In its final form, "FREQUENCY 98.6" centers on high school dropout Steven and his dutiful, college-bound buddy Gabe, who anxiously await the draft results that will soon be heard on their radio.
Intruding on them in the park are Taryn, a teenager rebelling against her privileged upbringing, and Rachel, a discontented bride who's given the slip to her groom. All four are overwhelmed by an uncertain future, but they come to realize that running away isn't the answer.
"I guess if I had to say anything, I'd say the play is about choices, what we think are our choices even if they're not, even if we have more options than we think," says Formby. “Ultimately, we are the choices we make."
While rewriting and producing the play was demanding, Formby is excited about the final result and the impact it could have.
"Maybe, just maybe, someone who doesn't normally come to the theatre will be affected by this play and will come back to another," she says.
Even so, Formby says in some ways she's "terrified" about her father attending the show.
"There's a line in the play that reminds me a lot of my dad: 'It's like he's trapped in the mouth of a shark -- half alive. One minute he's out at Tina's diner ordering the special and the next he's counting empty cots.' How hard would that be?" she asks.
"FREQUENCY 98.6" is sold out for its regular run, but tickets are still available for an additional performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, in the Fine Arts Center Studio Theatre. For ticket information, call (307) 766-6666, stop by the Fine Arts Center box office, or visit www.uwyo.edu/finearts. Viewer discretion is advised.
Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005