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Department of Theatre and Dance

Backstage Comedy Opens UW Summer Theatre Season

June 2, 2006 -- Summer theatre-goers will catch a glimpse of the show behind the show when "Headset: A View From the Light Booth," launches the University of Wyoming 2006 Snowy Range Summer Theatre and Dance Festival Tuesday, June 13.

The family-friendly comedy written by William Missouri Downs, UW professor and playwright-in-residence, runs June 13 and June 15-17. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center studio theatre. Tickets cost $10 for the general public, $8 for seniors and $5 for students. For tickets call (307) 766-6666 or go online at

"I wrote ‘Headset’ many years ago after working as a spotlight operator for the sultry jazz singer Miss Peggy Lee," says Downs. "It was the 45th performance and I (along with the rest of the backstage crew) was getting restless."

That night, Downs and his cohorts "began having some backstage fun," engaging in practical jokes and other antics, ultimately resulting in Downs' spotlight being pointed at Lee's ankles during her rendition of "Fever."

Downs was fired, but his newfound unemployment gave him time to think. Soon he had an idea; perhaps all the outrageous things that go on backstage would make a great play.

Called by some the "Noises Off of Technical Theatre," Downs' clever farce takes place in the light booth of The-Chicago-Ensemble-Repertory-Group-Theatre-Project on the final night of the company's doomed production of Shakespeare's "Hamlet." Running the light board are the stressed-out technical director, Hamlet, and his estranged stepfather, Claude, who need to work through some issues.

"I changed the setting from a Peggy Lee concert to 'Hamlet' simply because playing off a revenge tragedy like Hamlet was funnier," he says.

"I love directing my own work. For thousands of years playwrights have directed their own work -- it wasn't until about 150 years ago that directing became a separate job in the theatre," says Downs.


Summer Theatre -- In a scene from the University of Wyoming summer theatre production "Headset: A View From the Light Booth," Officer Shubert (Fred Willecke) interrupts the show for a public service announcement, much to the dismay of techies Claude (John Mayer, left) and Hammet (James Weber, right). The family-friendly comedy, written by William Missouri Downs, UW professor and playwright-in-residence, gives audiences a glimpse of the "show behind the show." It runs June 13 and June 15-17. (Photo by Donald P. Turner)

Posted on Friday, June 02, 2006


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