Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Alum and Undergrads Help Bring Off-Broadway Classic to Life

EDITORIAL CONTACT: Gina Logue, 615-898-5081

(MURFREESBORO) – Several MTSU students, an alumnus and a faculty member will trade their usual domestic bliss in the ‘Boro for the seedy trappings of a condemned urban hotel when the Murfreesboro Little Theatre, 702 Ewing Blvd., presents “The Hot L Baltimore” at 7 p.m. June 9, 10, 16 and 17 and at 2 p.m. June 11 and 18.
The Lanford Wilson play gives the audience a glimpse into the lives of several down-and-out residents of a once-glamorous hotel (with the “e” in its marquee permanently unlit) on the eve of its demolition. It won the Obie Award for Best American Play and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best American Play of 1972-73.
Dr. Elyce Rae Helford, professor of English and director of Women’s Studies at MTSU, portrays April Green. Helford describes her character as “an outspoken (a.k.a. foul-mouthed) prostitute who doesn’t take much in life seriously. She is not entirely without compassion, but she is a pragmatist who doesn’t let anyone get too close.”
Helford says she has been involved in community theatre since her early teens. She says she was thrilled to be cast as April because “she is such an uproarious character. Like me, she is loud and outspoken, though my life is far more middle class than hers. She is street smart and I’m book smart, but we are both keen observers of life.”
Tim Johnson, a junior working toward a bachelor’s degree in business administration, plays Bill Lewis, a night clerk who harbors romantic feelings for one of the ladies of the evening who entertain their clients at the hotel.
“He covers his true sentiments for the girl in a somewhat clumsy, but friendly manner,” Johnson says. “The only way Bill and I would have any similarities as far as communication is concerned would have been when I was much younger, high school, early twenties.”
Johnson professes an interest in film acting as a side project while picking up some stage experience along the way. He says he is getting “fantastic instruction” in acting from John Mauldin, assistant professor of speech and theatre.
Senior Kisa Watson is making time to pursue her passion while carrying a large workload as a senior majoring in business marketing. She portrays Jackie, whom Watson describes as “a young transient who gets caught stealing from one of the characters.”


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Watson, who has her Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) cards, has performed in several MLT productions, most recently as Miss Casewell in “The Mousetrap.” In addition to theatre, Watson has worked in commercials and independent films. She has lived in Miami and San Francisco, obtaining a two-year certificate in Internet design and technology from San Francisco State University.
Audiences may remember Trevor Hann’s performance as Rocky in MTSU’s 2005 production of “The Rocky Horror Show.” In “Hot L,” Hann plays Paul, who was kicked out of college and sent to a work farm for selling marijuana. Paul is also searching for his grandfather, the object of his admiration.
“Paul is belligerent. He’s very used to having things done his way, and he’s very impatient, to put it lightly,” Hann says.
A native of Dickinson, N.D., Hann is a sophomore majoring in biology. He says he’s leaning toward a career in medicine, either in emergency room or trauma care.
Director Bob Roberts, a 2002 graduate who majored in theatre with a performance emphasis, says the play “shows its characters at their most interesting task—being themselves: happy, brash, insensitive, loving, and often willfully ignorant.”
Roberts’ resume includes work with the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Mockingbird Theatre, Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre and Circle Players. He also spent a year as a professional puppeteer with Madcap Theatre and understudied the lead in the “Johnny Appleseed Outdoor Drama,” both in Ohio.
“MTSU gave me some of my first directing opportunities through the theatre program’s directing classes and my senior project,” Roberts says. “Certain members of the faculty continue to advise me as I make plans to attend grad school for directing in a few years.”
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. MLT members can enjoy 50 percent off regular prices. Since seating is limited to 70 per show, reservations are encouraged strongly. “The Hot L Baltimore” is suggested for mature audiences due to language and adult themes. For reservations, contact the MLT box office at 615-893-9825.

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