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April 2006

Release Date: April 21, 2006

Director to Revisit Familiar Ground in 'Terra Nova'

Angelo State University theater instructor James Worley will get a second crack at directing one of his favorite plays when the polar drama "Terra Nova" takes the stage beginning Thursday, April 27.

The play will show at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 27, through Saturday, April 29, and Thursday, May 4, through Saturday, May 6. There will also be a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, April 30. All shows will be in the Modular Theater in the Carr Education-Fine Arts Building on the ASU campus.

Worley first directed the play, which chronicles British explorer Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, for his ASU master's degree thesis in 1984. At the time, technology wasn't capable of presenting Worley's vision for the production, a vision that could better convey the drama, psychological intrigue and frigid mood of the subject.

The play is based upon Scott's journal from his doomed 1911-12 expedition in which he raced a team of Norwegians to reach the geographic extreme. By the beginning of the play, all of Scott's team has died, and Scott is writing his last journal entry before he finally succumbs to the harsh Antarctic conditions.

The play takes on an epic quality, full of humor, spectacle, action, beautiful language, conflict and a wide variety of distinct characters, each with his own set of clearly defined needs, goals and values. The script's structure is highly inventive, with constantly changing moods and each passing scene potentially leading the audience through the forever shifting pattern of Scott's emotional memory.

"In Capt. Scott's journals, he writes about some of the things you would imagine as you're trudging to safety," Worley said. "As he's writing in his journal, all of these thoughts and memories from his life are stumbling into his brain - it's a psychological patchwork.

"Because of the play's cinematic quality," Worley said, "it seemed to me to be a technical challenge. How do you portray it to the audience? Capt. Scott is wearing a parka and writing about Antarctica, and then his wife comes in, and he's imagining putting his son down with her, and she's wearing a summer dress."

In 1984, the lighting consisted of hand-held spotlights and a switchboard that was plugged into an Apple II computer. A sheet draped from the rafters stood in for the sail of Scott's ship, the Terra Nova. Lumps of masonite scattered about the stage ostensibly resembled ice floes.

More than two decades later, technology has caught up with Worley's concept for the presentation of Terra Nova.

Audience members will experience the sounds of a constantly howling wind. In addition to abstract objects that resemble ice floes, the centerpiece of the set will be a structure that suggests both the Terra Nova's sail and the face of a glacier cliff. Fixtures with mirrors that can reflect light in almost any direction will be controlled by a fully computerized system that will program the lighting for the entire show.

Worley is able to come closer to his vision for the play's presentation, but with the advanced technology comes a new set of challenges. The lights are programmed for the entire show, but actors must synchronize their movements with the 100 light cues.

"This is something that is completely different because it has to be precisely programmed," said Worley. "I just try to talk the crew and actors through it, give them coping strategies, make the production a sequence that can be learned rather than something that changes nightly."

Tickets cost $3 for ASU students, $4 for non-ASU students and $8 for the general public. Admission is free to Arts @ ASU subscribers and platinum/silver activity card holders. For more information or reservations, call 942-2000 between 2-6 p.m. weekdays.