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July 2007

Release Date: July 10, 2007

‘Absent Friends’ Provides Summer Comedy Relief at ASU

Angelo State University’s Arts at ASU program will present the comedy “Absent Friends” for its second summer Dinner Theatre July 26-29 and Aug. 2-4 in the ASU Modular Theatre.

Show times will be at 8 p.m. July 26-28 and Aug. 2-4, with dinner served each night at 7 p.m. A matinee performance is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, July 29, with dinner served at 1 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for Arts at ASU subscribers and non-ASU students, and $12.50 for ASU students and ASU activity card holders.

“Absent Friends” is written by Alan Ayckbourn and portrays what happens when a diverse group of friends kept together by a mixture of business and cross-marital emotional ties gathers to comfort a grieving member.

The central character, Colin, has just lost his fiancée, a girl his friends had never met. His friends arrange a tea party to comfort Colin, but when he arrives, their tenseness contrasts dramatically with his air of cheerful relaxation. Hilarity ensues as Colin’s happiness and insensitive analyses of their troubles causes each of his friends to become slightly unhinged.

“What attracted me to this play is the way in which Ayckbourn mines his comedy from the situation, rather than from comic pratfalls and one-liner gags,” said James Worley, ASU assistant professor of drama and the play’s director. “He skillfully sets up all of the information that the audience needs to interpret and understand each characters’ reaction to everything that happens."

Arturo Garcia, a senior drama major from El Paso, has been cast in the pivotal role of Colin. His extensive stage experience at ASU includes roles in “West Side Story,” “Terra Nova,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Greetings.”

Other characters will be performed by sophomore music major Jacque Stewart (Colin’s friend Diane); junior drama major Josh Samsel (Diane’s husband Paul); freshman drama/communications major Zeth Everett Collum (Colin’s friend John); sophomore communications major Jessica Biere (John’s wife Evelyn); and senior music major Laurie Proveaux (Colin’s friend Marge).

“These characters have known each other for years, but Colin’s path has diverged from the others,” Worley said. “He idealizes their relationships and imagines his friends as being the same as they were before. Accidentally, he says things that point out and explode some of the tensions that the other characters are experiencing with each other. But, Colin remains clueless and has no idea of the toes he is stepping on or the egos he is bruising.”

Worley is himself a product of the ASU drama program and has led a varied career that includes two years as a professional designer, stage manager and technician in New York at such institutions as the Juilliard School of Drama, the Roundabout Theatre Company and Daedalus Professional Tours. He has also served as technical director, resident designer and artistic director at the Angelo Civic Theatre and as technical director for Southwest Studios Inc. in Dallas. Worley has directed more than 30 productions at ASU.

“Absent Friends” will be the third play by Ayckbourn that Worley has produced at ASU, joining “Taking Steps” and “Seasons Greetings.”

“Ayckbourn has come to be considered a national treasure in England,” Worley said. “He has a 40-year history of successful comedies and farces produced throughout the English-speaking world and I’ve only just scratched the surface with the ones that I’ve produced in San Angelo.”

Arts at ASU subscribers can make reservations for “Absent Friends” starting Thursday, July 12, in the ASU box office. Tickets go on sale to the public Monday, July 16. The box office is open from 2-6 p.m. weekdays in the Carr Education-Fine Arts Building. For reservations, call 942-2000.

For more information on the production and cast, contact Worley with the ASU drama program at 942-2146, Ext. 241.