Samford presents back-to-back stage plays

Samford’s theatre department will present two Pulitzer Prize-winning plays this week as a part of the Michael J. and Mary Anne Freeman Theatre and Dance Series. “True West” and “Crimes of the Heart” are both student-directed plays taking Samford’s mainstage this November. | ASIA SIMONE BURNS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF


As a part of Samford’s Michael J. and Mary Anne Freeman Theatre and Dance Series, Samford theatre will present not one but two award-winning productions: “True West” and “Crimes of the Heart.” The plays—both of which are works of American realism—will run back-to-back over a two-week period in Bolding Studio.  

“These are plays that could be about real people,” Sandley said. “There are real people that have some of these issues. This is American realism, and that means it’s drawn from a slice of American life.”

The genre is not the only thing these productions will share; In order to have the plays run in repertoire, the theatre department specially crafted a set that could be utilized for both productions.

“The set is essentially the same set,” Donald Sandley said. “(The plays) both take place in a home in a kitchen.”

The productions are also student-directed; Seniors Jack Dowey and Ann-Houston Campbell are at the helms of the productions as a part of their senior capstone projects.

“We wanted to do two contemporary American pieces,” Sandley said, “and, we wanted to give these two directors—because they are both outstanding students—a chance to direct for the main stage, which we don’t do all the time.”

“True West”

The gritty drama, “True West” is directed by senior Jack Dowey. The play centers around the rivalry between brothers Lee and Austin, portrayed by Nic Di Prima and Alex Joyel, respectively.

“Being able to work with different seasons or actors was challenging,” Dowey said. “It was gratifying seeing the actors grow so much.”

Dowey said a lot of attention was paid to the sensory elements of the production.

“This is a naturalist drama,” he said, “so, we tried to appeal to all of the audience’s senses. We have the looks, the sounds, the smells and—at times—even the tastes. You can almost taste the burnt toast on stage.”

The drama deals with some heavy issues and contains some strong language, Dowey said, but that should not prevent an audience from fully enjoying it.

“I wanted to introduce Samford students to something they’ve never seen before,” Dowey said. “We do have that ‘Samford bubble,’ and this play pops that bubble.”

Sandley noted that the timing of the production was ideal, as it pays tribute to the production’s creator.

“‘True West’ was written by Sam Shepard, the great American playwright who just passed away, so the timing of it could not be better,” Donald Sandley said. “It’s a lovely way to pay tribute to an American icon.”

“True West” will run on Nov. 2, Nov. 4, Nov. 10 and Nov. 12.

“Crimes of the Heart”

In a shift away from the both visually and contextually darker “True West,” the play “Crimes of the Heart” is a tragicomedy centered around the relationship between three sisters navigating life after the youngest of the three shoots her husband.

Directed by senior Ann-Houston Campbell, the play features Emily Pitts, Shelby Terrell and Claire Wells as Babe, Meg and Lenny Magrath, respectively.

Though this is the first opportunity Campbell has had to direct a mainstage play, she said the experience has been “fantastic,” due to the size and flexibility of her cast—a statement with which most of her cast and crew agreed.

“It’s a really small cast, which has allowed for a lot of connection between our ensemble of actors,” said Jonathan Skaggs, who plays Barnette. “It’s been fun getting to explore that has so much weight.”

That connection between actors carries over to the stage, where an audience can see the chemistry between characters.

“Beth Henley created (the characters) so well. The dialogue is very natural,” said Terrell who portrays the eldest of the three sisters, “and I think that has led to a deeper insight of our own characters and into the very authentic and genuine relationship that all of our characters have with one another.”

Campbell said that she wants her love of the play to carry over to her audience.

“It always leaves me smiling,” Campbell said. “I guess that isn’t common of a show that deals with these situations, but it looks at life in its realest state and lets you come away smiling. It emphasizes a strong community and being able to overcome bad days.”

“Crimes of the Heart” will run on Nov. 3, Nov. 5, Nov. 9 and Nov 11. Cake will be served after the shows.

To learn more about the productions or to purchase tickets, visit

Asia Simone Burns, Editor-in-Chief

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