The North Texas Daily (Denton, Tex.), Vol. 63, No. 100, Ed. 1 Tuesday, April 8, 1980 Page: 3 of 8
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Tuesday, April 8,1980
THE NORTH TEXAS DAILY-PAGE 3
^Oldest Graduate7 brings Dallas,
live dramatic production to NBC
By TOM CRABTREE
For the first time in more than 30
years NBC-TV aired, on Monday at 8
p.m., a live production of a dramatic
play, and Dallas was the location.
With Henry Fonda in the starring
role, "The Oldest Living Graduate,"
written by the late Dallas playwright
Preston Jones as part of his popular
"Texas Trilogy," was chosen as the first
in a series of NBC-TV presentations of
contemporary plays developed in and
broadcast from regional theaters across
The first dress rehearsal of the play
was a delightfully impressive perfor-
After an hour wait at the doors of
SMU's Bob Hope Theater, the audience
was allowed to become part of a unique
atmoshpere which was not quite a televi-
sion studio, and not quite a theater. The
stage was framed by scaffolding hung
with extra lights to compensate for color
cameras. Five video cameras guided by
headphoned technicians waited in the
wings for the production to begin.
A woman dressed in "Texas regalia"
stepped on stage and introduced herself
as Cynthia Weinstein, assistant to the
executive producer. She gave the play a
brief introduction and pointed out an 8-
by-10 video projection screen above the
stage so members of the audience could
see the action when their vision was
blocked by cameras on stage. She left the
stage as curtains rose to the tune of
Fonda played an ornery, salty,
straight-forward retired Army colonel
who rants and raves around his son's
plush ranch house in the small prairie
town of Bradleyville, restricted only by
his "dickbumblin" wheelchair. Colonel
Jefferson C. Kinkaid runs his household
as if he were still on the front lines dur-
ing World War I.
The colonel's son, Floyd (played by
George Grizzard), is an ambitious,
business-minded man and what is on his
mind lately is a tract of lake property
owned by the colonel. Floyd and his
partner, Clarence Sickenger (played by
John Lithgow) plan on turning the land
into the "Mumford County Estates," a
name and idea that the colonel abhors.
Floyd, in order to win his father over,
plans a gala event celebrating him as the
only surviving member of the first
graduating class of Mirabeau B. Lamar
The colonel is not pleased with the
idea and maintains that "it ain't no
honor to be the oldest livin' anything.. ,
'cause that means that you're all alone.
(You) stand around lookin' at the next-
oldest livin' whippersnapper and wonder
where the hell everybody went."
Floyd's wife, Maureen (played by
Cloris Leachman), acts as referee
between the colonel and Floyd. She
calms her husband with whiskey and
pacifies the colonel by listening to him.
Ms. Leachman was almost un-
recognizable as the whiskey-drinking
housewife, disenchanted with the society
and activities of Bradleyville. Her
adopted Texas accent, although slightly
exaggerated, destroyed images of her as
the scatter-brained apartment manager
on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" or as
the frightening Frau Blooker in "Young
David Ogden Stiers' performance
(Major Charles Emerson Winchester of
M*A*S"H) as the commandant of
Mirabeau B. Lamar Military Academy
delighted the audience with his good-ol'-
boy portrayal. A syrupy, almost
Foghorn Leghorn-type voice rang
through the auditorium when Stiers in-
formed the Kinkaid family that it was
"indeed a pleasure" to meet them.
Although "Electra," a Greek tragedy,
was written in Greece during the fifth
century, the costumes, makeup and set
designs were derived from the pottery
motifs, clothing and architectural styles
of the Aztec civilization during the 15th
century in Mexico.
Brenda Devore, of the drama faculty
supervised the production of 27 com-
plete costumes, each composed of a
minimum of four pieces.
The makeup for the NT production
was designed by Arlington junior
Martha Howland, who plays the part of
Electra's sister, Chrysothemus. She and
Ms. Devore worked closely in
researching and developing patterns that
were incorporated in the costumes and
The brightly-colored visual patterns
were designed to enhance the rhythms of
movement and speech inherent in
"Electra,"Ms. Devore said.
Red, green, yellow and blue geometric
shapes were painted with "puffer paint"
(named because of its billowing action
when heated) on muslin fabric to create
patterns which stand out in relief from
the fabric. Hand-dyed yellow and green
fabric was used for borders.
Against the gray stone of the stylized
Aztec architecture, the costumes assume
a graphic role as an inherent part of the
set design, Jim Bruce of the drama
The 15 women's chorus costumes are
tunics slit on the sides worn over slit
skirts. Beaded fringe, anklets of shells,
wigs, earrings and headpieces complete
the outfits. The headpieces were con-
structed from fabric-covered foam rub-
ber tubes, creating a turban effect.
The men in the chorus wear a varia-
tion on loin cloths that have collars and
Acgisthus' (San Antonio freshman
Richard Beidl) headpiece spans about
three feet and incorporates styrofoam,
feathers and paint.
Clytemnestra (Fort Worth sophomore
Vivian Hoffman) wears a one-
The intricate makeup designs are well-
suited to the intimacy of the Studio
Theater, Ms. Howland said,
The actors wear body makeup called
"Texas Dirt" to create the illusion of
Play illuminates ancient culture
vElectro' gains intimate appeal in studio theater
By JAMKSKAl FMANN
The Greek tragedy "Electra" will be
performed by students of the division of
drama tonight through Saturday at 8
p.m. in the studio theater in the Speech
The play is directed by faculty director
The Sophoclean drama focuses on the
character of Electra who mourns the
death of her murdered father and seeks
revenge even eight years after his death.
Ms. Gersh wanted to do the play in
the traditional Greek style in the Univer-
sity Theater, but when the facility was
unavailable and the production was
scheduled in the smaller studio theater
she examined setting the play in a dif-
ferent culture that would better lend
itself to the intimacy of the theater.
"After we were moved to the studio
theater I felt as though a different treat-
ment was needed. The traditional Greek
performances were in ampitheaters with
thousands of seats and with seating on
three sides of the stage. The studio
theater is much more intimate.
"The University Theater would have
been closer to the Greek tradition. The
studio theater will provide for a more in-
timate theater experience and enable the
audience to see more detail and perhaps
become more involved in the play," she
Ms. Gersh said she examined the pos-
sibilities of setting the play in another
culture to better illuminate the themes
and conflicts of the Greek drama. She
chose the ancient Aztec culture as the
setting for her production of "Electra."
"Basically there are many parallels
between the Greek and Aztec culture.
They were both warlike civilizations,
both placed great importance on the
Gods and revenge. Revenge is the basic
theme of "Electra," she said.
The only change in this production of
"Electra" is in the setting, Ms. Gersh
said, and in visual aspects like costuming
and effects. "The play was written by the
Greeks and I feel a need to remain true
to the playwright with regard to the
play's motifs and themes," she said.
The NT production of "Electra,"
aside from the setting change, will have
the characteristics of the traditional
"The most trying challenge in doing a
Greek performance is dealing with the
chorus," Ms. Gersh said. "We have 15
women and four men in the chorus and I
am striving for exquisite precision. I
think the chorus is the most exacting
aspect in directing the show."
Ms. Gersh said the play is a challenge
to student actori. "The acting is dif-
ferent and the style is unfamiliar to
them. The students have to deal with
long speeches and must deal with the
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Photo by TERRY HASKER
LOVES ME LIKE A ROCK—Fort Worth senior Brad Milburn works with
an air chlsle on a stone sculpture during a demonstration In the Art
translations so that they will make sense
and at the same time retain the lyrical
"1 think the principal players have
been truly amazing. Physically much is
demanded of the people in the chorus;
they have to maintain a tension in their
body and there is much movement in-
Denton freshman Carol Weideman,
chorus leader, said the work in the
chorus was particularly arduous. "It is
very difficult sometimes for the chorus
when we have to say lines and perform
The music in the production was
designed by Fort Worth graduate stu-
dent Dean Crocker, who has worked in
the same capacity for several drama
"The music is less melodious and
(there arc) more environmental sounds,"
Gersh said. "It has been designed to
evoke a feeling of earthiness of the Aztec
primitive culture and to give texture and
tone to the movement and moods of the
The main challenge of the show is to
achieve a sense of unity between the ac-
tors, the chorus and the setting, Ms.
Gersh said. "We are trying to be unified
and at the same time go all out with the
spectacle of the show. Hopefully
everything will complement each other
and the result will be a cohesive produc-
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Whitehead, Mike. The North Texas Daily (Denton, Tex.), Vol. 63, No. 100, Ed. 1 Tuesday, April 8, 1980, newspaper, April 8, 1980; Denton, TX. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth332478/m1/3/: accessed November 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.