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'Curtains' open on FHSU production Wednesday





In the past, there often was a play production at Fort Hays State University as part of the school's homecoming activities.

However, when homecoming is moved earlier in the school year, as was the case last fall, there is not enough time to put on a play, said FHSU theater instructor Tomme Lynn Williams. This time around, homecoming is this weekend, giving the theater group enough time to put on the musical "Curtains."

There will be 7:30 p.m. show times Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at Felten-Start Theatre on the FHSU campus. There will be no show Saturday, but there will be a 2:30 p.m. matinee Sunday.

"Curtains" was a book written by Rupert Holmes. Lyrics were written by John Kander and Fred Ebb, who died before the play's opening. Kander and Holmes finished writing the play. It opened on Broadway in 2007. Based on the book, the musical is a send-up of backstage murder mystery plots, set in 1959 Boston.

Williams worked in the biggest costume shop in New York City for 10 years before returning home to Hays to teach at FHSU. She chose "Curtains" as the first production of the fall.

"It did pretty well on Broadway; it was nominated for a couple Tonys," Williams said.

L.J. Kemper, an FHSU sophomore from Topeka, plays Lt. Frank Cioffi, who originally was played on Broadway by David Hyde Pierce of "Frasier" fame.

"I'm the guy who knows everything, solves the crime," he said.

Kemper is looking forward to putting on the play as part of homecoming festivities.

"I think it's great," he said. "A lot of people have their parents come up, and it gives a great opportunity to have a nice, full crowd."

Hayley Funk, a Quinter sophomore, plays the part of Niki Harris.

"She's kind of a young, naive ingenue type of character," Funk said. "She's really fun to play."

Rehearsals have been fun, said Vanessa North, a senior from Ellis whose character is the show's producer.

"The show is a lot of fun, a lot of laughs with it," she said. "Hopefully, the crowd that comes thinks it's as much fun as we do."

While North is in her fifth year with the FHSU theater group, Ryan Ross, a freshman from Highlands Ranch, Colo., is in his first production at FHSU. He plays the part of the show's director.

"I've always enjoyed theater, since about the seventh grade," he said.

This weekend will be especially busy for both North and Ross, who also are part of the Tiger marching band. North plays the tuba, while Ross is on the trumpet.

"It's going to be pretty busy for all of us, balancing the events of Oktoberfest and the play," Ross said. "But I'm really excited; we've got a lot of guests coming into town, planning on seeing the show. I'm really excited to see how the turnout is."