POWELL, Wyo. - There'll be "Terror on the Ground" and maybe in the audience, too, when those wannabe thespians at Northwest College once again stage their almost-annual faculty/staff play Thursday and Friday, March 5 and 6. The curtain rises at 8 p.m. both nights in the Nelson Performing Arts Center Auditorium in Powell. NWC-TV viewers can catch the entire production when it is broadcast at a later date.
Despite its title, "Terror on the Ground" was written by Kathy Williams, an assistant professor of education, to get a laugh (it's rumored, however, that the real reason is to make fun of the actors). The play is directed by Duane Fish, a professor of speech communication (who would make fun of the actors regardless).
Over the decades, the quasi thespian tradition has amassed a loyal audience that's learned to appreciate the mix of good humor, bad acting and inside jokes. This year will be the last chance to see the performance of an original script written by Williams, who is retiring in May.
The action gets rolling on the ground as three groups of passengers prepare for an overseas flight. Staying true to the play's tradition, the passenger list includes an unlikely combination of Chinese acrobats, wealthy socialites and aliens from another planet (played by Tracy Lohr, Cody Nielson, Deepthi Amarasuriya, Kim Mills, Carolyn Aichele, Lou McPhail, Holly Berryman, Kathy Williams, Lee Blackmore, Jo Ann Heimer and Anna Cragoe).
The characters come a little closer to home, but not necessarily to normal, when the singing Butz family from Powell and a special friend start packing their bags (Fred Ebert, Linda Brazelton, Lisa Smith and Jan Gormley). Intrigue enters the plot (or maybe it's arthritis?) when secret agents Kato Nadir and Shirley Plantagenet (Duane Fish and Sharon Bailey) discuss what their bones are trying to tell them.
And to keep the story from getting far-fetched, TSA (Transportation Security Administration) employees (Terri Bossow and Grushenka Castanon) make sure the passengers go through the same screening hassles we all do before boarding a flight. It goes without saying those hassles aren't appreciated by passengers like the cultural attaché (Theresa Karter), a couple of questionable "cultural exchange performers" (Shelby Wetzel and Jeremy Johnston) and a talk show host (Marlys Ohman).
The travails of air travel pile up when the plane's pilot (Jim Zeigler) has a nervous breakdown, and everybody has to deplane. As the delay grows longer and longer, rumors of a terrorist plot start to spread, resulting in the presence of airport personnel and security units (Cathy Marine, Scott Horton, Bobbie Bell, Rob Rumbolz and Molly the dog).
Tensions mount, but by the end of the play, all the burning questions are answered, like: Will the plane ever leave the ground? What protections are in place against airport security terrorism? Do the aliens pass security clearance in time to catch the connecting flight to their home planet?
In addition to the usual nonsense, this year's production includes a few well-known musical numbers, which may or may not be recognized by audience members, depending on individuals' pitch sensibilities and the singing knack of the actors that particular night.
Stage manager for the production is Nickie Proffitt. The stage and set are handled by Allan Childs, Rob Schuller, Anne Toner, Taten Sheridan, Gary Sturmer and Jolene Sweet.
The Northwest College faculty/staff play is self-supporting and uses no college funds. The longstanding tradition is a morale builder and bonder for the actors and crew, and a gift of laughter from the college to the community. Because ongoing practical jokes and unscripted antics are associated with the production, many audience goers choose to attend both nights in order to avoid missing any of the foolishness.
Ticket prices are $2.99 for students, senior citizens and Golden Age Cardholders, and $4.99 for everyone else.