By Marit Gookin

Staff Writer

CWC Theater Director Joey West, (left) rehearsed a song with a group of young actors last year. Photo by Carl Cote

The academic year may have just begun, but Central Wyoming College’s theater program is already swinging into high gear. CWC Director of Theater and Assistant Professor of Theater Joey West has already held auditions for the college’s first fall play; he typically tries to hold auditions on the second day of classes, he explained. 

“It gives us an extra week,” he said, which the fall play needs. This year’s play, “Paint Your Wagon,” will hold its first performance on September 28, just over a month from auditions. The production’s cast of just nine men and seven to nine women started rehearsals on Thursday evening, and plan to rehearse for multiple days per week every week between now and the play’s opening night. 

“Paint Your Wagon” is a big production for such a short turnaround – made even bigger by the fact that this year, the CWC production will feature a live band for its iconic musical numbers. Audiences may be familiar with songs such as “They Call the Wind Maria” and “I Talk to the Trees,” and may even come expecting to be familiar with the show’s plot if they have seen the 1969 movie adaptation starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. The play, however, is significantly different from the film, and largely focuses on different characters. 

“It’s a great show, and it’s going to be a lot of work to put together, but it’s going to be one of the best shows I’ve been involved with here,” West commented. “[‘Paint Your Wagon’] was one of the first shows I ever saw on a stage … I think that audiences will be impressed with this one.” 

The play will be performed in CWC’s Little Theater, which is a much smaller space than some of its other productions have to work with – to the benefit of the play, West remarked. “Working around restrictions can be good … It’s really going to be nice to be able to get really close with the faces of the audiences.” The size and layout of the theater allows performers to be within eight feet of the front row, he explained, which can make the performance feel up close and personal in ways that larger stages aren’t as conducive toward. 

Due to the smaller space they have to work in, the play’s set design is planned to be comparatively minimalistic – but still carefully made and designed. Technical director Alec Henderson has been working on the set since May of last year, West said, and it’s sure to make a big impact on the audience. 

Since there is also less seating in the Little Theater – only about 85 seats in total – West recommended that people purchase their tickets in advance. Performances are slated for September 28, 29, and 30; and October 1, 5, 6, and 7. Auditions for the department’s next two performances, a Veteran’s Day concert on November 11 and a production of “A Christmas Carol” in December, will be held on October 3.