Drama professor presents ‘Call of the Wild’ rendition
TNE Editor

Drama professor presents ‘Call of the Wild’ rendition

Published 9/18/18

Omar Ortiz Vega

TNE Writer

Christopher Miller, drama assistant professor, is directing a show he adapted for the stage in October. “Call of the Wild” is an adaptation of the classic book by Jack London. Miller recalls the story always being one of his favorite books.

“About 10 years ago, I was in a children’s theatre writers workshop and we were bringing up the stuff that we were working on,” said Miller. “That is when I started working on an adaptation of Call of the Wild.”

The show follows a large and pampered dog named Buck who is kidnapped from his home in California and sold to pull sleds in the Yukon Territory. It is in a harsh and unforgiving land that Buck encounters his own primal nature as he struggles for survival.

“Buck’s struggle is the thing that keeps me compelled,” said Miller. “It is his domestication versus the primordial wild. The way the book is so well written, I tried to adhere and keep the essence of it.”

A problem that presented itself to Miller was on presenting human actors portraying dogs without changing the tone of the show.

“I found in the early stages that I tried to avoid as much narration as I could and dramatize the scenes, but I quickly found out that when the actor would begin talking it made the dog disappear,” said Miller. “Early on I figured out that I would have to pull in London’s narration because it brought the dog back into the scene.”

Miller shelved the project for 10 years. In that time, he saw the National Theatre Production of “War Horse,” which features a life--size horse puppet, fully interacting with actors onstage and being present in the action. This sparked an idea for Miller.

“Last year, I started thinking about the project and how I really wanted to present it,” said Miller.  “I decided to experiment with that element and had some dramaturgy students working with me last year on researching and experimenting with puppetry to see how much of the story we can tell using the puppets.”

Shannah Palmer, McAlester junior, is serving as a puppet designer for the show.

“Working on “Call of the Wild” is a rewarding experience for me because of the puppet element,” said Palmer.

The show will attribute the dog’s journey in a way that the audience will relate. Miller believes that the audience will be able to connect with the dog puppets on a different level than they would with human actors.

“The dog puppet will be viewed with so much internal logic and emotion,” said Miller. “That’s what makes the puppet seem alive. It is the meaning we contribute to them.”                                                                                                                      

Miller has written and presented seven other plays at NSU, including three children’s shows and four plays. Dr. Robyn Pursley, drama associate professor, has directed the three children’s shows and one of the three plays.

“Directing “The Hypocrite” was a really cool process and I really enjoyed working with an original show,” said Dr. Pursley. “During the rehearsal process, we worked with the actors to fully flesh out their characters, and the actors were really connected to their character’s because some of the things that developed within those characters came directly from the actors.”

“The Hypocrite” is a modern adaptation of Moliere’s “Tartuffe.” The original play is the story man who falls prey to a man pretending to be a divine authority. The play includes the convention of “Deus Ex Machina” which is frequently used in Moliere’s plays. The importance of the show is Moliere’s satirical take on religious hypocrisy in the character of Tartuffe.

Dr. Pursley is serving as the costume designer for the show. Pursley is working on making the costumes historically accurate by looking at what people would be wearing during the Klondike Gold Rush.

“Call of the Wild” shows at 7:30 p.m., October 24 – 27, at the NSU Playhouse. For more information, email Miller at miller34@nsuok.edu


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