Picnic’ popular, fewer students going

Kara Christensen

Kara Christensen

Only three of the 13 performances of “Picnic” have yet to sell out, and the director expects about 1,000 more people will see the play this fall when compared to past fall plays.

Dr. James L. Johnson is directing “Picnic,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by William Inge and the first play peformed in the new Performing Arts Center Studio Theater.

The new building and Tony Award- winning actor Jarrod Emick in the lead role are two big factors in the play’s success, Johnson said.

“The combination of these two things has probably made the difference in having more people than we usually have for that first show [of the year],” he said.

Including 1,200 people who saw the play in last weekend’s six performances, Johnson said he estimates 2,500 to 2,600 people will see it before this weekend’s seven performances are over. The normal run for a fall play at is 1,300 to 1,500 people, he said.

In fact, a matinee was added for this Saturday so more people could go. Besides the matinee, the Thursday and Sunday night performances this weekend are the only ones with tickets available, Johnson said Monday night.

Despite the overwhelming increase in theater-goers this fall, attendance by one group is down. Johnson said 500 of last weekend’s 1,200 audience members were students. That’s just about 42 percent, but Johnson said students usually make up 60 to 65 percent of the audience.

Cayla Larson, a junior theater major, is the business manager for State University Theater. She said fewer students have attended because the play is less recognizable.

“If they see a ‘Grease’ or a ‘Footloose,’ they’re going to go,” she said.

However, the story line in “Picnic” may sound familiar.

Set in a small Kansas town during the 1950’s, “Picnic” centers on the beautiful daughter of a widow. The widow expects her daughter to marry the rich boy in town. Then the “bad boy” (Emick) shows up, and the girl falls in love with him.

Part serious and part comedic, the play has been well-received.

“I think they’ve received a standing ovation about every night,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he hopes students can come because their support made the building possible.

For tickets, call 688-6425.