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‘Whorehouse’ builds relationships on UWRF campus

November 1, 2007

UW-River Falls Department of Music and University Theatre opened a whorehouse in the Blanche Davis Theatre in the Kleinpell Fine Arts (KFA) building in October.

The musical, “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” officially opened the first of six shows to River Falls, Wis., audiences Oct. 25.

“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” musical, based on a book written by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson, inspired by the true story of the Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas, originally adapted into a musical in 1978, which opened in New York City on Broadway in the 46th Street Theatre, now known as the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Following the success of the musical, a movie adaptation starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton hit theatres in 1982.

UWRF performers’ pre-show jitters were not evident before the first official performance of the musical under Professor and Director James A. Zimmerman, yet the energy of opening night was unmistakable with the actors and actresses in the green room.

The camaraderie of the cast, conveyed in laughter and conversation, bustled throughout as student performers donned their costumes and make-up in front of the many warmly lit make-up mirrors.

Names or nicknames on signs above the mirrors revealing the performers’ character and personality marked each individuals green room space. Above John McConville’s mirror, an image of an acoustic guitar and the name Johnathan on a Texas A&M poster were visible while McConville got into make-up for his character as the narrator of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

Actress Hannah Tjoflat, who performs the role of Miss Mona, had a simple paper sheriff’s badge with, ‘HANNAH’ in bold type in the center of the star above her mirror. Tjoflat, a performer since age five, is now in her freshman year at UWRF. Tjoflat has enjoyed finding her confidence on stage while getting to know fellow students and cast members, who have become like extended family to her during production.

“For me, getting to know people in the show and making these relationships,” Tjoflat said. “Just really feeling like we’re a team and getting up there and having a lot of fun … it’s been such a fun process.”

UWRF students endeavored to make “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” musical come together in many areas apart from performing on stage. Students participated in the tech crew running the soundboard, ushering the Blanche Davis Theatre during performances and handling ticket sales for the KFA box office. Kala Pedersen chose to handle ticket sales to fulfill a lab project requirement for an introduction to theatre course.

“You can do 15 hours for the semester … ,” Pedersen said. “I trained in last week. It’s stressful, but fun; I like it.”

Audiences became a part of that fun process on opening night. UWRF students Casey Barker, Delaine Martin and Megan Fellegy, whose neighbor, Tjoflat, plays Mona, attended the opening night performance. Barker attended opening night to incorporate what she has learned so far this fall in a drama class to “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” musical, while Martin came to support everyone and build on her appreciation of the theatre.

“I loved the dancing cowboys,” Martin said. “The Melvin P. Thorpe Singers were hilarious. I really enjoyed watching them.”

The UWRF Department of Music and University Theatre host the final two performances of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2 and Nov. 3.