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Theatre Preview – Wiley And The Hairy Man

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Nicole Morsfield

Wiley encounters the Hairy Man by the swamp.

The Department of Music, Theatre and Dance took to Varner Recital Hall on Friday, May 19, Sunday, May 21 and Friday, June 9 with its production of “Wiley And The Hairy Man.”

Originally written by Suzan Zeder, Oakland University’s adaptation of the folk tale is directed by Associate Professor of theater Lynnae Lehfeldt. While the titular role is played by Tony Sharpe, the monstrous Hairy Man is played by Brandon Wright.

Set in the southern bayous of America, Wiley lives with his voodoo-practicing single mother, Mammy. The swamp-residing Hairy Man is responsible for the loss of Wiley’s father and because of this, Wiley fears him greatly. Throughout the play, Wiley seeks help from his spell-summoning Mammy to protect him from The Hairy Man, which he must ultimately do himself.

Sharpe calls it a coming of age story.

“You definitely see the arch of [Wiley] growing into a man and I think since I’m older I look at it from a more mature perspective but seeing the fact that he has an absent father, he has to figure out by himself what being a man entails,” he said. “That’s my favorite part about it – is that him becoming a man has nothing to do with societal norms, it’s just [Wiley] facing his own fears.”

According to Sharpe, his appearance in OU’s production of “In The Red And Brown Water” last year gave him a leg up on the southern dialect as it was set in the same area as “Wiley.”

Wright credits the Hairy Man costume for helping him get into character.

“The costume sort of added an extra layer to [the character] and it added a sense of eeriness,” he said. “It helped put weight to the character too because as I was walking I realized I was a little bit floaty before but the costume helped keep me grounded.”

According to costume designer Krystal Smoger, the Hairy Man costume was made of a tunic (an over garment without pants) covered with layers upon layers of scrap fabrics and gauze that has been dyed different colors. Wiley’s costume, however, required some geographic research.

“A lot of my research started with looking at pictures of actual people who lived in the bayou in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana and figuring out what sort of clothing did people wear in those sorts of climates from the shoes to the jean-like materials,” Smoger said.

She said the intention was to give the set a timeless look.

Sharpe hopes the message the audience takes away is that people are their own biggest obstacles.

“I hope that when people see this they get that they are fully in control of everything that happens in their life. Law of attraction,” he said.

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