Le Wilhelm's Unpublished Play 'Cucumbers' Opens MSU Theatre & Dance Season
Le Wilhelm who died at age 67 in Long Island, New York in 2013, was a native of Galena, Missouri who received Masters degrees in Theatre from Missouri State University and the University of Florida. After moving to New York City, Wilhelm enjoyed a 30-year career as a playwright and director, publishing 25 one-act plays. But it's the unpublished works of Le Wilhelm that garner a lot of attention from area theater companies. Missouri State University Assistant Professor Dr. Telory (that's pronounced "TELL-er-ee", as she reminds me in this live interview!) Arendell directs a production of Le Wilhelm's quirky, unpublished ode to his hometown, Cucumbers, in the intimate Craig Hall Balcony Theater now through September 28.
Dr. Arendell says she's not greatly familiar with all of Le Wilhelm's output, but she is quick to point out that in this case "lack of publication is not at all an indication of whether these are good, bad or otherwise. Very locally based, though, these works." Wilhelm's work celebrated life in the Ozarks, and Cucumbers is actually set in his hometown of Galena in 1979.
She describes Cucumbers as a play "about nine women in their late 30s, early 40s--except for Aunt Doll, who's our 'older' woman. I just love that character--talk about 'quirky'! She's very funny. The premise of the show is that a cucumber truck has overturned on a highway nearby." The accident causes, shall we say, an unexpected windfall of cucumbers in Galena! Rather than let them go to waste, the women of Galena get together for a big "pickle party." Says Dr. Arendell, "At the surface level, the action of this play is a bunch of women cutting cucumbers to make pickles. But there are a bunch of stories that come out in their interactions."
She considers it very much an ensemble piece, with "lead" characters as such, but there are old rivalries and betrayals revisited, gossip, wild stories, and... well, without revealing the ending, Dr. Arendell promises that "food is thrown... and people get messy! There are many humorous moments in it, but there are also deeper moments--conversations about breast cancer, things like that, that have great depth in the midst of all that laughter."