By MaKenzie Free
Melinda Williams will celebrate 35 years of service at Williams Baptist University during Homecoming weekend with the production of Neil Simon’s, “The Good Doctor.” The play will be staged Friday and Saturday, Nov. 2 and 3, in Startup Chapel.
Following the Saturday evening performance, a reunion of WBU theatre alumni and other friends of Williams will be held in her honor.
In the fall of 1983, Melinda Williams began her professional career at WBU. Throughout her 35 year tenure, Williams says her journey has been an ongoing mix of chaos, passion and ceaseless lessons that extend beyond center stage. She is pictured above directing a production in 2002.
Williams credits her success to her high school drama teacher, who coerced her to step into the spotlight for the first time and is a continual encouragement to her. Williams stated, “She is coming to my 35th celebration, which I consider a great honor.”
The milestone year allows for Williams to reflect on her past and what she wishes for the future. In hindsight, Williams would title the last 35 years of her life as, “What in my life has led me to this?” Williams said, “There is a moment in every production that I wonder if it is all going to come together, if I actually know what I am doing, if something else will go wrong. That is when I wonder, what in my life has led me to this?”
Williams’ passion for the theatre and the students she works with keep her teaching and directing. “When you love the theatre as much as I do, you cannot walk away from it.”
She selected “The Good Doctor” to commemorate her anniversary in tribute to the late Neil Simon, who she started her career with. Williams encourages the audience to attend without “expecting a continuous story. It is a combination of several short pieces.”
“The Good Doctor” is a comedy with music written by Neil Simon that consists of Anton Chekov’s short stories. The narrator, Kristin Britt of Chandler, Texas, guides the audience through the stories that result in a comedic evening full of humor and warmth.
The cast includes: Ridge Briney of Corning, Ark.; MaKenzie Free of Beebe, Ark.; Bethany Jacques of Jacksonville, Ark.; Ryan Drendal of North Aurora, Ill.; Maggie Morgan of Mammoth Spring, Ark.; and Luke Windham of Capetown, South Africa.
“The Good Doctor” will run November 2 at 7:30 p.m. and November 3 at 5:30 p.m. in Startup Chapel formally known as the Old Chapel on the WBU campus. Tickets are $3 for students and senior citizens and $5 for general admission.
The celebration of Melinda Williams’ 35th anniversary at WBU will start at 8 p.m. in the Moody Room of Mabee-Gwinup Cafeteria.
Williams is a private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge, Ark.