college mcp-logo-header-white mcpherson

McPherson College’s ‘Charlie Brown’ Features Funnies Leaping Off the Page

Charles Schultz sets down his pencils, shuts off his desk lamp and calls it a night.

McPherson College’s staging of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” – which opens next week – imagines what Schultz’s “Peanuts” characters do next. Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and the rest of the iconic comic come to life, stepping out from the panels of a funnies strip.

Dr. Rick Tyler, professor of speech and theatre and director of the musical, designed a set for Brown Auditorium that’s a gigantic version of an artist’s drafting table – complete with oversized pencils in a huge mug, a scattering of pillow-sized peppermints that the characters use as stairs, and a massive desk lamp arching over the set.

“The idea is that Charles Schultz leaves for the night and the characters come to life and tell a day in the life of Charlie Brown,” he said. “It’s so different and to me it’s a lot more creative.”

Much of that creativity results from coming up with creative ways to use the oversized desk supplies as props in the show’s scenes – a tape dispenser turned on its side turns into Schroeder’s grand piano, a box of crayons turns into a television set, Lucy’s psychology stand unfolds from out of a box of matches.

Not only is it fun for the members of the cast, it’s also proven to offer interesting challenges to the college’s Stagecraft class. Dr. Tyler said that students in the class have often asked him how to build an enormous version of a mundane desk supply.

“I don’t know,” Dr. Tyler has responded. “I’ve never built a giant coffee mug before.”

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” is the senior show for Josh Hall of Kansas City, Kan. For Hall, playing Charlie Brown in the show makes a fitting bookend on his education in theatre, as seeing a production when he was 11 years old completely changed the direction of his life.

“It was the first show that I saw, and I knew that I wanted to do theatre,” he said. “It’s what started it all, so I thought it would be good to finish with it as well.”

Although Charlie Brown is usually presented as a melancholy, depressed character, Hall connects with the lead role on a different, deeper level – as more happy-go-lucky and upbeat.

“He’s this awkward, curious kid,” Hall said. “He’s just trying to find his way in the world and find what makes him happy. I think all of us can connect with that. It’s all about little victories for Charlie.”

Hall said audiences should come to the musical for a bit of childhood nostalgia, becoming re-acquainted with some old friends.

“The whole show is probably my favorite moment,” Hall said. “Living in that moment of being able to live out such an iconic character. Everyone and their brother knows the Peanuts gang. I think it’s the relatability. Each one of those kids describes stages of life that we go through or moods that we have. People connect to their innocence as well as their maturity.”

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” is showing at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2-3 and 9-10. Tickets cost $5 for adults and $3.50 for children ages high school and younger as well as seniors. Reservations may be made by contacting the theatre box office at 620-242-0444 or at theatre@mcpherson.edu.

Cast is: Josh Hall, senior, Kansas City, Kan. (Charlie Brown); Addie Johnson, senior, McPherson, Kan. (Lucy Van Pelt); Brant Busse ’06, director of residence life and residence director of Metzler Hall (Schroeder); Chandler Dohe, sophomore, Limon, Colo. (Snoopy); Aubrey Hollinger, sophomore, Lyons, Kan. (Sally Brown); Chris Rakowski, senior, Joppa, Md. (Linus Van Pelt).

Crew is: Dr. Rick Tyler, professor of speech and theatre (director); Dr. Joshua Norris, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities (musical director); Kyle Hopkins, associate professor of music and director of bands (orchestra director); James Covel, senior, Goddard, Kan. (stage manager); Eric Johnson ’89 of McPherson, Kan. (technical director).