Barton Theatre presents “The Servant of Two Masters”

February 22, 2017
Story by Brandon Steinert
Photo by Micah Oelze

The Barton Community College Theatre Department is taking an unconventional approach with its upcoming play, “The Servant of Two Masters,” which is set for 7:30 p.m. March 3 and 4, with a matinee at 2 p.m. March 5, in the Fine Arts Auditorium.

The plot is straightforward: The servant Truffaldino juggles two masters while trying to keep both discreet. However, much has been improvised and changed for the sake of garnering laughs, including added scenes and a cameo from a yet-to-be-identified special guest.

 “As a true farce, the story line is insignificant,” Dr. Abel said. “It’s how we treat it with the comedic timing, mistaken identities, surprises and so forth. There’s history behind it, but it’s just a good fun play.”

For one thing, they’ll be breaking the fourth wall, that is, addressing the audience in character.

Theatre Director Dr. Rick Abel said the play has historical significance, since it was of the Italian tradition of commedia dell'arte, which were plays that were highly improvised and not scripted. This play was among the first of its type to be immortalized with a script. It’s also what the Italians would call a lazzo, or plural lazzi, which means improvised comedic dialogue.

Other than the humor, he said, there isn’t a meaningful moral to the story. The actors are going to great lengths to make the characters two-dimensional, even cartoon-like. Some actors and actresses have been assigned cartoon characters to emulate, including Roger Rabbit.

As silly as the play sounds, those involved are putting in the work to make sure it’s worth their audience’s time.

Freshman in theatre Zack Dougherty learned to juggle just for this show.

“I’ve watched a lot of Jim Carrey to prepare,” Dougherty said. “He’s wild and sporadic in a lot of his movies and I’ve always liked him. I love how crazy I get to be in this play. I also learned about comedic timing and how sometimes you have to wait a minute for a joke to set in.”

Speaking of timing, Dougherty decided to pursue theatre as a career after randomly filling in for somebody in a play during his senior year, and fell in love with acting.

Freshman in theatre Jose Flores is no stranger to the stage, having played in Barton’s recent performance of Our Town. This time he’ll be behind the scenes making everything work as stage manager.

“I feel like if I touch everything that has to do with theatre, I’ll be well prepared after college,” Flores said. “This is going to be a really funny show. That’s all I can say.”

Flores has a proven track record with humor, having threatened his mother he was going to start a rent-a-chicken business based out of her house last semester.

Abel has confidence in his entire cast, and said they aim to entertain.

“This is a whole different ball of wax,” he said. “It’s a highly melodramatic farce and we play everything for laughs. The only thing I want to happen in this play is people laughing like crazy.”

Alternate Listening Devices Available

To ensure guests with hearing impairments can fully enjoy “The Servant of Two Masters” and future shows, Barton Theatre is proud to announce the availability of 10 Alternate Listening Devices.


Tickets are available in advance for $6 in the Fine Arts Office or by calling (620) 786-1150, or $7 at the door. As an alternative to admission fees, Barton Theatre would accept canned food or a non-perishable food item, which will be donated to the Community Food Bank of Barton County. General admission only. Students are admitted free, but a food donation is encouraged.

Kara Van Vleet (from left), Zack Dougherty and Lacey Hobbs pose for a photo during a dress rehearsal. The actors break the fourth wall and address the audience during “The Servant of Two Masters”.