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Masquers present 'Escape from Happiness'
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The theater troupe from Armstrong Atlantic State University will close its 2003-2004 season with a dark comedy, Escape From Happiness. But it's not just a final production -- it's also a final exam.

Students in Pamela Z. Sears' play production course are staging the play to meet class requirements. "The class meets two days a week,"Sears says. We haven't had a tremendous amount of rehearsal hours. But we've been meeting every evening lately."

Sears is delighted with the students' efforts. "For the class, this production is the type of experience they will find in a professional theater company," she says. "It was a collective effort.

The students in the class are responsible for most aspects of the production, including acting, technical work, research and development of multiple design elements and promotions and ticket-selling. "One of the students is acting as the assistant director and is directing the pre-show,"Sears says.

Escape From Happiness was written by Canadian playwright George F. Walker and is one-third of his East End Trilogy. Performances are set for April 29 and 30 and May 1 at 7:30 p.m. in Jenkins Theater.

Sears points out that the play is not suitable for young children. "There are language issues," she says.

Walker grew up in the east end of Toronto, where many of his plays are set. While working as a cab driver in the early 1970s, he saw a poster for Factory Theatre Lab asking for original scripts.

Walker's first play was Prince of Naples. He has received many honors and awards for his work.

Like his other plays, Escape From Happiness is dark and peopled with bizarre characters. This one tells the story of the Dawsons, a dysfunctional family driven by passions that are so strong they believe their insane actions are perfectly normal.

"There is a husband and wife and the wife believes her husband is dead and the man living with her is an imposter,"Sears says. "The son-in-law has tried to clean up the neighborhood and hasn't done it in a legitimate way."

Despite the dysfunction, the play is also about family values, Sears says. "The family members all have the same personal desire -- to make their neighbors' and their own lives better," she says. "But while they have honorable intentions, they have problems in terms of how they go about making changes."

Sears, who came to AASUin 2002, has performed with many theater companies in Atlanta. During her film career, Sears has worked with actors such as Mare Winningham, Elijah Wood, Kevin Costner and Rebecca De Mornay.

Why should you want to see Escape From Happiness? "It's hilarious,"Sears says. "It's an engaging story about a family that struggles to make ends meet and find happiness.' w

Performances will be April 29 and 30 and May 1 at 7:30 p.m. in AASU'sJenkins Theater. Not suitable for young children. General admission $6, seniors, military and non-AASU students $5, AASUfaculty, staff and students free with ID.