Laney Smith of Belle Plaine, is part of the Emporia State University production of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance."


The play by Jethro Compton premiered in 2014 at the Park Theatre in London and is based on the 1953 short story of the same name by Dorothy M. Johnson, a longtime educator at the University of Montana in Missoula. A celebrated writer of Western fiction, Johnson's other titles include "A Man Called Horse" and "The Hanging Tree."
The play is a classic Western tale of good versus evil. It follows the story of Ransome Foster, an educated man from the East, who winds up in the western town of Twotress. Forced by circumstances, he stays and begins to change to the town through education. This catches the eye of the outlaw Liberty Valance who seeks to restore "order" to Twotrees by eliminating anything, and anyone, that threatens the "norms of society" as he views it.
A freshman, Smith is on the Costume Crew.
This production is under the direction of Ashley Kobza, a freelance theatre artist based in Nebraska. For the past six years, she has been teaching in San Diego, California. Kobza wants the audience to know that this production "isn't going to be the Liberty Valance from the big screen." She attributes most of that to the playwright who based his adaptation very strongly on Johnson's original story.
"The play mirrors a big chunk of our current sociopolitical climate fairly accurately," Kobza said. "One man has most of the money and all of the power. And the way he keeps that money and power is through stopping progress dead - literally, dead - in its tracks. He doesn't want equality, legislation or education in the town as all of those are a definite threat to his power. Keep people divided and uneducated and you keep the power; this isn't a new concept and one doesn't have to look hard to see it demonstrated in our very own country."
The show will feature the scenic design of Nancy J. Pontius. It is under the technical direction of Chris Lohkamp, and Amanda Dura is the costume shop manager.
"The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" is the second production of the 2018-19 ESU Theatre season. It will play in the Ronald Q. Frederickson Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28 through 30, with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Dec. 1.
Tickets purchased in advance for "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" cost $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students. Tickets purchased at the door on the day of a performance will increase to $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $8 for students. Tickets for all ESU Theatre productions can be purchased online at tickets.emporia.edu. Tickets are also available in person from the University Ticket Office in the Memorial Union or by calling 620-341-6378.