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Make Some Noise! Really!

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Let’s talk melodrama—cue suspenseful organ music, please.

Almost everyone thinks they know what melodrama is, but the art form has taken many shapes over the years, influencing (and being influenced by) everything from the morality and mystery plays of the Middle Ages to Italy’s commedia dell’arte.

“A Tale of Mystery,” by Thomas Holcroft, was the first English play to be known as a melodrama. It was Gothic, in keeping with what was popular in 1802.

Perhaps most familiar to us is the Victorian stage version: the hero, the villain and the damsel in distress come from this tradition. They are stock characters, not meant to stand out as individuals. There are no shades of grey here. Audiences were encouraged to boo and hiss at the mustache-twirling villain, and to cheer the dim-witted hero. It was audience-participation theatre, and considered family entertainment.

Mosley Street Melodrama has operated in the Wichita Old Town district since 1997. The melodramas they produce are original scripts by local playwrights. An evening includes barbecue, a melodrama and a musical/comedy olio, which is a miscellany of song and comic bits. And just like in the Victorian age, audience members are encouraged to participate.

For a raucous good time, you can see “John Wayne’s World,” written by Carol Hughes, through September 6th.

For other local theatre listings, check out our events calendar

Sanda Moore Coleman received an MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University in 1991. Since then, she has been the arts and community editor for The Martha's Vineyard Times, a teaching fellow at Harvard University, and an assistant editor at Image. In 2011, she received the Maureen Egan Writers Exchange prize for fiction from Poets & Writers magazine. She has spent more than 30 years performing, reviewing, and writing for theatre.