Blinn Theatre Arts Program presents virtual performance of 'Popeye and the Gang at the Zoo'

Production featuring beloved cartoon characters will be available through free virtual tickets

Production featuring beloved cartoon characters will be available through free virtual tickets

April 1, 2021

The Blinn College-Brenham Campus Theatre Arts Program has brought some of the nation’s most iconic cartoon characters to life. “Popeye and Gang at the Zoo,” based on characters created by E.C. Segar for his comic strip Thimble Theatre, is now available for viewing.

“Popeye and Gang at the Zoo” was one of the programs in the “Popeye the Sailor” radio series that ran from 1935-38. It is part of the Blinn Theatre Arts Program’s “On the Air” series modeled after radio plays popular in the 1930s and 1940s.

“We’re inviting everyone to join Popeye, J. Wellington Wimpy, Olive Oyl, and Popeye’s adopted son Matey the Newsboy as they take a trip to the zoo,” said Brad Nies, Theatre Arts Program Director. “When an elephant breaks loose, Popeye will need to muster all his strength – as well as all of his spinach – to save Matey and Olive.”

Free virtual tickets are available at www.blinn.edu/BoxOffice. A link to the video will be emailed to those who sign up.

Theatre Arts student Tanner Pieper, who plays Popeye, said the production offers a unique opportunity to work in a recording studio environment where voice is king.

“When playing such well-known characters, you want to put your own spin on it, but you don’t want to stray so far from other renditions that it’s unrecognizable,” Pieper said. “People will tune in to see Popeye, and I want to pay homage to everyone who has made the character what it is.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Theatre Arts Program opted for radio-type performances to allow for social distancing. That, Pieper said, presented its own challenges.

“The social distancing factor does put a wall between you and your fellow actors,” he said, “but it offers a unique experience that will help us in the future when we don’t have all our tools on the table.”

Nathaniel Scheffel, who plays Olive Oyl, said he is thrilled to showcase his rendition of that character.

“Playing Olive Oyl is just going to be me having raw and pure fun with hopes that the people watching will be entertained,” said Scheffel, who also is one of the show’s puppeteers.

“The way the whole company has come together during these times of uncertainty speaks to the standards of excellence at Blinn. The social distancing format set some obstacles in the way, but with great leadership from our directors and professors, we have been able to make leaps and bounds to ensure that it’s a safe and fun show for everyone involved. I view this as an opportunity to grow as an actor because I have to be animated like a cartoon while only using my voice.”

Other voice actors in the show are J.D. Matthews, announcer; Ashton Jeske, vendor; Casey Prowell, man; Claire Hermes, Matey the Newsboy; and Dustin Randolph, Wimpy.

Students Josiah Fernandez, Cedric Benard, Tiara Bolden, Hayden Evans, Josiah Fernandez, Jeremiah Lara, Leticia Andrade, Alex Leverette, Ethan Cloud, and Maddie McDonald also participated in the production.

Theatre Practicum students oversaw set construction.

The final production of the 2020-21 season will be “Completely Hollywood (Abridged),” which also will be a virtual performance. Tickets are $5 each plus a convenience fee. Performances of that show will begin streaming April 29 and 30 at 7 p.m., and May 1 and 2 at 2 p.m.

Previous 2020-21 productions “The Screaming Woman” and “Miracle on 34th Street” can be viewed for free by visiting www.blinn.edu/boxoffice.

More information on the Blinn Theatre Arts Program is available at blinn.edu/theatre.

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