Best campus production: ‘Spitfire Grill’

Wichita State’s production of “Spitfire Grill” in the fall was popular among the Wichita State community — it was voted “Best On-Campus Production.” 

 “I am thrilled that ‘Spitfire Grill’ made such an impact,” said junior Hannah Fernandes, who played a lead role in the production.

“Spitfire Grill” made its way to WSU in September and ran for three days. 

Fernandes said the honesty of the story resonated the most with the audience. 

“The material of the ‘Spitfire Grill’ is so well-crafted and sharp,” she said, “while remaining genuine to the characters.” 

Fernandes played the role of an ex-convict named Percy, who starts a new life in Wisconsin. Fernandes said she got in touch with her character by visiting the Sedgwick County Jail.

There are so many misconceptions about inmates, she said, and it was eye-opening for her to see the people behind the stereotypes. 

The expression, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” comes to mind, Fernandes said. 

“The ‘Spitfire Grill’ has forever enriched my life,” she said, “and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to work on this show.”

Wayne Bryan, the artistic director of the Music Theatre of Wichita, directed the story that focuses on redemption.

Bryan said the play deals with social situations people encounter in real life.

“As Percy’s past is revealed, it deals with some very mature, contemporary issues,” Bryan said. 

The cast featured Matthew Hale as “Joe,” Emily Monrad as “Hannah,” Liz Jarmer as “Shelby,” Max Wilson as “Caleb,” Rachel Gorman as “Effy” and Alex Castaneda as “The Visitor.”

Linda Starkey, director of the School of Performing Arts, said “Spitfire Grill” is a compelling story about redemption and rehabilitation. 

“It’s a very heart-warming story,” she said. 

Starkey said it was wonderful for the students to have a director from the professional world. She said it inspired and lifted the students to a higher level. 

Starkey said the music, storyline and cast of actors also played a part in the play’s success. 

“Just the combination of all those factors,” she said. “The music was good, the story was compelling and the student performances were excellent.”

Bret Cleveland, a junior art major at WSU, watched the show in September and said it displayed performing arts in a different light. 

“You got to see a different side to live acting,” Cleveland said. “It was very real.”

Cleveland said he’s been to a few other plays this year, including “Julius Caesar” and “The Dead Guy.” He said “Spitfire Grill” was by far his favorite.

“I liked the storyline, and I felt like the actors were very in tune with the characters that they played,” Cleveland said. “I think it deserves to be best of the best.”