Lamar University Press Logo

LU play explores ethics in weapon advancement

Joseph Lyle Tyler (left) and Orlando Arriaga practicing their fight in "Landscape with Weapon." UP photo by Erin Conlin.
Joseph Lyle Tyler (left) and Orlando Arriaga practicing their fight in "Landscape with Weapon." UP photo by Erin Conlin.

With war comes devastation and heartache, especially when it comes to the technological advancements in weaponry. But what happens when a man’s newest invention is co-opted for war? 

Lamar University’s Department of Theatre and Dance will present “Landscape with Weapon,” Feb. 1-4 in the Studio Theatre.

The main character, Ned (Joseph Lyle Tyler), is an engineering designer who’s been studying starlings, and applies their anatomy into drones. This piques the interest of the government to use the technology as a military weapon. 

“It's a struggle between, ‘How do you create something incredible and not have it become contaminated (or) become a weapon of mass destruction?’” director Amelia Fischer said.

“It’s twisty, witty, and we’ve got some humor in there. But it's also tackling these big fun questions about what we owe to each other as humans, and how we get ahead in our careers and build these amazing things at the cutting edge of technology.”

Fischer said the play is set in London in 2020, and she and senior designer Lee Barker used sleek textures to capture the time.

“(We) were talking about how we could take an industrial loft-type apartment and extrapolate it to be sort of living in Ned's mind,” she said. “So, the map on the floor is like a LiDAR imaging, which is a heat sensor map of the ground. It could be used for drone targeting or any of those aerial maps. There's a back wall that will have an exposed brick and big factory window for his apartment. Hopefully, (the audience) leaves the theater really getting to engage with it.”

Theatre department chair Joel Grothe plays Brooks, who works for the British version of the CIA.

“He comes in in the second half of the play when they're trying to negotiate with the main character and get him to sign this contract,” he said.

The play involves physical altercations between Ned and his brother, Dan, played by LU alum Orlando Arriaga. Grothe is the fight captain, who works closely with fight choreographer, Alan Brincks. 

“I watch and make sure in rehearsal and in performance that everything's safe, because Alan won't be here for all that stuff,” he said. “I think it's been going great. I mean, Alan, and I've worked together for a long time, and he's been training a lot with the Society of American Fight Directors. His choreography is really advancing, he’s doing really great work. Once (the audience) sees it in the context, it'll be much more exciting.”

Fischer is a guest director, and the cast comprises professional actors with links to LU and Southeast Texas. Grothe said the production is part of the university’s centennial celebration.

As part of the centennial celebration, as well as bringing back professional actors, the department will honor three local theater supporters — Andy Coughlan, Jerry McMillan and Andonia Placette.

“Andonia Placette was the theater director here for about 30 years, so she is really responsible for the program being here and thriving the way that it is,” Grothe said. “When she retired about 15 years ago, the university really didn't do anything for her. I think it's time that we honor her and make sure that people have a chance to pay tribute to her.

“Jerry McMillan runs the community theater, Beaumont Community Players. He's not the founder of it, but he's worked there a long, long time, and without their support, and the back-and-forth support between these two organizations, neither of us would be successful. 

“Andy Coughlan has been a friend of mine for 15 years. That's not the reason he was chosen, but he has been reviewing plays here since before my time. And he has not missed a play in almost 30 years. That's a lot of publicity, and a lot of time and energy over the years.

Grothe said the centennial is a nice time to reflect and sort of look at what the department has accomplished.

The theatre department is also giving alumni the opportunity to purchase named seats in the theatre. 

“These are some ideas I've had, and I've worked in other theaters where we've seen sales before,” Grothe said. “But there are a lot of alumni who are out there doing stuff who don't have a real strong relationship to this program, because they've been gone for a long time, or they don't know. There were some faculty who were here for a long time who've retired, and so we want an opportunity for those people to come back to know that they're welcome.

“And to know that there's a real legacy in terms of the years that they invested in this building.”  

“Landscape with Weapon” will open Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. Remaining showtimes are Feb. 2-3 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee performance Feb. 4 at 2. For tickets, visit

To buy a seat, email

Category: Features