Playwright George Herman's best-known play, "A Company of Wayward Saints," has been in print since it was first published 50 years ago.

The slapstick comedy will open July 11 at Armstrong Atlantic State University as part of the Masquers Summer Theatre program. Guest artist Eric Kildow is directing.

"It's about an itinerant theater company, a traveling theater company, that has been touring about," Kildow says. "They've sort of lost their way.

"They're trying to get money and the support they need to get home," he says. "They put on a show about the history of man and discover things about themselves and life."

Currently the drama chair of the Coastal Carolina Community College in Jacksonville, N.C., Kildow has some local connections. He has taught at AASU previously, where he presented a lecture in the Robert I. Strozier Lecture Series.

In Savannah, Kildow performed with the Savannah Actors' Theatre/Cardinal Rep, the Little Theatre of Savannah and the Savannah College of Art and Design Department of Performing Arts.

He also spoke in the Coastal Heritage Society's Revolutionary War Lecture Series.

In "A Company of Wayward Saints," Kildow is directing a cast of nine. "Every show has its challenges," he says. "Commedia dell'arte is a very specific physical style that not a lot of actors do anymore. We are doing some remedial training."

A 16th century Italian art form, commedia is a genre of comedy that was performed by traveling artisan theater troupes.

Commedia features improvisation, physical action and common storylines and is performed by stock characters, including the Harlequin, who wear distorted masks and costumes.

"The traditions of the commedia are so vital that it should really be no surprise that they are still with us centuries after they first developed," Kildow says.

"George Herman's work takes those ancient traditions and helps a new generation of artists and audience find meaning and significance in them."

"A Company of Wayward Saints" is about a traveling commedia dell'arte troupe, Le Compagnie de Santi Ostinati. They want to go home, but lack the funding.

To raise money, they put on a show for a nobleman. They decide to present the history of man through Everyman in birth, adolescence, marriage and death.

The Harlequin serves as the master of ceremonies with the help of Scapino, his apprentice.

Other characters include Harlequin's wife, Columbine, as well as Pantalone, Ruffiana, Dottore and Capitano.

There also is a pair of young lovers, Isabella and Tristano. The actors have personal differences and are threatening to break up the troupe in the first act.

By the second act, everything has changed. Will the troupe - and art itself - prevail?

The play is so funny, the audience may not care.

"Humor of course is in the eye of the beholder, a subjective thing," Kildow says.

"It's a good show that you don't commonly see," he says. "I think it's definitely worth a check-out."


What: Armstrong Masquers Summer Theatre presents "A Company of Wayward Saints"

When: 7:30 p.m. July 11, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20; 3 p.m. July 14 and 21

Where: Armstrong Atlantic State University's Jenkins Hall Theater, 11935 Abercorn St.

Cost: $10

Info: 912-344-2801,