Ron Wels: Science Teacher and Playwright
NEW ULM – Time travel is impossible…, right? But what might happen if an ingenious teenage boy built a working time machine in his bedroom closet?
Tension mounts, as the boy’s grandpa and grandma find a way to get back to the old days, his friends see their neighborhood in a whole different way, and meet new-old friends.
The MVL Drama Club presents an original production, “There’s No Time Like the Present,” written by MVL teacher Ron Wels. Performances are Saturday, May 4, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sunday, May 5, at 1:30 p.m.
Science fiction meets comedy as the play explores how careful a time-traveler needs to be to avoid causing major changes to the “time continuum.” The main character, a teen-aged boy named Ben, invents a time machine and, with his sisters and friends, ends up changing reality.
Attempts to fix it end up making things worse. Ben’s grandparents are transported to Seattle during the World Trade Fair of 1962, and decide they like it and want to stay. The “time custodians” show up and attempt to catch up with the teens, but keep missing them. At one point, the kids end up in their own neighborhood, but back in 1900, and interact with the inhabitants. Further complications result, messing up the calendar and the days of the week. In the end, it all does get fixed, but not in a way you’d expect!
This is not the first, or only, play written by Wels. A science teacher with a love for science fiction that explains his frequent choice of sci-fi topics, Wels first copyrighted “Maurice Meets New Friends,” a children’s theater one-act, in 1992. Since then, he has also authored the one-acts “Name Your Price” (2003), “Blind Ambition” (2004), “The Attic” (2005), “Droid” (2005); “Listen to Him” (2008), “Meaningless” (2010), “Just Saying” (2011), “It’s All Good” (2011) and “Angels Parables (2012). He also wrote another three-act play, “Area 52” (2012).
Wels notes that, while perhaps half of his plays reflect his love for science fiction, in general, “you write what you know about.” His plays may be about treasures you find in the attic, or butterflies, or robots; or grow out of the bedtime stories he used to tell his now-grown children.
Wels, who has taught at MVL for many years, did some of the writing in his previous position teaching in Illinois; but his plays were all produced at MVL.
He currently co-directs the plays with art teacher Jason Jaspersen, and notes that the two have a compatible, complementary vision.
While writing “Area 52,” Wels also got a creative boost from, and briefly collaborated on the text with, his son.
The student-actors have been an integral part of the creative process, adds Wels. The script has sometimes changed to reflect their ideas and enthusiasm, or an added dimension. “There’s No Time Like the Present” is a case in point; originally written for a cast of 13, it was expanded to accommodate 24, as Wels further developed some of his latent ideas.
Generally, Wels does not plan ahead his plays. He starts with the basic framework of an idea, and “it just flows from there.”
“My wife says I’m the happiest when writing,” says Wels. Her reaction to his plays is an “ego boost,” he notes.
Why does he write?
“I believe that God created everyone to be creative,” says Wels. “We express this creativity in different ways. … I get a joy out of writing.”
The purpose of a production, he sometimes tells the student-actors, is to have a good time (“because when we do, the audience will; the two are closely tied”); and “to honor God with our abilities.”