Inspired by Charlie Chaplin and the legends of pre-talky films, “Silent Laughter” is the culminating M.F.A. project for graduate students Fred Liebfried of Anson, Maine, director, and Tiffany Lent of Henderson, Nevada, costume designer. It features Brian Muldoon of Sioux Falls, S.D. as the hero, Billy, and Billy’s Pal, played by Tim Huggenberger of Sioux City, Iowa, as two men who are down on their luck until they meet Ruth, played by Emily Dorsett of Sioux City. For Billy, it’s love at first sight as Ruth provides a job for both Billy and Billy’s Pal at her father’s factory, Thickwad’s Screw Factory. It’s at the factory where Billy develops an idea to increase productivity but Lionel Drippinwithit, played by Steve Schaeffer of Sioux Falls, has other ideas. Determined to steal both Billy’s idea and his love, Lionel pushes his way into Ruth’s life and the audience is left wondering if Billy can save the woman he loves.

Student designers for the production include Lucas Granholm of Morris, Minn. (lighting); Gabe Gomez of Fargo, N.D. (projections); and Jenna Manley of Grand Island, Neb. (scenic design). Anthony Pellecchia, assistant professor of theatre, is sound designer. Similar to 1920s silent films, “Silent Laughter” includes pantomimed action and physical humor, and the action unfolds with title cards projected over the actors’ heads. Live organ accompaniment provided by graduate student Chris Larson of Vermillion includes music common to silent film classics and his own compositions.

Performances of “Silent Laughter” are at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 20-23, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Feb. 24. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for senior citizens (62+), $10 for K-12 and non-USD students and $5 for USD students with ID. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling (605) 677-5400 between noon and 5 p.m. starting Feb. 13.

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