On Sunday afternoon I drove north of Indianapolis to Noblesville, Indiana to see “The Producers” at an all-volunteer community theatre called the Belfry. The theatre building is a renovated church that still has its bell. Every time a performance begins, one of the crew rings the bell up in the little tower as the curtain rises on the stage down below. The curtain is covered in hand-painted advertisements for local businesses. The Belfry enjoys strong support from its community in terms of ticket sales, too. Shows there often sell out.
In fact, I overhead someone associated with “The Producers” tell someone else that this past weekend, both the Friday and Saturday night shows were sold out. For Saturday night they had 40 people on the waiting list, with 15 people actually standing in the lobby at ten ‘til eight, still hoping to get in!
“The Producers” is a fun show, with catchy songs and a lot of laughs. And what this particular production lacks in polish it makes up for with heart. There were several technical glitches at the performance I saw, and maybe some missed opportunities in terms of direction. The musical accompaniment is all pre-recorded and sometimes the pacing of it is too slow. However, the word that kept coming to mind as I watched this show was “endearing.”
Here are some of its elements that I especially appreciated:
Yesterday evening I drove north to Eagletown, Indiana to see the opening night of “Lafferty’s Wake” as presented by the all-volunteer Main Street Productions of Westfield, Inc. at the Westfield Playhouse.
The show was written in 1997 by Susan Turlish for the Society Hill Playhouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where it ran for six years (six years!) after opening to a little bit of controversy. For the Westfield Playhouse here in Indiana it was directed and produced by Doug Davis. His friend, Jan, told me at intermission that Doug performed the role of the priest/stand-up comic in Clinton County Civic Theatre’s production of the show in Frankfort, Indiana, a couple years ago. I wish I could have seen that production, too!
“Lafferty’s Wake” is an odd but fun piece, highly interactive and joyful even though it takes place at a funeral. The funeral takes place in a pub in Ireland. The pub set, designed by John Sampson and Doug Davis, is a “wow.” (More about that in a minute.) As an audience member, you are treated as a character in the show from the minute you walk from the lobby into the house. Before giving you a program, a Rory’s Pub waitress asks if you are “friend or family?” and points you to the guest book. After you sit down, someone else from the village comes up to say hello, too.
Tonight (Sunday night) I went to a staged reading of a new re-write of a play by Lou Harry called “The Pied Piper of Hoboken.” Afterwards I made a little video with the playwright, which you can see above. In the video, Lou talks about the path the play took before it reached this point in the development process.
Tonight was the first time ever for me to hear the play. It is a short (around an hour, I think, even with a brief intermission), goofy piece that incorporates many layers of language and cultural play. There are references to Shakespeare, folklore, tongue twisters, and cheese. There are puns that make you laugh in delight and puns that make you groan. There are also two or three places that yank audience members physically into the action as well. There was a boy sitting next to me, a teenaged girl sitting behind me, and adults all around. All of them laughed more than once, but they also all laughed at different places in the script, which I found fascinating.
Last night I drove to the near north side of Indianapolis to see Footlite Musicals’ production of “My Fair Lady.” It was directed by R. Brian Noffke, produced by Debbie Noffke, and vocal directed by John Sparkman.
Footlite is an all-volunteer community theatre and a member of the Encore Association, so because I was an Encore judge all last year, I wasn’t able to write about any of the shows I saw there last season. It feels good to be writing about a Footlite show again.
It felt even better last night to be seeing a stage production of “My Fair Lady.” Footlite’s production is thoroughly charming.
Nominations for the 2008-2009 Encore Awards are now up on the Encore Association’s website. Eleven all-volunteer community theatres in the Indianapolis, Indiana area have been competing this past season in a wide variety of categories. It has been my pleasure to serve as one of the judges for these awards. I admire every person who gives up huge chunks of his or her free time to put on a show for the enjoyment of their community.
After each Encore show I saw this past year, I filled out a ballot with my suggestions for nominations and mailed it to either the chair of the commitee judging plays or the chair of the committee judging musicals. (I judged both.) However, nominations only happened officially if a certain number of judges all nominated them.
Some time next week I will receive an official ballot. I will consult my notes and vote for what I believe is the best of the official nominations in each category. Then I will mail the ballot to Encore’s certified public accountant. He or she is the only person who will know who the winners are until they are announced publicly at the Encore Awards event on Monday, October 26, 2009.
Parts of my ballot will be crossed out ahead of time. I am not eligible to vote in the following categories:
I had a wonderful time at the Penrod Arts Festival on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art yesterday. I confess that part of what got me there was the thought that I would be able to bring my iPhone along and “tweet” about my day at Penrod as @IndyTheatre on Twitter.com.
Below is the expanded version of my tweets, so that you can see what tweeting is like, if you haven’t already tried it. It’s not for everyone. Please don’t think I’m trying to sell you on Twitter or anything like that.
My father was in town yesterday for less than 24 hours. I picked him up from the airport and we had a leisurely late lunch at the Shapiro’s Restaurant in Carmel. I had my iPhone with me so I read my father the email I had received the previous day from Millicent Wright at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. She had forwarded it from Diane Timmerman at Butler University.
The original email described the show and said:
Subject: Free Performances of London Actor Tim Hardy’s Galileo: Tues Sept 8 & Wed Sept 9
Dear Indy Theatre Friends,
We have one of London’s great actors with us this semester and are pleased to offer his fantastic, new one-man show, Galileo, to the Indy community for free. Watching him play this role is truly a lesson in acting.
Come see this fascinating and funny 75-minute show this coming Tues or Wed at 7pm, chat with Tim afterwards, and walk over with us to the observatory to see Jupiter. How cool is that? It’s going to be a great evening!
“This show was offered last spring,” I told my father, “And I couldn’t get to it. But it sounds interesting, don’t you think?”
My father agreed, and told me about a book he had read recently about Galileo.
I said I would call to make a reservation when we got home. “Oh, wait,” I said. “I have a cell phone now.” (This is still bizarre to me.) “I’ll call from here.”
Last Saturday night I met a friend at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre on the northwest side of Indianapolis to see “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”* It was directed by Douglas E. Stark, with music direction by Terry Woods and choreography by Ron Morgan.
Neither my friend nor I had seen a production of this show before. We both enjoyed it very much. The story is very slight: seven rough-and-rowdy men in the Wild West (1850s Oregon) want to get married, and seven prim-and-proper town girls want to marry them, but everyone needs to overcome a few obstacles first, from bad manners to avalanches. However, even though the plot and characters are bare bones, the music, dancing, costumes, and set (including lighting, sound design, and special effects) are all richly delightful.
And memorable! When I got in my car to go home afterwards, the man at the car next to mine sang “And the women were sobbin’, sobbin’, sobbin!” as he first held the door open for his wife and then skipped around to the driver’s seat.