Springfield Contemporary Theatre at SCT Center Stage in Wilhoit Plaza, corner of Robberson and Pershing downtown, opens their 23rd season tonight (Friday May 26) with the ultimate celebration of 1960s female empowerment: "BEEHIVE--The '60's Musical." Director Josh Inman came in this morning to discuss the show on KSMU "Arts News," and with him as SCT's Co-Artistic Director Rick Dines (more on that change in Dines' job title below), who provided a detailed rundown of the new season.
Director/choreographer Josh Inman simply says, "It's so fun." There are over forty songs from the 1960s in the show. "We just take you on a trip--all the girl-group stuff is in there. We go through the British Invasion, we go into Dusty (Springfield) and Janis (Joplin) and Tina (Turner) and Aretha (Franklin). Everything you want from the '60s is there. It's great." Beehive nostalgically recalls the days of miniskirts, transistor radios and flower power. Told from the perspective of six young women who came of age in that enigmatic decade, these young ladies look back on a host of issues ranging from their first Beehive Dance to the challenges we faced as a nation – all accomplished by a vast array of the most celebrated and memorable songs of the era, such as “My Boyfriend’s Back”, “Be My Baby”, “Son of a Preacher Man”, and “Me and Bobby McGee”. One of the cast members, Emily Howard, serves as a sort of narrator. "It's a revue," says Josh Inman, "but there is a loose storyline that follows it through."
When I, as a 60-year-old, remind Dines and Inman that neither of them, unlike yours truly, is actually old enough to have experienced the '60s, Dines agreed but adds, "But to a degree, and I think the show reflects that, the country kind of came of age in the 1960s, and so I think it definitely shows that, because for the most part it takes the (music) chronologically through that decade." In fact it takes in the entire decade, 1960 through 1969. Josh Inman says, "We start when the girls are young, and the music reflects that. And then as we go through we see what happened to our country during the '60s -- you see how that affects the girls, not only in the music but in their lives." Alex Huff is musical director for "Beehive," which will be performed May 26 through June 11, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm.
Directed and choreographed by Josh Inmon, with musical direction by Alex Huff, "Beehive" will be performed May 26 through June 11, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:00pm.
As I said above, "Beehive" is the opening show in SCT's 2017-18 season. Rick Dines admits this is actually an early start to the new season. "Usually it's the first week of June. This year we backed it up a week because of the way the calendar fell. Unlike the other theaters in town, we produce 12 months out of the year. But we have probably the most ambitious season we've ever produced, coming up this year." Ambitious, because SCT will mount 14 productions over the next 12 months. Once of them is revival of last year's holiday show "Santaland Diaries," and this year's Solo Play Festival will feature four shows instead of three. "So it kicked the number up to 14, which equates with the staff not sleeping!" jokes Dines.
"Beehive" will be followed in July by Dario Fo's early-1970s Italian comedy "Accidental Death of an Anarchist." No, the title doesn't exactly sound like a comedy, but Rick Dines assures us that it's "outrageously hilarious." Based on actual events, it describes the suspicious death of a railway worker, an anarchist, after being brought to the police station for questioning after a bombing. The man fell, jumped or was pushed (!) from a third story window at the station and died. A friend of his, known as "The Maniac," assumes a variety of disguises (including a magistrate) in order to get to the bottom of what actually happened. "It's an outrageous political satire of police corruption, and it's really just delightfully funny, very steeped in 'commedia (dell'arte)' but at the same time very much set in the '70s," says Rick Dines. Gretchen Teague will direct, and Dines' new Co-Artistic Director at SCT, Nathan Shelton, stars as The Maniac. (The company took on a co-artistic director because Dines has a heavy travel schedule this season, he says.)
In August, Dr. Robert Bradley will direct a recent play by up-and-coming writer Taylor Mac, called "Hir," which is a gender-neutral possessive pronoun that combines "his" and "her" to refer to transgender individuals. (As you hear on the recording of today's program, Dines didn't have the information directly in front of him and felt uncomfortable trying to tackle the "English-professor" definition of "hir"--this description comes from SCT's website!) The play deals with a young man returning from active military duty overseas to a family in turmoil: his father has suffered a stroke; his mother has, says Dines, "trumped the patriarchy" and taken over the household--and may be over-medicating her husband "into a catatonic state." And the play's title derives from the young man's teenage sister, who has come out as transgender and now identifies as male. In other words, she's now his "brother." Needless to say, any PTSD the young man may have suffered as a result of military combat is only magnified by his family! And yes, this too is comedy, says Rick Dines. "It's one of the most outrageously-written plays I have ever read. It's brilliantly written, it's a very subversive, interesting new play."
The September SCT offering will be a co-production with Resident Artist Ensemble of David Lindsay-Abaire's "Good People." Dines considers it Lindsay-Abaire's best play. It's the story of Margie, a down-on-her-luck 50-something woman in south Boston who re-acquaints herself with her old high-school sweetheart, now a successful doctor... and might be Margie's ticket to a better life. "It's a really poignant, delightful play about what a lot of people are struggling with in the country," says Rick Dines.
In October, Nathan Shelton will direct, and Josh Inman will choreograph, SCT's third mounting of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"--their first production of the show in seven years, and their first in the intimate Wilhoit Plaza Center Stage. 'Nuff said!
MSU Theatre and Dance alum Jack Laufer returns from Los Angeles in November, not to act but to direct Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer-winning "Driving Miss Daisy." As already mentioned, Nathan Shelton will again portray Crumpet, playwright David Sedaris's elfin alter ego, in the revival of Sedaris's "The Santaland Diaries" for the holidays.
The third annual Springfield Contemporary Theatre Solo Play Festival opens 2018 in January with four one-person shows--all dealing, according to Rick Dines, with "the perseverance of women." Annie Meek-Montgomery returns from New York to perform "Walking Toward America," Sandy Asher's adaptation of the dramatic memoirs of longtime Springfield resident Ilge Vise, who at age 10 left her native Latvia with her family to escape the Russian occupation of 1945. "I'll Eat You Last" depicts the real-life Hollywood "power agent" Sue Mengers, dishing and gossiping outrageously about showbiz legends such as Barbra Streisand, Faye Dunaway, Burt Reynolds, Cher... all of whom were one-time clients of Mengers until the studios got tired of dealing with her obnoxious, pushy behavior. "Grounded" tells the fictional story of an ace female fighter pilot who is grounded by the Air Force following an unexpected pregnancy. And the fourth solo "play" is actually a dance piece by MSU Theatre and Dance professor Ruth Barnes. She created "Here, There and Everywhere" in collaboration with various other dance artists she worked with at Edinburgh, Scotland's 2013 Fringe Festival.
At this point, Rick Dines assures me and our listeners, "We're in the home stretch"--only three more productions to promote! But having said that, he admits that he's coming to "the biggest thing of the season, the show that Josh (Inman) and I are tackling... and that I'm still wrapping my brain around HOW we're tackling! But I'm very excited about it." It's for February 2018: the first local production of the Tony-winning musical "Ragtime." "It's such an epic, lovely, amazing story, with gorgeous music," says Dines. It's also usually a very big show designed for big theater companies performing in big venues. "But more and more we're starting to see, regionally and internationally, some productions that really are pulling it into smaller venues and really focusing the story. It kind of inspired me that it's something we need to look at. And it's, unfortunately, extremely topical! A playing dealing with immigrants and police brutality, racial issues, labor unions and workers' rights--all these things that were turn-of-the-century issues from the beginning of the 20th century, that are coming full swing again."
In late March/early April 2018, SCT will produce what Dines calls "another wonderful new play that played in New York about two years ago, called "The Christians," by another strong, up-and-coming playwright, Lucas Hnath." It's about the pastor of a huge "megachurch" who has a sudden revelation that his church needs to seriously reconsider various facets of the dogma and beliefs that have defined the church. "It creates a rift and a schism amongst his congregation. And it's a really beautifully written, honest play about that situation, that's... not uncommon." In fact, Dines' director for this production, Terry Bloodworth, sent him a news article from December 2016 about a church in Georgia undergoing an almost identical crisis of faith and identity. Dines describes the play as "highly stylistic. The whole play is done in the style of a church service--so that even private scenes of dialogue [such as a conversation in bed between the minister and his wife] are presented in a 'public' forum."
SCT will close the 2017-18 season in April and May with a new adaptation of a certified classic: Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People." Again, says Dines, this 150-year-old play turns out to be highly topical and "bitingly relevant. It's about a town in water crisis; scientific denial vs. commerce; and whistle-blowing. It's a beautiful new adaptation by English playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz."
In addition to tickets for the current production of "Beehive," Springfield Contemporary Theatre offers season "Flex Passes" of either five or ten shows of the purchaser's choice.
To find out more, visit www.springfieldcontemporarytheatre.org or call the box office at 831-8001.