Theatre – Post Harvey Update

Between difficult subject-matter-experts at my day job, Hurricane Harvey, and having to redesign my online Film Appreciation class multiple times around the delayed start of the Fall semester, I’ve been very busy and not a little stressed.

But the good news is that this is a busy autumn season for me theatre-wise.  While some theaters were adversely affected by Harvey, causing delays or cancellations, some of the mid-sized theaters are very busy. I’ve tried very hard to make time to support the theaters that are still producing by attending a variety of different offerings. This is a great season for edgy new plays like Ayed Akhtar’s Disgraced at 4th Wall Theatre Company, Wallace Shawn’s  Evening at the Talk House at Catastrophic, and entertaining additions to established franchises like The Ensemble’s Sassy Mamas by Celeste Bedford Walker. But it is an even better season for some wonderful and often over-looked classics like Maxim Gorky’s Enemies at Main Street Theater, George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession at Classical Theatre Company and its upcoming production of An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen.

Last weekend, we launched the eight-month development process on the 2017 winner of the Queensbury Theatre Playwrighting Contest. My cast and I met to do table work and hold an initial public reading of the most recent revision of Gwen Flager’s The Girls Who Sing in the Choir. Gwen and I will meet in consultation over the next few months as she does additional rewrites. Then in February, Queensbury hosts a staged reading of the play. After additional workshops, revision, and rehearsal, the play will receive a full production in the summer of 2018. It is an exciting inaugural project and I hope that Queensbury will commit to making this an annual event.

I’m confident that MST’s production of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley will bridge the gap between the lovers of classic literature and edgy new playwrights.  It should prove a welcome holiday alternative to the usual Dickens fare and The Nutcracker.

I am directing this homage to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice characters, as reinvented by playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon. Named the Most-Produced Playwright of 2016, Gunderson also wrote Silent Sky and The Revolutionists, which were featured in recent seasons at Main Street Theater.

Our first read-through of the play, held last night, was a “Part of the Art” offering to our loyal MST subscribers and longtime supporters.  People on the MST list serve were invited to experience this sneak preview of the play in its purest form.  Folks attending last night’s table read will be able to compare their impressions to the actual production later and more completely appreciate the journey a play makes before it is fully realized.

Joining the audience and myself were my Stage Manager, Lauren Evans; Assistant Director, Joanna Hubbard; Costume Designer, Deborah Anderson; and the cast: Chaney Moore, Brock Hatton, Spencer Plachy, Laura Kaldis, Heidi Hinkel, Blake Weir, Skylar Sinclair, and Lindsay Ehrhardt.

I like to think that one of my strengths as an actress-turned-director is putting together a dynamic and talented cast. That was reaffirmed by last night’s gathering. While the cast has had their scripts and my research notes for several weeks, most of them have been working hard doing other shows. Nevertheless, the reading showed preparation and thought and was as close to production level as I’ve experienced with any cast in recent memory.  It will only grow and deepen over the next three weeks as we learn to work together and create art.

For me, this is a moment filled with excitement and anticipation, fully appreciating the adventure and the possibilities before us, and not yet overwhelmed by the physical and design demands of the show.

I hope you will join us for the adventure.

Miss Bennet will run at Main Street Theater November 11 through December 17, 2017.  For information, visit www.mainstreetheater.com or call the box office at 713-524-6706.

Claire Hart-Palumbo

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