Tulsan has brought home an international acting award. Really!
Broken Arrow Community Playhouse took its production of The Gin Game to the Festival International de Theatre de Mont-Laurier, Quebec, Canada in early September. In addition to being the only theater company from the U.S. invited to attend, actor Tom Berneson received a Best Actor nomination, and Karyn Lee Maio received the festival's Best Actress award.
Other awards went to companies from Italy, France, and Canada.
If this isn't evidence that there's a shin-kicking theater scene in Tulsa, I don't know what is.
The Screwtape Letters
C.S. Lewis is arguably the foremost Christian apologist of the 20th century. He is probably best known for his series of (purportedly) children's books published as The Chronicles of Narnia. However, many Christians look to his Mere Christianity as a seminal work.
His other big hit was The Screwtape Letters, published in the 1940s. It's a collection of letters between a demon named Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter charged with securing the damnation of a human only referred to as The Patient -- a satirical work that takes on theology, sex, war, and a whole mess of things pertaining to eternal damnation or salvation.
Actor Max McLean has put together a stage adaptation of the book, and not only has it been hugely successful, it's coming to Tulsa.
"I was doing another show and this theater professor saw my work and said, a couple of weeks later, how much he appreciated the work and suggested that I would make a really good Screwtape," McLean said. "Not sure if that's a compliment."
He was intrigued, though, and got to work.
"I'd read the book, and it had a huge effect on me, but I'd never thought of it as a theatrical experience."
However, once the professor related an idea about how to do it, McLean worked on obtaining the rights from the Lewis estate.
Screwtape's first incarnation as a workshopped play was not all that successful, McLean said. After some tinkering, it opened off-off-Broadway in 2006, where it was slated for a three-week run. It ended up running eleven weeks, only closing because the theatre had another production coming in. They literally did the show until they had to leave.
Now, the two-person show comes to the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center. McLean used to play the lead role, but now serves only as producer.
"I've given it over to Brent Harris, who just finished playing Scar in Lion King, which is the Screwtape of that story," he said.
Harris laughed at that description, but he didn't dispute it. Very much.
"I play a lot of villains, a lot of bad guys, and there is a similarity from one to the other," he said. "But I try not to do just a standard bad guy when I'm approaching a role. I try to figure out what's unique about the character."
And he pointed out some similarities and some more obvious differences.
"Both Screwtape and Scar think a lot of themselves," Harris said. "They're very self-involved and think they deserve a great deal. It's interesting to think about the parallels, but I really try to be in the play that I'm doing, rather than just do a repeat of Scar. The costumes are different, and the plays are different -- when you're Scar, you're onstage for five minutes, then you're in the dressing room for half an hour. With this play, you're on for 90 minutes."
A huge difference -- huger than, say, the difference between playing a talking lion and a teaching demon -- between the roles also comes into play with the travel schedule.
"We go out and do a couple of performances, and then we come home," Harris said. "It's sort of a quick, intense thing. It can be really exhausting, and sometimes, you feel like, was I really there?" That's a big change from a run with The Lion King, where cast and crew sit down in a city for a month at a time or longer.
Harris wasn't incredibly familiar with Screwtape when he auditioned for the role. He's learned that many people are attached to the tome, sending the play, for some into a spiritual dimension," he said. Still:
"For me, my job is to pursue the character," he said. "I'm an actor, and I try to communicate a character on stage, and that's all I have room to do. People have different reactions to it, and I think that's appropriate. Theater is best when it provokes a lot of different reactions. As long as they're not bored or indifferent, I'm okay with whatever they take away from it."
The Screwtape Letters plays for two performances at the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center, 701 S. Main St., on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 4pm and 8pm. Tickets are available online at ScrewtapeonStage.com, and by phone at 918-259-5778.
Easy To Love
This is Dr. Barry Epperley's last season with the Signature Symphony. While the Classics portion of the season kicked off in September, Epperley and company launch the Pops part of the season with Easy to Love, a collection of popular music from a wide variety of composers -- and that's a change from the way they've done this sort of thing in the past.
"The last few years, I've started the season with single composers," Epperley said. "Last year, we did Stephen Sondheim. The year before that, I think we had a Rodgers and Hammerstein night."
Past shows have included Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and others, so it made sense to Epperley to throw it all into one big show.
"This show, we've but together Rodgers and Hammerstein, Rodgers and Hart, Hammerstein and Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and there are a couple more that I'm missing," he said. "It goes back all the way to 1927, and it's a real mixture."
Epperley admitted, though, that there aren't a whole lot of smash hits in his program.
"It's music that everyone will likely know, but it won't be right at the front of the mind all the time," he said. "'With a Song in My Heart' -- nobody knows that song."
Being in Oklahoma and doing a show that has Richard Rodgers in it, though, necessitates at least one hit.
"The ones people will know for sure are 'People Will Say We're in Love' and 'Oklahoma,'" Epperley said. "So it's a mixed bag. I think it's going to be a fun night."
Joined by the Signature Chorale, the Signature Symphony presents Easy to Love Oct. 4-5 at 7:30pm in the VanTrease PACE.
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