POSTED ON JULY 24, 2013:
Founding Fathers Ride Again
Fireworks may be over, but patriotism is still around
One of the stupidest things a director can do in theater -- especially community theater -- is decided to direct a show with a ton of men in it. It's incredibly risky to do try 1776, since it is written for a cast of 21 men.
See, men are hard to come by in community theater, which explains why you don't often see shows with an overload of men in their casts.
"God looks out for fools and babies and directors who try to direct shows they have no business doing," said director Angie Dale, who helms Boston Avenue United Methodist Church's (31st annual) summer production of the musical story of the founding of our country.
COURTESY/ RAY EARLEY
While it took a leap of faith to choose this show for BAUMC's annual musical, truth be told, it's just a show Dale liked.
"I chose it in conjunction with the committee that oversees the productions at Boston Avenue," she said. "But candidly, this is one that had been on my radar screen for 15-20 years, but I hadn't found a theater group foolhardy enough to let me try it."
Since there was a committee, and it wasn't just Dale deciding what theatrical pool the church would be dipping its toes into this year, she had some work to do.
"I went to the committee with all kinds of false bravado and said, 'If you let me do this, I guarantee we'll have a room full of men at the auditions,'" she said. "And they bought it. I went home and said to my husband, 'I hope I didn't lie to those sweet people.'"
After that, she just had to beat the bushes. Since the BAUMC summer shows are cast from the membership of the church, Dale had only one place she needed to look while trying to find men to audition.
"I went to everybody I could think of, everybody who I knew had ever sung onstage, everybody that owed me money," she said. "Some people would walk the other way when they saw me, but some listened. I think there were only two or three who left the church and joined First Baptist to get away from me."
No matter how she did it, she got the show cast (she even had extra men, allowing for one actor to replace another when a health situation developed). And now, it's time for the show.
For those unfamiliar with it, 1776 tells the stories of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the rest of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. And while that might not sound like the most exciting evening you've ever thought of, Dale is quick to point something out about the show.
"People think of it as a giant, civics-lesson bore," she said. "It's in no way that. The way the authors wrote the show is just so much fun. These people are so human. Benjamin Franklin is such a lech, and Thomas Jefferson can't focus on anything but getting home to his wife. It's astonishing that they stumbled into creating a country when they were focused on their own foibles."
One of the cast members who has participated in BAUMC's summer theater program for some time is Ben Pascoe.
"This will be my seventh show," he said. "We have a lot of people who come back time and time again. We have one family who, I think, this is their 10th or 11th year."
To get that many people to return every summer, there must be something positive for the actors to take away from the experience. And there is.
"It's just fun, and it's the community of people around it," Pascoe continued. "We have people who come in and out, but it it's just fun working on something together, and then it gives the church and the community something to unite about and get excited about. And a lot of people love it, and that's one of the things church is supposed to do is make people happy."
One novel approach this production has taken is along gender lines -- Dale said the production staff is all women, though out of necessity.
"We chose a female conductor for the show, and a female stage manager," she said. "We made it a total chick team so every available male could be in the show. It's actually been a lot of fun."
And the main difference between having men on the production team as opposed to exclusively women?
"There are a lot of cookies at production team meetings," Dale said.
This show marks just another notch on Dale's director's chair, as she's been doing this for a while.
"I have directed for Theatre Tulsa, Heller, Cascia Hall," she said. "I've been directing since moments after the earth's crust cooled. I really enjoy it. I like performing, as well, but I really like starting with that box of scripts that comes from the licensing house, and then you work and work and work, and suddenly, there's a show that started out as a collection of pages in your hand. It's magic."
One thing she likes most about this show is its uniting nature.
"There's so much stuff on which we can't agree," Dale said. "But this story -- this is one of the few things we can agree on. This is one of the few things that unites us. It's a couple of hours of unity, which we don't get much anymore."
Boston Avenue United Methodist Church's production of 1776 opened Friday, July 19. Subsequent shows are July 28 at 2pm and July 25-26 at 7pm. Tickets are $10 and can be reserved by phone at 918-699-0138.
Old Crow Confessions
This is one of the more fascinating nights in Tulsa theater. The Nightingale at 1416 E. 4th St. puts on this show once in a blue moon, and it's always awesome.
Well, I call it a show, but that might be a bit of a liberal usage of the word.
The premise is simple: there's a stage with a stool on it. You get up there, take a shot, and tell a story you've never heard before. That's it. Sometimes, it's hysterical. Sometimes, it's horrifying. What it never is, though, is dull. Even when people get up to tell stories that are clearly lies and designed for audience approval, it's still not dull, as the audience can smell when you're lying, and they let you know about it.
This night is often referred to as an AA meeting with booze, and that may be all you need to know about it. It's a great night. July 27 at 10pm. Tickets are $5 at the door.
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Vidya Subramanian has literally danced all over the world. For the Sanskriti School of Dance's SummerStage production of Moksha, she will dance for one night only in the John H. Wiliams Theater. An evening of Bharatanatyam dance, Moksha will feature Subramanian's trademark strong choreography, which she will perform alongside some of her Sanskriti School of Dance pupils. Expect an exciting evening.
Moksha comes on the heels of Priya Raju's Dhadkan, which played two weeks ago to sold-out audiences, and Subramanian and company can expect a similar reception, so you'll want to get your tickets early.
July 27 at 7pm in the John H. Williams Theater.
Tinkerbell's Greatest Hits
Theatre Pops is always doing something fun and interesting, especially during SummerStage. As much as staple of the Tulsa theater scene as an annual production of something Dickensian at Christmastime, the Tinkerbell is Dead series that TP mounts from time to time is always an audience favorite. This year, the company pulls bits and pieces from past shows to create a new, greatest-hits show, with monologues by writers as wildly divergent as William Shakespeare and Christopher Durang.
July 26 at 8pm in the Charles E. Norman Theatre.
The Oklahoma Community Theatre Alliance adds something new to SummerStage this year in this conference devoted to helping community theaters continue to evolve in order to keep up with changing technology and audiences. It's also an excuse to hang out with fellow theater people without having to worry about learning lines for once.
There will be a workshop on social media, as well as several sessions related to grant-writing, the lifeblood of most community theaters. Theatre Tulsa will also perform excerpts from its SummerStage offering, Children's Letters to God.
July 26 in the Liddy Doenges Theater at 2pm, Heather Mansfirled will speak about social media. Registration for Saturday's activities starts at 8am. Workshops begin at 9am, an awards luncheon will start at 11:45am in the Norman, and Joshua Lunsford and Meleia Williamson will speak at 1pm about obtaining Oklahoma Arts Council grants.
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