In the Garden of Evil

One girl’s lie to avoid trouble for dabbling in a voodoo ceremony unleashes a swathe of evil upon the city of Salem.  Under the hysteria of witchcraft, secret hatreds and jealousies are vented through baseless accusations sending innocent victims to the gallows.  Will a farmer burdened by his own secret sin be able to halt the onslaught?  Find out in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible currently playing at the Barn Players.

I have been involved with theatre for nearly 22 years.  I’ve acted, directed, stage managed, worked on crew, run lights and sounds, and reviewed shows.  Having experienced all of these different aspects of theatre has helped me to develop a sixth sense about plays and I’ve usually got a good feel for the quality of a show as I head into it.  As I walked into the theatre for tonight’s production of The Crucible, I had a feeling that this was going to be a pretty good show.  However, I must admit that my sixth sense was wrong.

This show wasn’t “pretty good”.  It was beyond amazing!!  It may very well be the very best drama I’ve ever seen staged.

Few writers could pen a tragedy as well as Arthur Miller due to his understanding of the human condition.  In The Crucible, he presents humanity at its basest and its stupidest.  It’s hard to fathom people being depraved enough to lie about their neighbors in order to steal their property or to satisfy a hidden grudge.  But it’s even harder to realize that supposedly intellectual judges could fail to see through such a farrago of nonsense and deception and forget that justice means innocent until proven guilty and not the other way around.

The Barn Players was fortunate to have David Martin helming this show because his direction was transcendent.  He brought Miller’s story to life in its full glory.  He not only understood the story’s darkness, but he also found the glimmers of hope and humor buried in the tale and brought them to light as well.  His staging was impeccable and made full use of the entire theatre.  You couldn’t punch a hole in the quality of his cast’s acting.  He also did double duty on sound design which was so apropos from the creepy, haunting music heading into the first scene to the relentless drumbeat to close out the show.

This is one of those shows where I’d like to do a write up on every single actor, but, for the sake of brevity, let me assure you that there wasn’t a weak link in the lot.  Each and every one was fully immersed in the story which only brought the audience deeper and deeper into it.  But I want to especially note the work of Charles Christesson who brought intelligence, levity, and heartbreak into the character of Giles Corey; Scott Shaw’s Rev. Samuel Parris, the “man of God” more concerned with power and reputation than faith; and Emma Cook’s portrayal of Mary Warren, a servant stretched to the edge of sanity due to being the rope in a spiritual tug of war between John Proctor and Abigail Williams.

I was particularly impressed with what Michael Juncker dug out of the role of Deputy Governor Danforth.  He plays Danforth as a man of strong, if misguided, character.  He truly believes in the cause of justice and honestly believes he is doing his part to rid Salem of witchcraft.  Yet his appalling cluelessness is sickening as he can’t see through the histrionics of the accusers, puts the letter of the law above its spirit, and claims to be doing the will of God, yet ignores the undisputed expert on witchcraft and true man of faith, John Hale.

Jessica Franz’s take on Elizabeth Proctor is as strong as it is tragic.  Ms Franz well communicates the sickliness of the recovering Elizabeth and ably portrays the duality of warmth and iciness in the character.  Elizabeth wants to love and trust her husband, but has difficulty doing so due to an infidelity on his part.  When her warmth finally wins out, it makes her horror at dooming John Proctor due to a lie she concocts to protect his honor all the more believable and heartrending.

I loved Phil Howard’s take on Rev. John Hale.  Howard’s Hale is a good man.  He is a decent man.  Sadly, when all is said and done, he is also a broken man.  Howard presents Hale as a truly devout man dedicated to God and ending the scourge of witchcraft.  But he is also an intelligent and just man who is dedicated to discovering the truth more than anything.   Howard’s anguish is palpable when he realizes the truth behind the Salem witch trials and tries to mitigate the damage by persuading accused witches to give false confessions which will preserve their lives, but excommunicate them.

Abigail Williams truly is a witch, but not in the magical sense.  In Lauren Hambleton’s capable hands, you will experience one of the greatest villains I have seen on stage.  Ms Hambleton’s Abigail is unspeakably disgusting and diabolically clever.  What begins as a simple lie to avoid punishment for participating in a voodoo ceremony evolves into a cunning plan to rid herself of her perceived rival in Elizabeth Proctor for the love of John Proctor, with whom she had an affair, and a chance to revenge herself on the “hypocrites” (though some truly are) of the town.  Evil just oozes from Ms Hambleton’s pores and I really appeciated the smarts she brought to Abigail who enhances her lies through information she gleans from Rev. Hale’s questions and books.

Andy Penn’s work as John Proctor is a tour de force performance.  Penn brilliantly essays the walking paradox that is Proctor.  He is a good man, but is bowed by the guilt of his infidelity with Abigail Williams.  He believes in God, but hates the hypocrisy of his church.  He is willing to make a false confession to save his life partially because he doesn’t want to have his death be a lie about him being a saint.  Penn provides a clinic in acting as he finds beats within beats within beats as he creates a man you will admire for his strength and pity for his weakness.

Steven Ansel James has prepared a wonderful bare bones set with its extended stage, docks, and chalk drawings of trees, heretical words, and occult symbols.  Chuck Cline’s lights gorgeously animate all of the emotional moments of the show.  Jenny Knecht’s costumes perfectly reflected the Puritan time period.

At one point, Rev. Hale wonders if the devil has come to Salem.  The sad truth is that he did because the people of Salem opened the doors and invited him in by succumbing to their own evil desires.  But even in all the darkness and mayhem, Arthur Miller still manages to show where there is a kernel of faith, hope, and decency, the devil can still be overcome.

This play is storytelling at its zenith.  If you want to see compelling, powerful, thought provoking drama, then you need to buy a ticket and see The Crucible.  It’s the best thing going in theatre this summer.

The Crucible plays at the Barn Players through July 30.  Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $18 ($15 for seniors 65+ & $12 for students with ID and groups of 10 or more).  There will be an Industry Night performance on July 24 at 7:30pm.  All tickets for this performance will be $12 at the door.  For tickets, visit the Barn Players at www.thebarnplayers.org or call 913-432-9100.  The Barn Players is located at 6219 Martway in Mission, KS.

Barn Players to Hold Auditions for ‘Grey Gardens’

Auditions for Grey Gardens at the Barn Players

Music by Scott Frankel

Lyrics by Michael Korie

Book by Doug Wright

Based on the 1975 Documentary Film Grey Gardens, directed by Albert and David Maysles.
Directed by Eric Magnus

Musical Direction by Michelle McIntire

Assistant Direction by Shelly Stewart Banks

AUDITION DATES:

Saturday, June 3rd from 1pm – 4pm

Sunday, June 4th from 6pm – 9pm
at St. Pius School, 55th and Woodson, Mission, KS

EXPECTATION and PREPARATION:

  • Auditions will be an open call both days, and will consist of singing a prepared 32 bar selection of a musical theatre song in the style of the show.
  • Please Provide:  Sheet Music…no CDs & NO ACAPPELLA auditions
  • Headshot/Resume (if available)
  • If you have worked with this Director or Musical Director before, there is no need to come to the open call.  Please email your interest to the director at emagnitude@me.com by Saturday, June 3rd.

Invited Callbacks will be held on Saturday, June 10th from 1:00 – 5:00 pm.  Please be prepared to read scenes and sing songs from the show (sides will be provided). If you are auditioning, please make sure to clear your schedule that afternoon, as callbacks are critical to putting together the strongest ensemble for this ensemble piece. You will be notified by email if you are invited to callbacks.

Rehearsals will begin around June 23rd.  Typical weekly rehearsal schedule will be Sunday through Thursday nights from 7 – 10pm.  Conflicts with the rehearsal schedule must be kept to an absolute minimum during the rehearsal process.  No conflicts will be accepted during dress / tech week (9/10 – 9/14)

PRODUCTION DATES:

September 15 – October 1

Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm & Sundays at 2:00pm

Industry Night Performance Monday, September 25th @ 7:30pm

All performances take place at The Barn Players Theatre, 6219 Martway in Mission, KS

SYNOPSIS:

The hilarious and heartbreaking story of Big Edie and Little Edie Bouvier Beale, the eccentric aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, once bright names on the social register who became East Hampton’s most notorious recluses.

 

Character Descriptions

Edith Bouvier Beale/”Little” Edie Beale 

(female, late 40s – mid 50’s, legit soprano or mezzo-soprano to F-sharp 5, mix/belt to D5.)
One actress plays Edith in Act I and Little Edie in Act II. Edith is the eccentric socialite and amateur opera singer who is living in Grey Gardens with her pet accompanist Gould. In the second act, this actress plays the daughter, Edie, living in squalor with her elderly mother as their former life of privilege crumbles around them. Edie is a complicated figure who is inextricably attached to her mother, but also yearns for the life of a performer.

Edith Bouvier Beale 

(female 70’s, character alto E3-C5)
Big Edie is an eclectic woman who fondly recalls her days of glory entertaining guests at lavish parties in the heyday of Grey Gardens. She should be able to play as late 70s. It is recommended that this actress also be familiar with the documentary film.

Young Little Edie Beale 

(female 20s, mix/belt to D5, soprano to B-flat 6)
Referred to as Body Beautiful Beale and is young, full of life, and can’t decide whether she wants a life of fame or family.  She is to be engaged to Joseph Kennedy, Jr.  Should be a strong mover dancer as well.
George Gould Strong

(male 40s, baritone or tenor, C3-F4)
Edith Bouvier Beale’s accompanist. George is a dapper fellow with pomaded hair and an ascot, a drink and a lit cigarette always nearby. Ability to play the piano a plus.

Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr./ Jerry

(male 20s, tenor, C3-G4)
Joe Kennedy is a fiercely attractive man and Edie’s intended. The role of Jerry in Act Two is a teen slacker in a painter’s cap and an unruly mop or curls. He is friends to both Big Edith and Little Edie and a sort of handy-man/Jack of all trades.

Brooks Sr./Brooks Jr. 

(male 30s – 40s, African American, baritone, C3-E4)
The African-American butler. He is youthful, spry, and discreet. Brooks Jr in Act Two is the dedicated gardener of Grey Gardens, most likely helping and not getting very well paid, but still dedicated to the women that his father worked for and cared about.

J.V. “Major” Bouvier/ Dr. Norman Vincent Peale 

(male 60-70′s, baritone, C3-E4)
Father to Edith Bouvier Beale. He is a lion-like scion of business in his early seventies. Major Bouvier is staunchy disapproving of his daughter’s lifestyle. Peale was a famous Protestant preacher and a believer in the theory of “positive thinking.”

Jacqueline “Jackie” Bouvier

(female 15, juvenile mix belt, C4-E5)
Edith’s playful and earnest young niece.

Lee Bouvier

(female 10-13, juvenile mix belt, C4-E5)
Edith’s playful youngest niece, a tomboy.

‘She Loves Me’ is Up Next for the Barn Players

She Loves Me

  • Music by Jerry Bock
  • Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
  • Book by Joe Masteroff
  • Based on a play by Miklos Laszlo
  • Directed by Kipp Simmons
  • Musical Direction by Paul Morel

APR 21-MAY 7, 2017

FRI & SAT 7:30PM, SUN 2:00PM
plus INDUSTRY NIGHT, MON, MAY 1, 7:30pm

Ticket Prices:  $18 regular, $15 for seniors (65+), $12 for students (with ID) and groups of 10 or more.  Industry Night tickets are $12 at the door.  Visit www.thebarnplayers.org or call 912-432-9100.

Location:  6219 Martway in Mission, KS

Set in a 1930’s European perfumery, we meet shop clerks Amalia and Georg, who more often than not, don’t see eye to eye. After both respond to a “lonely hearts advertisement” in the newspaper, they now live for the love letters they exchange, but the identity of their admirers remains unknown. Discover with Amalia and Georg the identity of their true loves and all the twists and turns along the way!

Cast

  • Amalia Balash – Krista Eyler
  • Georg Nowack – Brian Shortess
  • Ilona Ritter – Jessica Alcorn
  • Steven Kodaly – Steven James
  • Ladislav Sipos – Mark Murphy
  • Arpad Laszlo – Christoph Nevins
  • Mr. Maraczek – Craig Aikman
  • Mr. Keller – Paul Brennan
  • Waiter – Joell Ramsdell
  • Busboy – Matt McGaugh
  • Ensemble
    • Whitney Armstrong
    • Paul Brennan
    • Joell Ramsdell
    • JC Dresslaer
    • Natasha Gibbons
    • David Loethen
    • Kathleen Marx
    • Matt McGaugh
    • Kay Noonan
    • Charlotte Gilman
    • Miles Wirth

Barn Players Bring a Little ‘High Fidelity’ to their Stage

The Barn Players Proudly Present

High Fidelity

Lyrics by Amanda Green
Music by Tom Kitt
Book by David Lindsay-Abaire
Based on the novel by Nick Hornby and the Touchstone Pictures Film

March 3-19, 2017
Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30PM, Sundays at 2:00PM
plus INDUSTRY NIGHT, Monday, March 13, 7:30pm

Directed by Tiffany Garrison-Schweigert
Music Direction by Delano Mendoza

When Brooklyn record store owner Rob finds himself unexpectedly dumped, his life takes a music-filled turn toward the introspective. Based on the popular novel by Nick Hornby, High Fidelity follows Rob as he struggles to discover how his relationship went awry, and strives to change his life in order to win back his sweetheart Laura. With memorable characters and a rock-and-roll score, this homage to music geek culture explores love, heartbreak, and the power of the perfect soundtrack.

Cast

ROB – Austin Stang
DICK – Michael Golliher
BARRY – Jeremy Walterman
LAURA – Brighton Gray
LIZ – Cori Weber
MARIE – Natasha Gibbons
IAN – Chris Zimmerman
ALISON/ANNA – Camille Breckenridge
JACKIE – Emmy Hadley
CHARLIE – Katie Pugh
SARAH – Kristen Altoro
PENNY/BACKUP SINGER – Larissa Briley
T.M.P.M.I.T.W. – Christoph Nevins
MOHAWK GUY/BRUCE – Nate Graybill
NEIL YOUNG – Andy Portwood
SOUND GUY – Mark McNeal Jr.
HIPSTER/ROADIE – Scott Salem
FUTON GUY – Miles Wirth

Tickets cost $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $12 for students (w/ID) and groups of 10 or more.  Industry night tickets are $12 at the door.  To order tickets, visit the Barn Players website at www.thebarnplayers.org or call 913-432-9100.  The Barn Players Community Theatre is located at 6219 Martway in Mission, KS.

Open Auditions at Barn Players

Audition dates set for the Barn production of RUMORS!

Rumors

by Neil Simon
Directed by Bill Pelletier

OPEN CALL AUDITIONS:
Saturday, April 8, 2017 1pm – 5pm &
Sunday, April 9, 2017 1pm – 5pm
(No callback is planned at this time)
At St. Pius School
55th and Woodson, Mission, KS.

SYNOPSIS:
At a large, tastefully appointed Sneden’s Landing (Palisades) townhouse, the Deputy Mayor of New York has just shot himself. Though only a flesh wound, four couples are about to experience a severe attack of farce. Gathering for their tenth wedding anniversary, the host lies bleeding in the other room and his wife is nowhere in sight. His lawyer, Ken, and wife, Chris, must get “the story” straight before the other guests arrive. As the confusion and miscommunication mounts, the evening spins off into classic farcical hilarity.

EXPECTATION and PREPARATION:
Prepare: Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script. Prior to auditions, please read and familiarize yourself with the play and the role/s that interest you.
Bring: Please bring a current resume and headshot. Also bring all known conflicts from April 30 through the June production dates listed below.
Rehearsal: Rehearsals will begin Sunday, April 30 and run Sunday-Thursday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to approximately 10 p.m. Rehearsal will be at St. Pius School until the production moves to the Barn Players stage on Monday, May 8.

Additional Notes: Cast members are required to assist with strike following the final performance on June 18. Cast members may also be asked to assist with costume pieces.

PRODUCTION DATES:
June 2 – 18, 2017
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Monday, June 12 (Industry night performance) at 7:30 p.m.

All performances take place at The Barn Players Theatre, 6219 Martway, Mission, KS

CHARACTER BREAKDOWN
5M – 5F
NOTE : Age ranges listed for characters are suggested ages only. These may be flexible depending on the actors.

KEN GORMAN – (M – 40) A well-to-do lawyer. Wealthy, but by no means pretentious. Takes charge of the situation. Married to Chris. Halfway through the show, a gunshot causes his temporary deafness.

CHRIS GORMAN – (F – mid-30s) Another lawyer, married to Ken. Beautiful, easily flustered. Frantically tries to maintain normalcy at the party. Has recently quit smoking, which drives her to drink a bit more.

LENNY GANZ – (M – Late 30s, early 40s) – A wealthy accountant, distraught over the recent destruction of his new car. Starts the show with an extreme case of whiplash. Intolerant of the gossipy-lifestyle that he is often involved in.

CLAIRE GANZ – (F – Late 30s) – Lenny’s wife. Very concerned with appearances (hers and others’). Likes to gossip.

ERNIE CUSACK – (M – Early 50s – 60s) – A psychiatrist. Affable, loves his wife very much. Tries to be as helpful as possible cooking the evening’s dinner.

COOKIE CUSACK – (F – 40s – 50s) – Has her own cooking show. Suffers from extreme back spasms. Loves her husband very much. A bit absent-minded at times.

GLENN COOPER – (M – 30-40) A handsome man running for State Senate. Worried about his own reputation. Struggles with placating his wife, who is convinced he is having an affair (which he may or may not be).

CASSIE COOPER – (F – late 20s, early 30s) Glenn’s beautiful wife. Obsesses over her husband’s relationships with other women. Quick to anger. Obsessively rubs her quartz crystal to calm herself down.

OFFICER WELCH – (M – 30-50) – A city police officer having a rough night. Does not tolerate lying. Sees through the “classy” façade that these high-society types put on.

OFFICER PUDNEY – (F – 20-40) – Welch’s partner. A strong but silent type.

 

The Crucible
By Arthur Miller

Directed by David Martin
Assistant Direction, Set Design & Sound Design by Steven James
Stage Management by DK Evenson
Lighting Design by Chuck Cline
Costume Design by Jenny Knecht
Props Design by Valerie Martin

AUDITIONS:
Thursday, March 2nd
from 7:00pm – 10:00pm

At St. Pius Church
55th and Woodson, Mission, KS

EXPECTATION and PREPARATION:
Auditions will be an open call and will consist of cold readings from the script. Callbacks are by invitation only on Monday, March 6th from 7:00pm – 10:00pm
Please come to auditions with as close an idea as you can as to your availability for June and July. The rehearsal period will be a fairly standard Sunday-Thursday, 7-10 pm schedule. All efforts will be made to arrange a rehearsal schedule that allows for actors only to be called when needed, but please try to keep conflicts to a minimum. No conflicts will be accepted during the final week of rehearsal.

A NOTE ABOUT DIALECTS
All characters, with the exception of Tituba, are from the New England area and should speak with a more proper Americanized nearly British accent. No character should have a Boston accent, nor should they speak in full on British accents. The best way to think about it would be to think of an American Shakespearean actor aiming for a regionless dialect.

If you have any questions about the process for this show or expectations or to arrange an alternative audition time should those dates not work for you or anything at all, please contact David Martin at dmartin922@gmail.com.

PRODUCTION DATES:
July 14 – 30, 2017

Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 2:00pm

Industry Night is Monday, July 24th at 7:30pm

All performances take place at…
The Barn Players Theatre
6219 Martway in Mission, KS

SYNOPSIS:
The Crucible is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the late 1600’s. It focuses on accusations, trials, hearsay vs. evidence, and character assassination. This production will take those elements and paint a broader picture of persecution over the entire history of witchcraft along with historical moments of those wrongfully accused. Great attempts will be made to bring the audience in as pseudo-jury members for the trials portrayed within the play.

CAST BREAKDOWN (all ages listed refer to playable age and not actual age):

LEAD ROLES

John Proctor:  A local farmer known for his independence and temper. He is married to Elizabeth Proctor who is accused of witchcraft by Abigail Williams, in part because Abigail and John had a brief affair. John is also accused of witchcraft and eventually sentenced to hang. (Male – late 30’s-40’s)

 
Elizabeth Proctor:  A quietly strong frontier wife who is honest to a fault and is accused of witchcraft by Abigail Williams. Married to John, she is spared the death penalty due to the fact she is pregnant. (Female – late 30’s-40’s)

 
Abigail Williams:  Prior to the start of the play, worked as a maid for the Proctors until she was fired by Elizabeth under suspicion of an affair with John. The ringleader of the young girls in terms of creating the witchcraft scare in Salem. Reverend Parris’ niece. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

 
Reverend John Hale:  A young minister from nearby Beverly, MA who is called in due to his knowledge of witchcraft. At first, Hale attempts to carry out the court’s wishes, though he later believes the entire situation to be false and fights for the victims of false accusations. (Male – 30+)

SUPPORTING ROLES

Reverend Samuel Parris:  The minister of Salem. He is obsessed with keeping up his good reputation and assumes that anyone who does not attend church regularly or fails to recognize his piety is someone not to be trusted. (Male – 40’s)

Mary Warren:  Replaced Abigail Williams as maid to the Proctors. She is alternatingly weak and strong when faced with pressure from others. She is a mostly sympathetic character who seems to simply be in over her head. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth:  The chief judge of the court, he is power hungry and believes in wielding his power over any and all who are accused. According to Arthur Miller, he is the true villain of the play for he should know better than to let the trials proceed. (Male – 45+)

Judge John Hathorne:  A judge of the court who essentially believes Abigail against all evidence to the contrary. (Male – 40+)

Giles Corey:  A close friend to the Proctor family, his wife is falsely accused of witchcraft. He is frequently accused of various crimes himself, so he knows the law. He may resemble a town drunk, but he is smart, honest, strong, and outspoken. Must be visibly strong. (Male – late 60’s+)

Tituba:  Slave of the Parris family, Tituba came to Salem from Barbados. She has knowledge of a mystical nature and helps the girls become infatuated with magic. This character will speak in a Barbados dialect. (Female, African American – any age)

Rebecca Nurse:  Well respected and pious, Rebecca is accused of both witchcraft and infanticide by Ann Putnam – Rebecca had worked as a nursemaid for Ann. Married to Francis. (Female – 60+)

Francis Nurse:  Tries incredibly hard to clear his wife’s name and his other friends who have been accused. Married to Rebecca. (Male – 60+)

Ezekiel Cheever:  Clerk of the court responsible for crafting and carrying out warrants for arrest. (Male – any age)

Betty Parris:  The young daughter of Reverend Parris, the play opens with her being ill. This sets off belief that she was caused illness by witchcraft. (Female – 15ish, must look younger than the other girls)

Thomas Putnam:  A rich landowner trying to use accusations of witchcraft to buy up land cheaply from those convicted. (Male – late 30’s-40’s)

Susanna Walcott:  One of the group of girls experimenting with magic. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

Mercy Lewis:  One of the group of girls experimenting with magic. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

Ann Putnam/Sarah Good/Martha Corey (these three roles will be combined):  Ann accuses Rebecca Nurse after seeing seven of her children die shortly after birth. Sarah is essentially accused for being strange. Martha (who we never see) has some questionable books about witchcraft and is eventually sentenced to die. (Female – late 30’s-40’s)

Marshal George Herrick:  A heavy drinker, Marshal Herrick carries out warrants and guards the inmates under arrest. (Male – any age)

NOTE – The Role of Hopkins has been cut.

For more information, please contact Eric Magnus, Artistic Director of
The Barn Players, at emagnitude@me.com

The Barn Players embraces diversity in all aspects of our organization. Non-traditional and equal-opportunity casting is encouraged.

Barn Players are Ready to Get ‘Big’

Kansas City’s acclaimed youth troupe the Barn Players Jr. are pleased to present Broadway musical hit, Big. Based on the memorable Twentieth Century Fox film written by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg, this amusing musical has a book by John Weidman, with music by David Shire, and lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. The Barn Jr. winter production is directed by community theatre veteran Jason Coats, with musical direction by Todd Gregory-Gibbs.

What magic happens on stage? At a local carnival, awkward young Josh Baskin makes a wish to the mechanical Zoltar fortune teller to become Big. To his amazement, his wish is granted. Before he knows it Josh must do “adult” things, including finding a mentor, getting a job and soon a girlfriend. His rite of passage between boy and man and back includes the discovery that there’s more to being an adult than he bargained for. Lesson? We all must grow up at our own speed.

“Our student actors have done a phenomenal job of bringing this work to life,” says director Jason Coats. “It’s a perfect show for them. It explores what growing up really means. It challenges what they think it may be like to be an adult.”

Featured roles in Big are played by: Wes Battey, Anna Berardo, Maria Berardo, Veronica Dervin, Ashley Elliot-Rowe, Sydney Gilman, Paiten Griffith, Alex Leondedis, Phil Licata, Abigail Nottingham, Paige Padgett, Paul Ruf, Claire Segura, Seneca Sims, Margaret Veghlan, and Sam Wise. Ensemble players include: Lucy Alcock, Stella Hughes, Sophia Logan, Ava Moran, Aurelia Power, Jezri Robertson, Sean Ruddy, and Isabelle Simmonds.

WHAT: Big, a Barn Players Jr. Presentation

WHERE: The Barn Players, 6219 Martway, Mission, KS 66202

WHEN: Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30pm, Sunday matinees at 2:00pm. Friday, January 13th through Sunday, January 22nd.

TICKETS: Tickets are $12.00. Buy online at: thebarnplayers.org, via phone at 913.432.9100, or at the box office. Cash / credit cards  are accepted.

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Rest: Liberty, MO & Terrace Avenue Inn

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Terrace Avenue Inn

Give me the open roadway and a set of songs and I’m a happy man.

An author named Mick Foley said something similar in one of his memoirs and it suits my feelings when it comes to travel.  This weekend I traveled to Liberty, MO to stay at the Terrace Avenue Inn AKA Anna Marie’s Teas and Inn, owned and operated by Brenda Hedrick.  I had been invited to return to the K.C. area by the Barn Players of Mission, KS who wanted me to review their amazing production of Kiss of the Spider Woman.

To make the drive a little lighter, I spent the first night at my older brother’s house in Maryville, MO before driving the last 90 minutes to Liberty.  It was a great day for travel as I listened to the Iowa Hawkeyes battle North Dakota State on the radio before I lost the signal and moved over to my tunes.

I arrived in Liberty at nearly 1pm.  This suburb of Kansas City is actually quite a bit bigger than one would expect.  I was met by a myriad of businesses and restaurants upon my arrival.  A restaurant called the Corner Café caught my eye and I decided to pull over for a bit of lunch.

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Corner Cafe

I wish I had a bit more time to linger over lunch, but I had arranged a 2pm check-in time and was slightly pressed.  Still, if you like good, old-fashioned home cooking, then Corner Café is definitely worth a visit.  I dined on a Corner Melt (patty melt with bacon) with a side of fries while reading Ellery Queen’s The Egyptian Cross Mystery.  I will say that while the food is quite tasty, it is all a la carte, so the bill may come to a bit more than you’d expect for food of this type.

From there, I headed to the Terrace Avenue Inn located in one of Liberty’s historic districts.  I was met on the porch by Brenda’s husband, Al.  He led me to the Terrace Suite which was truly a cozy room with a soft king bed, private balcony, and a Jacuzzi.  Al left me to my own devices after a brief orientation of the inn and I brought in my gear and began exploring the house.

The Dutch colonial bungalow was built in 1923 and is remarkably well maintained.  The home boasts 3 rooms (Cottage Nook, Liberty Suite, and Terrace Suite).  The bottom floor consists of the inn’s tea shop along with a small dining room and well apportioned kitchen which guests can use for light cooking.  Being quite a small home, my explorations went quickly.

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The Tea Shop

After giving the house a onceover, I began to walk around the historic district and downtown area of Liberty.  Liberty actually boasts quite a few things to do from wineries to walking tours.  I didn’t do a very thorough exploration, but I did visit the Fairview Cemetery and meandered through the business district before I returned to the inn where I promptly dozed off on my plushy king bed (a result of a burst of insomnia at 4:30am).

I awoke at 5:30pm and had just enough time to make myself presentable for the play.  I had a wonderful shower than drove to Mission, KS to watch the Barn Players work their magic.

From there it was back to the inn to write the review while Quantum Leap played in the background and a sound night of sleep.

I felt truly well rested when I awoke on Sunday morning.  And I was ready for breakfast since I hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before.  Al had a nice repast waiting for me.

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Market spice tea, Devonshire cream, fruit, scones, and a ham and egg dish.

Oh!  You want to know what it was.  Well, he had a pot of Market Spice Tea ready for me.  Now I’m not the biggest tea drinker in the world, but this was truly excellent tea.  A spoonful of granulated honey added just the needed sweetening to it.  There was also a ham and egg dish, fresh fruit, and 2 scones with chunks of chocolate.  A little Devonshire cream on top made for a tasty breakfast dessert.

And from there it was time to write the last few words of this review before returning to Omaha.  But Liberty is a nice little town and the Terrace Avenue Inn will certainly provide a comfortable room, a filling meal, and a lot of tea.

Pretty Powerful Poison

Molina and Valentin are as different as night and day.  Molina is a flamboyant homosexual imprisoned for corrupting a minor.  Valentin is a young revolutionary full of piss and vinegar.  Yet an unlikely friendship grows between them which will be tested by a cruel warden.  And over all of this looms the specter of the Spider Woman in Kiss of the Spider Woman currently playing at the Barn Players.

Turning Manuel Puig’s heavily dramatic novel into a musical is certainly a tall order.  But Terrence McNally’s script combined with the incredible score of John Kander and Fred Ebb and the amazingly talented cast of the production makes for much much more than an effective musical.  It makes for one of the best shows I’ve seen in over 20 years of being involved with theatre.

Eric Magnus doesn’t miss a trick with a masterful piece of direction.  The staging is the strongest I’ve ever seen with Magnus’ cast making full use of Doug Schroeder’s simple and beautiful set of bars and stairs.  Magnus has pulled nearly perfect performances out of his entire cast and decisively navigates the multiple twists and turns of the plot with pinpoint accuracy.

Rarely have I seen a nuanced performance the likes of the one supplied by Joell Ramsdell as Molina.  As Molina, Ramsdell is unabashedly and unashamedly gay.  But his flamboyance covers a desperate loneliness.  All he wants is a friend.  He survives the hell of this prison by escaping into fantasy.  He thinks of his mother.  He fondly recalls the numerous movies he’s seen.  He remembers lavish musical numbers with his favorite actress, Aurora.  But he fears Aurora’s character of the Spider Woman who is Death incarnate and that character he often sees in his daily life.

The depth and range of Ramsdell’s acting is truly astonishing.  Starting off as a coward, he shows small signs of strength as he helps Valentin survive his imprisonment.  A strength that grows as his friendship with Valentin blossoms.  This leads to some of the show’s best scenes as Ramsdell shows the intense agony of a man forced to choose between his friend and his mother before making a choice that shows the meaning of courage.

Ramsdell also has a fabulous tenor which he adapts easily to comedy in “Dressing Them Up” or heart-wrenching drama in “Mama, It’s Me”.

Paul Brennan III matches Ramsdell step for step with his stirring rendering of Valentin.  Valentin is an angry revolutionary who fully believes in his cause and wants nothing to do with his new cellmate at first.  As he slowly accepts Molina’s friendship, Brennan beautifully evolves his character to show him capable of love, humor, and a bit of shocking Machiavellism.  Up until the end of the show, Valentin’s cause and desires still are the most important things in his life and he manipulates Molina’s feelings for him with an act that is both tender and selfish to get him to do what he wants.  But Molina’s choice at the play’s climax finally pushes Valentin to look beyond himself.

Brennan’s tenor will make your insides turn to jelly with a velvet voice that effortlessly knocks emotional pitches out of the park with numbers such as “Marta”, “Anything for Him” and “The Day After That”.

JC Dresslaer gets the show’s most interesting character in the form of Aurora/Spider Woman.  She’s mostly a fictional character in this world whose purpose is to help Molina, later Valentin, maintain sanity in the nightmare world in which they live.  But this allows her to do some brilliant character acting as she portrays Aurora’s various characters.  Most notably a wild rumba number (“Gimme Love”) to close out Act I and a hilarious piece of melodrama complete with over the top Russian accent to open Act II.

But Ms Dresslaer’s character of the Spider Woman haunts the world of the show with a most eerie reality and finality.  Dressed in a simple black dress, the Spider Woman exudes menace and, dare I say, gentleness with every appearance.  Yes, her appearances mean death, but she also wants to show that death is not something to be feared.

Ms Dresslaer’s dancing is so silky smooth, it makes all of her musical numbers showstoppers.  She also has a pitch-perfect alto used to excellent effect in “Come” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman”.

I was extraordinarily impressed with the mileage Emerson Rapp got out of the role of the Warden.  It’s not a big role, but the evil which Rapp imbued into the character made sure the audience was spellbound each time he appeared on stage.  He clearly considers the prisoners animals suitable for torture and murder.  He will do anything and I mean ANYTHING to get what he wants.  Poisonings, beatings, emotional manipulation, bribery. . .it’s all fair game to one of the most insidious characters I’ve seen brought to life on stage.

Paul Secor Morrel and his orchestra deftly handle the varied score with an evening of precise instrumentation.  The costumes of Fran Kapono-Kuzila are well suited to the show from the tattered rags of the prisoners to Molina’s kimono and scarves to Aurora’s numerous costumes for her numbers.  The ensemble cast also stayed in every moment to add crucial life to the story as well as adding strong voices to the chorus.

Musicals often get flak for being shallow on substance, but Kiss of the Spider Woman proves that a musical can be just as challenging and deep as straight theatre if given a chance.  If you love great theatre then you need to go and see this show.  Then you need to tell others to go get a ticket so they can see this show as it deserves a sold out run.

Kiss of the Spider Woman plays at the Barn Players through October 2.  Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sun at 2pm. There will be an Industry Night performance on Sept 26. Tickets cost $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $12 for students (w/ID), and groups of 10 or more.  Industry Night tickets will be $12 at the door.  To order tickets, visit the website at www.thebarnplayers.org or call 913-432-9100.  Due to sensitive thematic material and some strong language, this show is not suitable for children.  The Barn Players is located at 6219 Martway in Mission, KS.

‘Kiss of the Spider Woman’ Coming to Barn Players

Next up at Kansas City’s Barn Players is the remarkable and dazzling musical spectacular Kiss of the Spider Woman, opening Friday, September 16th, playing through Sunday, October 2nd at The Barn Players, 6219 Martway, in Mission, KS.

Kiss of the Spider Woman is the harrowing, glitzy, musical story of persecution in this tale of two cell mates in a Latin American prison that combines reality with fantasies. Molina is a homosexual serving 8 years for deviant behavior and Valentin is a tough revolutionary. To relieve the loneliness and pains of torture Molina shares his fantasies that result in a glittering, musical spectacular about an actress who plays a “Spider Woman” and whose kiss is deadly.

The musical score was written by John Kander; the play at Kansas City’s Barn Players is directed by Eric Magnus and features JC Dressler as “The Spider Woman”, Joel Ramsdell as “Molina”, Paul Brennan as “Valentin” and Paul Emerson, Corey Allen, Joy Richardson, Natasha Gibbons, DeShawn Young, Max Mammele and chorus members JP Helder, Christop Nevins, and James Reves.

Performance dates are: Friday evenings September 16, 23 & 30th at 7:30 p.m. — Saturday evenings September 17, 24 and October 1th at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday Matinees September 19, 25 and October 2nd at 2:00 p.m. The play is rated “R”.

Tickets are $18.00 and are available on the theatre website www.thebarnplayers.org or at the theatre box office the date of the performance – discounts for seniors and students – credit cards accepted.

I’ve Gotta Get Back in Thyme. . .Again

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Friday, July 29:  the day the road took me to my most poignant place.

On this sunny day I began a journey nearly 14 years in the making.  For it was on this day that I headed to Bonner Springs, KS to be a guest at Back in Thyme Bed and Breakfast and to review The Elephant Man for The Barn Players of Mission, KS.

If you’re a first time visitor to this website, The Elephant Man is my favorite play and it played a rather profound moment in my life.  For the full details of that story, click here.  I had long made my peace with the events of that day which is why I was so excited to finally have an opportunity to see the show and come fullish circle.  The timing couldn’t be more appropriate as this article will be posted on the 14th anniversary that I heard the results of that audition.

Bonner Springs is a suburb of Kansas City so it provides a unique blend of small town living with the perks of a nearby major metropolitan area for things to do.  Back in Thyme, owned and operated by Judy Vickers, is a beautiful “new-old” Queen Anne house nestled on a secluded acreage near Nettleton Avenue.

Given the size of the house I was surprised that it only boasted 3 bedrooms for rental.  On the other hand, the limited number of rooms does make it ideal for peace and quiet.  As I climbed the porch steps, I met Brantley and Ashley, fellow guests who were in the area to see a Rascal Flatts concert.  As I reached the top step, I was greeted by Judy, a very hospitable host and a fount of knowledge on fun things to do in the area.

Judy led me to the Bay Laurel Room which would serve as my base of operations.  It’s one of the most comfortable rooms in which I’ve stayed with its soft armchairs, burgundy walls, feather pillows, and a queen bed with a firm mattress.  The room also boasts a fireplace and I mildly wished it were colder so I could get a crackling blaze going.

I unwound in my room for a while before sprucing up for the show and enjoying a 6pm appetizer with Judy and a couple of her friends.  I ended up in a great conversation with Fred, a rather intelligent man who is currently writing three books.  I enjoyed a pleasant hour conversing with Fred as we nibbled on cheese, olives, crackers, and baba ganoush.

When Fred noticed traffic starting to back up on the highway, I decided to head over to the Barn Players.  Once more, Mapquest tried to put one over on me by telling me to make a right turn on a street when it should have been a left.  Shades of Richardson, TX flashed through my brain as I got my bearings and got back on the right track.  Luckily, I made it to the theatre with about 7 minutes to spare.

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The Barn Players is a bit of an institution in Mission and has quite an impressive reputation.  Many of its alumni have gone on to professional acting careers, most notably Chris Cooper.  The show was almost everything that I hoped it would be.  A few flaws kept it out of the excellent region, but it was still very good and thoroughly enjoyable.  You can read my review for the show here.

I returned to Back in Thyme where I wrote my review and curled up in my bed for a good night’s rest.

After a comfy night’s sleep, I awoke ravenous.  I headed downstairs and enjoyed chit-chat with Brantley and Ashley as we dined on Judy’s wonderful scrambled eggs cooked in thyme butter, crispy bacon, French toast, and fried apples.

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Having restored the inner man, I went upstairs to do a little work on the computer before deciding to take advantage of the pleasant day and walk along some trails I found behind the house.  Normally I like communing with nature, but I got a faceful of nature in the most literal sense as I stumbled through myriad spider webs as I wandered through the woods.  I escaped from the woods yanking webbing off of my face and hair.

Judy had suggested several areas of interest, some of which I will save for a future visit to the K.C. area, but I did take time to visit Bonner Springs’ famed Moon Marble Company.

As the name implies, the store is famed for its marbles and even gives demonstrations into a making of marbles, but the store is so much more than that.  The store also specializes in board games, puzzles, and classic toys.  I was amazed at all of the hard to find toys and games located in the shop.  Duncan Yo-yos, rare board games, Jacob’s ladders, Fisher-Price toys that I remembered from my childhood.  If you like vintage toys and games, take some time to visit Moon Marble Company if you find yourselves in Bonner Springs.

After I drove around the downtown area, I returned to the inn where I killed a few hours watching a mystery series before cleaning up for church and dinner.

I attended services at Good Shepherd Catholic Community in Shawnee, KS where I enjoyed a wonderful service preached by Fr. Oswaldo.  When services were done, I headed over to Hereford House for dinner.

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Hereford House is a Kansas City institution and this was one of the tastiest meals I have ever eaten.  I indulged in a small salad with creamy Italian dressing before supping on the main course of a 12 oz ribeye blackened with garlic butter and a side of Cheddar Ranch potatoes and a bit of bread.  Most of my dinner came back with me where it currently rests in the inn’s guest fridge for a future meal.

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I spent the remainder of the evening working on this article before turning in for the night.

I awoke to a rather gloomy day and am expecting some rain on the drive home.  I spent a bit of time editing this article and then went downstairs for another rousing breakfast.

At the table, I met Courtney and Ashley from Olathe, KS who had just come in from having coffee on the porch and we chatted while Judy served us a sumptuous meal of sausage, green chile egg casserole with salsa (now one of my favorite dishes), zucchini muffins, and cantaloupe.  The pleasant meal and talk was over much too quickly and I began to pack up for the drive home.

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So if you find yourself in the Kansas City area, spend an evening at Back in Thyme in Bonner Springs.  You’ll find some good (and healthy) home cooking on a peaceful estate with plenty to do nearby.