McPherson College theatre has prepared a season of plays and musicals mostly centered on family and parenting.
Poor parenting, mostly.
The first show of the season kicks off early with the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Paul Zindel, “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” Aug. 29-31 in Mingenback Theatre. The play compares raising a flower garden to raising children and centers on a mother named Beatrice, who manipulates and dominates her children. But Beatrice discovers that regardless of her influence, her children will follow their own path. This show is also the senior acting project for Kristie Gutierrez, Quinter, Kan.; Alyese Crist, Quinter, Kan.; and Sarah Schowengerdt, McPherson, Kan.
Next up is Ken Ludwig’s “Moon Over Buffalo” which will have a unique opportunity for one generation to teach the… previous one. The shows on Sept. 27 and 28 in Brown Auditorium will feature students in the sequel to “Noises Off.” This work features two aging actors desperate to land any lead roles they can, but who are called upon by their grown daughter to take on the role of parent instead. Then during Homecoming weekend Oct. 4 and 5, the student actors will become the teachers as for a week they coach a group of alumni to take the stage.
MC’s staging of “Into the Woods” on Nov. 15 and 16 in Brown Auditorium will allow audiences to see the story on the stage before it comes to movie screens in 2014. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, the musical pulls together favorite family children’s stories such as Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood and asks thoughtful questions about the “happy” in “Happily Ever After.” These include the nature of happiness and whether it comes from family or from within.
The interterm show “Baby with the Bathwater” on Jan. 16 to 18 in Mingenback Theatre is a classic comedy from 1983 of the foibles and difficulties of parenthood. Helen and John are adoring parents with perhaps too much concern for their baby’s privacy, as they decide not to check the gender of “Daisy” - their choice for a neutral name. The witty humor results in laughs and also questions about individual experiences parenting and being parented.
For a romantic offering on Valentine’s Day weekend, plan to attend the Pulitzer Prize finalist “Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney on Feb. 13-15 in Brown Auditorium. With simple staging and only two actors, the play tells the 50-year love story of a couple separated by distance, which is told entirely through reading their love letters to each other. Since its debut in 1988, the play has been staged by some of the biggest names of movies and television - such as Carol Burnett and Mel Gibson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Earl Jones. The production will be a fundraiser for the Performing Arts program at McPherson College.
The final show of the season Feb. 28 and March 1, 7 and 8 in Mingenback Theatre is a musical based on the 1996 movie by Lee David Zlotoff “The Spitfire Grill” - which took the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival that year. With music and book by James Valcq and lyrics and book by Fred Alley, the show follows a feisty woman named Percy, who is newly released from prison. Based only on an entry in an aging travel book, she ends up in Wisconsin and lands a job at Hannah’s Spitfire Grill. When Percy learns that the restaurant is for sale but without takers, she suggests that Hannah raffle off the restaurant for $100 and the best essay on why one wants the grill. Letters inundate the restaurant and lead to a surprising rebirth of the grill.
All shows start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to all shows cost $5 for adults and $3.50 for children ages high school and younger as well as seniors. Theatergoers may also obtain a First Nighter’s Membership, which costs $85 for an individual, $170 for a double membership and $260 for a family membership. Membership includes show admission for the entire season as well as a student-produced dinner themed to the production served before every show. This year brings two new benefits of First Nighters: advance notice and priority seating for the “Love Letters” fundraiser production, and the opportunity to join the “First Nighters’ Book Club” - allowing members to follow and discuss the progress of each show from design to the final night.
Reservations may be made by contacting the theatre box office at 620-242-0444 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.