HART opens 2008 Studio Season with ‘Demons’
By Michael Beadle
A lawyer battling personal demons returns to a small town near Pittsburgh where a sensational crime forces him to face up to following the letter of the law — even if that means letting a dangerous criminal go free.
Haywood Arts Regional opens its six-play Studio Season with the drama “Minor Demons” Jan. 4-6. The play, written by Bruce Graham (who also wrote “Coyote on a Fence”), is directed by Julie Kinter and stars Strother Stingley, Charles Mills, Beth Holmes, Josh Merrell, Casey Dupree, Roger Magendie, Beth Galloway and Tom Dewees.
For Kinter, who acted in last year’s “Cabaret” and “The Miracle Worker,” the HART Studio is also a chance to develop her directorial skills, as she has previously directed “Sylvia” and “Trip to Bountiful” on the HART main stage as well as “Strange Snow” in the Studio. This year, Kinter is directing three studio shows.
“I’m just thrilled that I have this opportunity,” Kinter said.
Having little theatre experience until the past few years, she’s discovered a whole new side she never thought she had.
“I like both sides of the stage now,” she said.
As both a director and actor, the experiences have also given her a more acute eye for all the intricacies of theatre — the lighting and sound cues, sets, character development and all the details that go into a show.
“I like all the elements you get to play with,” Kinter said.
Sometimes it’s both a blessing and a curse. For example, with the series of flashbacks involved in “Minor Demons,” there are some 60 lighting cues to figure.
There’s also a very disturbing scene of the murder to relive for both actors and audience members. A young Josh Merrell, who is relatively new to the HART stage, plays the murderer, while familiar HART actors Charles Mills and Strother Stingley play the lawyer and police chief, respectively. Merrell is an up-and-coming talent to watch, Kinter added.
The lawyer and police chief are old childhood classmates, but their friendship is tested when they are forced to wrestle with the Miranda rights of the young boy, who has been charged with a gruesome crime. The Miranda rights require suspects to be read their constitutional rights before making any incriminating statements. But if the letter of the law isn’t followed, can those sworn to uphold the law push aside a technicality in order to do what’s right? What ends up being the right thing to do? It’s a legal dilemma that offers up some cold truths about our justice system. Friday and Saturday shows start at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday matinee is at 3 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students.
Next up is the comedy “A Coupla White Chicks Sittin’ Around Talkin’” — yes, that’s actually the title. The two-character play stars Christy Bishop and Casey Dupree and takes place in a New York kitchen. One woman’s husband has run off for the weekend with his secretary. The other woman, a pesky neighbor from Texas, has her own husband problems. The two ladies team up to face off against their husbands’ errant or erring ways. The show, also directed by Kinter, runs from Jan. 18-20. The play contains adult language and subject matter which may not be appropriate for young children.
Here’s a breakdown of the rest of the HART Studio Season:
• “The Road to Mecca” (Feb. 1-3) — An older Boer woman in South Africa creates sculptures that offend a local minister, who wants to have the artist put away in a home. Written by one of South Africa’s leading critically acclaimed playwrights, Athol Fugard, the drama looks at the role of the artist in society, and may prove all the more timely given the recent writers’ strike affecting Hollywood. Directed by Suzanne Tinsley, the show features some local acting heavyweights including Terry Nienhuis, Barbara Bates Smith and Kane Clawson.
• “Good Evening” (Feb. 15-17) — An outrageous series of comedy sketches, this show became the foundation for the British smash hit “Monty Python.” Originally staged in London in the 1960s as “Beyond the Fringe,” it later came to New York and starred Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore. HART’s version will star Tom Dewees and Ian Olsen and will feature the directorial debut of Sherry Gaddis, a dependable mainstay as stage manager for dozens of HART plays.
• “Lonesome West” (March 7-9) — Directed by Lloyd Kay and written by Martin McDonagh, this drama concludes the Irish trilogy that began with the “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” (which won HART top honors at regional and national community theatre competitions) and “A Skull in Connemara.” A local priest tries to reconcile two feuding brothers who struggle after their father’s death. Steve Crider, Michael Boulos, Trinity Smith and Rick Sibley star in this story about family, loss and reconciliation. This show contains adult material and may be inappropriate for younger audiences.
• “Equus” (April 11-13) — Last of the Studio Season shows, this award-winning play features the writing of Peter Schaffer, the creator of “Amadeus.” A psychiatrist meets a young boy who has blinded six horses. The horses’ owner, the boy’s parents and others try to explain the mystery of this troubled youth labeled as “loony,” but the situation is much more complicated than offering up a basic diagnosis. Steve Lloyd and Adam Kampouris star in this daring drama, which also features Jennifer Sanner, Allison Stinson, Tom Dewees and Kristen Pallota. Julie Kinter directs. This show also contains strong adult material, so parents should be advised.
Part of the reason for a much longer HART Studio Season, which normally runs two or three months, is because of the timing for Easter this year in March, which also adjusted this year’s spring break for Haywood County Schools. Rather than schedule plays during a time when local audiences might be vacationing, HART decided to stretch out the Studio Season.
All of the Studio shows are open to possible holdover dates for an extra weekend depending on exuberant ticket sales. HART Studio shows are selected and cast by actors and are not subject to the same schedules and open tryouts as HART’s main stage shows.
Friday and Saturday Studio shows begin at 7:30 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. The Studio seats approximately 75, so reserving tickets is strongly recommended. Shows tend to sell out quickly.
Haywood Arts Regional Theatre performs its plays at the Performing Arts Center on the grounds of the Historic Shelton House in Waynesville. The theatre is located on 250 Pigeon Street. For more information, call the HART box office at 828.456.6322 or go to the Web site www.harttheatre.com.