I was happy to be invited back to Bridgewater College Theatre for their spring show. Last year, I did A Bold Stroke for a Wife there, which was a great deal of fun.

One of the few things about Bold Stroke that was kind of awful was that we struggled to cast it. The show needed, I think 10 people. Far fewer than that showed up for the audition. Since the lockdown, it’s gotten tricky to figure out whom to expect to show up for auditions at smaller college theaters. So I started that rehearsal process sending a lot of emails basically begging people to be in my show. It was Not Great.

Poster design by Kieran Brown

The other thing to know about BCT is that they do not do plays anyone has heard of. When students audition, it’s to be in the show, whatever it is, not because they have dreamed of being in The Love Song of J Robert Oppenheimer or The Interview since they were a little kid.

So this time, I asked if I could audition the show, and then select it. This would let me pick a show for a specific group of people, rather than picking people for a show. I had a few ideas in my back pocket, but the audition had some surprises. Which is how we ended up doing Glassheart by Reina Hardy, a play that was barely on my radar before.

The story is, essentially, Beauty and the Beast (with a million Easter eggs for people who grew up with the Disney film!), but the twist is that Belle never showed up. The Beast, 400 years later, down on his luck, runs out of money. Most of his servants have left him “for unimaginably exclusive European hotels.” He, and his one remaining servant, an overly optimistic lamp, rent a shabby apartment in Chicago, hoping for better fortunes in America. Hilarity (and heartbreak) ensue.

This text is perfect for college actors. It’s accessible, but also rich and weird. There’s a lot to dig into. Nobody is quite what they seem. The gender balance (three women, one man) is pretty great for college departments, as is the fact that there’s only one set.

One of my favorite things that we did as part of this experience was that we were able to get an hour with Reina on a Zoom call. The students maybe have done a play by a living playwright before, but it would have been Caryl Churchill or someone like that. Not somebody who is a real person who will answer your questions on a random Monday night. I loved that she was so accessible, and that they brought some great questions for her!

Another lovely thing about doing shows at Bridgewater is that their Student Engagement office throws a beautiful reception after the Friday night performance. They asked me about themes and images in the play—and seriously outdid themselves with decorations worthy of the Beast’s castle.

I even managed to get my kids involved! We knew we’d be a bit short-handed for strike, so managed to convince Silas and Petra, and their friend Lillian, to come help us take everything apart. What a wild thing to have kids who are big enough to be truly helpful and work safely and independently!

As always, a joy to create with my friends at BCT, and to meet some new delights:

  • Cast:
    • Beast: Malachi Benjamin
    • Only: Jamiah Mark
    • Aoife: Laine Anthony
    • Witch: Casey Beard
  • Costume design: Holly Labbe
  • Lighting design: Ryan Howard
  • Set design: Shannon Dove
  • Props design: Elizabeth Melton
  • Photos mostly by Kirsten Pittman, with the few that are clearly from a cell phone by me

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