Pit & Balcony Prepares for Innovative Production of Pandemic Monologues February 4-6 & 12-14th

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Theatre,   From Issue 908   By: Robert E Martin

26th January, 2021     0

During any crisis it’s imperative to assume a fluid posture whereby one hopes for the best yet prepares for the worst; and throughout the past year of the pandemic while theatrical & performance venues have been among those hardest hit through lockdown policies, Saginaw’s Pit & Balcony Community Theatre has assumed a flexible yet innovative posture while navigating through their current season.

Now  they are re-directing and re-focusing their production efforts once again.

Recent gathering restrictions made it impossible for Pit & Balcony  to rehearse their originally programmed PUFFS (or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic), so consequently they have quickly re-tooled their focus upon producing a new and innovative play written by playwright John Patrick Shanley instead that is titled Rogues’ Gallery.

“The nature of this script allows rehearsals to be limited to only one actor at a time in order to ensure the safest environment possible,” explains Amy Spadafore, Pit & Balcony’s Managing Director. “We want to provide our community with artistic opportunities at this time, whether they are on stage or in the audience, and we are doing everything we can to do that within the health and safety guidelines provided for us.”

This newly created play is a collection of unrelated monologues about different characters who explore the things in life that haunt them. These pieces, or monologues, that constitute Rogues’ Gallery will be presented by three different local actors -  Abby Burgess, Rustin Myers, and Colorgio Romello - and each of them varies in length and content, with the collection offering a mix of drama, suspense, and dark comedy.

The author John Patrick Shanley has written some big contemporary works in the theatre world and some two dozen off-Broadway plays since the 1970s. He made an impressive Broadway debut in 2005 with Doubt, a parable, which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in drama as well as the Best Play honors at the season-ending Tony Awards and in 1987 his screenplay for Moonstruck won him an Academy Award.

According to director Jonah Conner, when the Pandemic hit hard last March and theatres were forced to shut down, Shanley wrote Rogues Gallery in order to assist the theatrical world by devising a play designed to help theatres stay afloat. 

“Theaters needed a monetary influx and actors needed cash because they were suddenly unemployed, so they reached out to various playwrights to see if there was anything they could do for the Dramatists Play Service,” explains Connor. “Shanley came forward and put a collection of monologues together that have all these divergent characters and did an online reading of it with celebrities like Ethan Hawke and Debra Messing, telling them it was okay to release the rights to this production to community theaters across the country under the sole condition that all the profits from this production go directly into the Actors Unemployment Fund, which was really big of him.”

Because of his release of all proceeds from sales & licensing going into The Actors Fund, Spadafore says this was a big contributing factor to Pit & Balcony’s decision to produce this show.

Rogues’ Gallery will be presented to a limited live audience Thursday through Saturday, February 4-6 and Friday through Sunday, February 12-14 with additional virtual performances available during the second weekend. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday showings will begin at 7:30 pm and Sunday’s performance will begin at 3:00 pm. The theatre will observe strict health and safety protocols throughout the run of the production such as limited lobby use and mask requirements.

“The play was written for 10 individual characters so we could have had 10 actors performing each of the characters, but because of COVID protocols that prohibited us from putting 10 people in one space, we decided to feature three different actors with two actors doing four monologues and one doing two of the monologues,” adds Jonah.

“Each of these monologues involve unique individual characters who seem completely normal and like someone you would know, such as a singer, or a bachelor looking for a mate,” he continues. “But as you get into their story and they start telling you what being troubling them you find they have a darker side and things that continue to haunt them, which is also a sign of our times.”

“We live in such an odd time now that we think we know people, but when it comes to the nitty-gritty we start to learn some dark truths about them, so this play confronts those type of issues.”

When asked what his biggest challenge is with bringing Rogues’ Gallery to the stage, Jonah says the challenge comes from the fact this is not written like a traditional theatrical show. “This isn’t a story that follows characters from a beginning, middle, and end,” he reflects. “Instead it involves 10 monologues that leave the actors nothing to work against and no other person to interact with or engage the audience with.”

“Instead, the audience needs to be engaged for 90 minutes by these individual reflections and not get bored with it, so my focus has been working with the actors to remain engaged in the scene. It can be problematic for an actor to give a long monologue without getting preachy or monotonous; and one of these monologues is 20 minutes long, which is a challenge for any actor, regardless of his caliber of professionalism.  That’s why we only have one of our actors doing two of the monologues.”

Connor says that staging this production also posed some challenges. “Because this play is about how 10 different characters in lockdown are dealing with the quarantine, different locations are involved so the question is how do we handle the time and difficulty of creating different sets and base the production in reality,” he states. “Our solution was to approach the production by showing the backstage of everything - the underbelly of what you don’t usually see in the theatre.  It will look like the backstage of a theatre in the middle of building a set and there will be different props that each actor will be able to use for each of their individual monologues.  The audience will know a different character is unfolding once the actor picks up the appropriate prop.”

“This is new territory for us and we are so grateful to our community for being flexible and understanding,” Spadafore says. “We hope that we can provide even a bit of ‘normalcy’ in such an abnormal time.”

Ticket information and detailed COVID-19 precautions can be found on Pit & Balcony’s website, or by calling the box office at (989)754-6587.




Please login to comment



Current Issue


Don't have an account?