I have been a bad blogger this past many weeks as I start to build up readers and then abandon you. However, it’s not that I haven’t been thinking about you in the mean time. Before I launch back into my weekly or hopefully more frequent posts on what’s happening in my world as SCT’s Artistic Director, let me quickly revisit some highlights from the month past.

Jared Walters and Terry Bloodworth in Martin McDonagh's 'The Cripple of Inishmaan'

1.) ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ – I would be thrashed if I didn’t lead with the extremely time consuming endeavor that kept me away from my computer more than anything else this past many weeks. After what I feel is my most artistically successful production to date, ‘The Pillowman’ in 2008, I decided to return to the work of playwright Martin McDonagh to open the fall season this year. ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ is probably McDonagh’s lightest and most heartfelt play…believe it or not. Like his other works, the show offers extraordinary roles for actors. And I was lucky enough to have an extraordinary cast to rise to the challenge of not only a tough little tale to tell, but also Western Irish dialects. While comedy in many plays is easy to identify and play, McDonagh’s plays while quite funny require finding the right balance of honesty, character and humanity in order to make the comedy soar. The cast rose to every challenge that was presented them and the resulting production was remarkable and one of the finer theatre experiences of my career. I can’t thank my ‘Inishmaan trippers’ and the audiences that took the journey with us enough.

2.) ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ has moved into the theatre. The cast begins rehearsals on stage tonight…and from what I’ve seen so far, I think this October is going to be an electric month to be around the Vandivort. If you’ve never seen the stage musical that inspired the 1975 cult film, now is your chance. While the film is a pretty true adaptation of the stage script, this fresh staging of the show will take you to some new places, but not without embracing the ‘Rocky Horror’ you know and love.

To answer the most commonly asked questions: (a) No. The cast is not acting in front of the film. If they were this would be called ‘The Rocky Horror PICTURE Show.’ This is a live stage musical. (b) Yes. You are welcome to talk back at the production as has become popular in the midnight showings of the film. However, we ask audiences to take into consideration that not all the traditional film callback lines will make sense. The script, cast and performances are slightly different. So listen up and pay attention…respond where it is appropriate and hell, you might even find a few new places to add some fun to the proceedings. (c) Yes. You are able to use audience participation props as a part of your ‘Rocky Horror’ experience. Thought note: Outside props are not allowed in the theatre. We will be selling participation kits containing nine interactive props at the theatre for $5.00 each. For you ‘Rocky Horror’ virgins, there will be a printed instruction sheet on the use of the props located in your program. The kits will contain everything you need to get involved with the show. The main reason for this is that since this is a live show, we have to take the actor (and audiences) health and safety first and foremost into concern. With a theatre fully rigged with theatrical lighting and sound equipment, we can’t have audience members shooting water guns. With actors dancing in platform heels, we can have the floors getting covered in water, rice, toast or other things that could cause injury. And the fire marshall doesn’t allow open flames in the facility, so no cigarette lighters. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t get the experience you know and love.

3.) ‘Secret Garden’ auditions – Casting is complete for our family holiday musical and this cast is going to be dynamic. There are some amazing performers in this show. Some vocal powerhouses. This production will also mark my return to the stage after a six year absence from acting. It should be great stretching those muscles again.

4.) ‘Winter/Spring Season’ – Since last I blogged, we finalized our winter/spring season and made the announcement of five more attractions that will populate our schedule from January through May of 2011. In case you missed it…here’s what to expect.

In January, we will be presenting the second production of Ned Wilkinson’s new musical ‘Julie Bunny Must Die!’ The bunny was recently premiered as a part of the 2010 Orlando International Fringe Festival to great acclaim. Springfield Contemporary Theatre is thrilled to be the next stop for this new musical. It’s by one of our favorite collaborators and it promises to be lots of fun. We finish out January with our friends from MSU’s Inertia Dance Company. The company will bring to stage a wonderful evening of dance choreographed by current MSU faculty as well as current and former students. This company has performed around the US and abroad and we are thrilled to host them at the Vandivort for this special engagement.

February brings to stage a four week run of the hit Broadway show ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.’ David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane’s musical takes the characters and story from the film and takes it all to a new level. I’ve always enjoyed the film, but this musical is even funnier and better written. I’m also thrilled that in the starring roles of the con men we will bring back to the SCT stage Springfield favorites who are used to playing title characters: Todd Smith (‘The Music Man’ and ‘Sweeney Todd’) and Luke Mills (‘Bat Boy’ and ‘Tommy’).

March will see the opening of ‘The Oldest Profession,’ a funny and poignant play by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel. In 1999 we presented Vogel’s Pulitzer winning ‘How I Learned to Drive’ and we finally return to the work of this remarkable American dramatist. The story of five senior ladies continuing to make a go of it in New York in the only life they’ve known is a telling story of friendship and weathering a changing world. Last season we tackled another 80’s play, ‘Talk Radio,’ that seemed to have a foresight into the evolving political, social and economic landscape the has shaped today’s world. Vogel’s play has an equal clarity that will resonate with audiences long after the final curtain.

We then finish up the season with Peter Shaffer’s epic drama ‘Amadeus.’ Sure to be one of SCT’s most ambitious projects to date, this tale of revenge pits two of the theatre’s most captivating characters opposite each other.

5.) Finally, we’ve been collaborating on another exciting project that we will be debuting this Friday. Check back. It’s going to be something special.

Don’t you just hate it when people do that? I know I do. But we’re keeping this project under wraps until it’s ready for the public. But come Friday it’s not something you will have to wait for. Hmmm… what could it be?