Summer is the time for picnics, watermelon, trips to the pool and good, old-fashioned melodramas. Well, get ready to cheer, hiss and throw popcorn: StageCenter is ending its current season with For Her Che-ild's Sake, that needed summer melodrama, which opens a three-week run on Thursday.
The always-reliable Jennifer Hargis is directing the melodrama. She said, "For Her Che-ild's Sake is about a young woman who loses her husband, lives with a family who hates her, and meets the man of her dreams, all the while being pursued by the evil villain, who wants to marry her and steal the family fortune."
For Her Che-ild's Sake will run Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 17 7:30 p.m. through Aug. 26.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and students. On Thursdays, all tickets are $10. They are available online at www.stagecenter.net or at the door, if any remain. Melodramas always are popular, so it might be best to go online to get your tickets.
Don't forget that season tickets also are available for StageCenter's exciting upcoming season. Adult season tickets are only $75, while seniors and students can get season tickets for $60. Unlike some season tickets which provide one seat for each show, StageCenter's season tickets provides six tickets which can be used in any combination -- i.e. two each for three shows, one for four shows and two for one, etc.
The new season includes Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Play It Again, Sam, Twentieth Century, The Game's Afoot, The Desk Set and Last of the Boys.
Hargis is a veteran, not only of StageCenter productions, on and off stage, but also has appeared in several musicals at The Theatre Company. She last portrayed the Widow Douglas in Big River there. For the upcoming production at StageCenter, she recruited several of her fellow Theatre Company actors to help populate For Her Che-ild's Sake.
The melodrama's cast includes Harold Presley as the villain Gaylord Duckworth, Irina Shatruk as the heroine Pansy Paine, and Zack Brattin as Fairfax Kisslebergh, the hero. Robin Sutton plays Marcella Paine, Chaz Pitman plays Dawson the butler, Mandy Mershon plays Dorothy Bullock the nurse, Doyeon Kim plays Midge Paine, Pam Coleman plays Amelia the maid, Corey Bratton plays Basil Barrington, Taylor Christenson plays Hedda Barrington, Evelyn Callaway plays Beatrice Hudnut, and Lucas Ybarra plays Hilary Paine.
Hargis said, "In addition to the regular cast, we will have Mark Bendiksen on piano and Wanda Mason as the Card Girl. As if all of that weren't enough, we also will have olio acts -- variety acts between the acts -- featuring some of the cast members as well as one from newcomer Dominique Pollard."
Rick Schmidlin designed the set, which was built by Larry Ezell, Hal Greer, and the rest of the cast and crew. Kristi Hanle will be in the tech booth. Paul Leugemors is stage manager. Katie Elrod, in addition to painting a beautiful landscape which will be seen during olios, is in charge of props. Evelyn Callaway is the costumer, and Alan Bryant is the engineer behind the curtain -- "and I mean that both literally and figuratively. If you come to the show, you'll know what I'm talking about!" Hargis said.
"The audience can expect the unexpected," Hargis said. "Melodramas are known for audience participation in the form of cheering, shouting warnings or saying 'awwww' to the heroine, and booing, hissing, and throwing popcorn at the villain, and there is a degree of reciprocation from the actors to the audience as well.
"In addition to all of that, the atmosphere is a relaxed one on the stage, and the scripted lines don't always come out as they should. And when you throw in a piano player who messes with the cast throughout the entire show, it's hilarious.
"Based on the surveys that our patrons fill out, they prefer comedies over any other type of show. This is definitely a comedy," Hargis said.
She said, "The show is appropriate for all ages, though 7 and up is recommended, just for the attention span aspect of it. While we encourage a degree participation, talking through the entire show should be left up to the actors."
But, she added, "It's a great way to get your kids to a theater, too."
StageCenter is located at 201-B W. 26th St. in Downtown Bryan, above Mr. G's Pizza.
New York success
If you were privileged, as I was, to see The Theatre Company's outstanding production of Evita a few years back, you no doubt remember Tara Moran's tour-de-force performance as Eva Peron.
That was Moran's last appearance with The Theatre Company before she headed to New York to find even bigger success. That she has done,
Moran, now known as Tara Martinez, just completed a run in Night Tide, a new musical based on a 1961 B-movie -- released in 1963 -- of the same name starring a Dennis Hopper. The musical was named one of the shows to watch at the New York Musical Festival by Time Out New York,
Martinez said, "In the movie, a young sailor on shore leave falls for a mysterious woman named Mora who plays the mermaid in the local boardwalk freak show. He soon discovers, however, that she may or may not be a real siren of the sea who lures men to their deaths.
"Our show takes the source material and turns it into a kitschy comedy thriller à la Little Shop of Horrors.
"I get to play Mora and finally live out all my childhood mermaid fantasies in this production." she said.
David Roberts, On Stage chief New York theater critic, said Night Tide "is a faithful retelling and a splendid riff of writer and director Curtis Harrington's 'creature feature' thriller. Nathania Wibowo and Taylor Tash have not only brought Night Tide to the stage -- they have created a top-notch musical about on-shore-leave Johnny's falling-in-love with Mora the mysterious woman who dons a mermaid costume and works in Capt. Murdock's sideshow act on the boardwalk.
"Local legend pins the death of two sailors on Mora who is rumored to be a mermaid-siren like those chronicled in Greek mythology."
In addition to Martinez, the cast included Patrick Dunn as sailor Johnny and Rick Roemer as Capt. Murdock.
Martinez said she performed in about a dozen shows at The Theatre Company, starting with Annie in 1995 when the group was known as 'Imagination Station.
Asked her favorite role at The Theatre Company, Martinez said, "That's a tough one. It doesn't get much better than Eva Peron as far as female protagonists go in my opinion. She was such a fascinating, complex figure, and she fully transforms, aging almost 20 years, over the course of the show.
"Probably had the most fun playing Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical though because ... well ... because elephants."
About moving to New York, Martinez said, "I left in 2005 after my sophomore year at A&M. It had always been a dream of mine to live there so when my best friend offered to let me stay with her while she attended NYU, I jumped at the chance.
"I fell head over heels in love with the city, and I've been hooked ever since.
She said, "After I graduated from Hunter College in Manhattan, I performed and recorded with several bands all over the city. I ended up getting a job at Don't Tell Mama piano bar a few years ago, and I've been focused mainly on musical theater and cabaret since then."
Martinez said, "I find myself mostly developing and workshopping new musicals in the New York festival circuit. It's something I'm passionate about. I'm currently working with several creators that I expect will soon be household names."
Martinez fondly remembers Randy Wilson, the artistic director for The Theatre Company for 23 years until his death last November.
"Randy made me feel like I had something special to share with the world. He's the reason I found the courage to stand on a stage and perform in the first place.
"He cast me in my first show, and over the years continued to educate me, encourage me, and offer me opportunities to shine.
"I will always be grateful to him."
• Today through Aug. 20 -- Hello, Dolly!, The Theatre Company, behind JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in Bryan's Tejas Center, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. $7 to $20. (www.theatrecompany.com)
• Every Sunday -- Open mics and poetry slams sponsored by Mic Check Poetry, 8:30 p.m. Revolution Café in Downtown Bryan, (miccheckpoetry.com)
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