Four short, funny plays about four very different subjects, written by four well-established writers/entertainers — all wrapped up in one bright, new comedy package called “Short Attention Span Theatre!” — the Over Our Head Players will open their 2013/14 season with that package at the Sixth Street Theatre on Sept. 27.
Just one ticket gives audience members Ethan Cohen’s new play “Peer Review,” Steve Martin’s “Wasp,” A.R. Gurney’s “The Problem” and David Ives’ “Variations on the Death of Trotsky.” And in between the laughter each play promises, the OOHP aim to enlighten the audience with bits of information about the playwrights and their work, according to Rich Smith, managing/artistic director of the OOHP.
“We want to tie it all together with a little fun,” said Smith.
The audience might learn, for example, why Steve Martin — known more as an actor and comedian than a playwright — wrote “Wasp,” and who Ethan Cohen really is, Smith said. “Everyone knows (Cohen’s) movies, but few people know that he writes plays.”
While all four are short plays — in the 15- to 30-minute range — these are not sketch-style comedies, like those featured in the OOHP’s popular Snowdance 10 Minute Comedy Festival, Smith explained. “Short Attention Span Theatre!” is a brand new project aimed at satisfying the OOHP audience’s “appetite for short plays,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of short theater being written right now, and it is a good fit for us,” he said. “I have real high hopes for it.”
‘Les Mis’ and more
The Racine Theatre Guild, too, has new offerings this season, including the area’s first community theater production of “Les Misérables” in May 2014. While some Wisconsin high schools have presented the school version of this record-breaking Broadway musical, it was only recently released for production by community theaters according to Doug Instenes, managing/artistic director of RTG.
“Les Mis” may be a little outside the Theatre Guild’s comfort zone, yet the theater company is very excited to be able to bring it to Racine, Instenes said. And the fact that last year’s film version of the show was a big hit makes it very approachable, he said. “We’re going to need a lot of male singers.”
First, though, the Theatre Guild will open its season on Friday, Sept. 13, with Michael McKeever’s farce “Suite Surrender,” followed by a collection of other comedies and dramas, as well as a revival of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.”
“It’s fun for us to bring back ‘Beauty and the Beast’ because it was such a huge hit for us the first time we did it,” Instenes said.
Be sure, too, to check out the theatrical offerings in both Racine and Kenosha counties, including Burlington’s Haylofters productions (details below) and those of the Lakeside Players at Kenosha’s Rhode Center for the Arts (http://rhodecenter.org). Nearby college campuses — University of Wisconsin-Parkside (www.uwp.edu/departments/theatre.arts/shows.cfm) and Carthage College (www.carthage.edu/theatre/current-season) — also offer a wide range of stage experiences within a short drive of Racine — some of which are free.
In Racine, here’s what the 2013/14 season offers:
Over Our Head Players
• “Short Attention Span Theatre!”, four comedies by Ethan Cohen, A.R. Gurney, David Ives and Steve Martin, Sept. 27- Oct. 13.
• “The North Plan,” by Jason Wells, Nov. 22-Dec. 8. The nation’s future lies in the hands of a federal bureaucrat, a local sheriff and a foul-mouthed, redneck heroine brought together in a small town jail, in this sharp, political-comedy thriller.
• Snowdance 10 Minute Comedy Festival, various playwrights, Jan. 31-March 2. This marks the 10th anniversary for this popular play-writing competition/performance series. Entries come from around the globe, judges pick the cream of the crop to be performed, and the audience votes for their favorite among them — the Best in Snow.
• “Becky’s New Car,” by Steven Deitz, April 11-27. A warm, romantic comedy about a woman in the throes of middle age, middle management and a middling marriage, who is tempted by the new-life promises of a socially-inept millionaire.
All shows are at the Sixth Street Theatre, 318 Sixth St. Season tickets are $56 and tickets to individual shows range from $14.50 to $16.50. Reservations and other information available at (262) 632-6802 or www.overourheadplayers.org.
Season 76 at the RTG
• “Suite Surrender,” by Michael McKeever, Sept. 13-29. Two feuding divas at a Florida USO benefit have inadvertently been booked into the same hotel suite. Mistaken identities, overblown egos, double entendres and high-energy action ensue in this classic, Hollywood-style farce.
• “Deathtrap,” by Ira Levin, Oct. 25-Nov. 10. While in a slump, a successful Broadway writer receives a script from a college student that he’s sure will be a hit. He desperately devises a scheme to steal the script and do away with the student. Or does he?
• “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book by Linda Woolverton, Dec. 6-15. Based on the Academy Award-winning animated film, this Broadway spectacle tells a musical love story, with unforgettable characters, beautiful music and big production numbers.
• “Almost, Maine,” by John Cariani, Jan. 17-Feb. 2. A comedy about the residents of Almost — a remote Maine community where people seem to fall in and out of love in unexpected and often hilarious ways.
• “37 Postcards,” by Michael McKeever, Feb. 28-March 16. You can go home again, but you never know what you’ll find there. So finds Avery Sutton when he returns to his parents’ home, after living abroad, and finds the house tilted at a distinct angle, the dog not fed for five years, and his late grandma alive and kicking.
• “The Miracle Worker,” by William Gibson, April 4-13. Based on the true story of the volatile relationship between the blind, deaf and mute student, Helen Keller, and her lonely teacher, Annie Sullivan, this classic drama is both intense and very moving.
• “Les Misérables,” by Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, based on a novel by Victor Hugo, May 16-June 1. Set in revolutionary 19th century France, “Les Mis” tells the story of French peasant Jean Valjean, and his quest for redemption after serving 19 years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his starving sister’s child. It is the world’s longest running musical.
All shows are at the Racine Theatre Guild, 2519 Northwestern Ave. Basic season ticket packages range from $50 to $70 and include five productions (“Suite Surrender,” “Deathrap,” “Almost, Maine,” “37 Postcards” and “Les Misérables”).
Subscribers may extend the season or exchange up to three of the regular season plays with limited-run productions. Flex pass ticket packs include five ($70) to eight ($112) discounted admissions that can be used for any of the eight plays and musicals.
Tickets to individual shows range between $13 and $19, with discounts for seniors, students and groups.
For more information call (262) 633-4218 or go to www.racinetheatre.org.
• “I Hate Hamlet,” by Paul Rudnick, Oct. 3-20. A soap opera star, playing the role of Hamlet in one of New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park productions moves into an apartment that John Barrymore once occupied. While participating in a seance there, he gets some ghostly advice.
• Haylofters Haunted Theater Tour, Oct. 24-26. This first-time event invites visitors to see the historic Malt House Theater like they’ve never seen it before and hear tales of old. Hold onto your hats!
The Haylofters start their new season in the spring and perform at the Malt House Theater, 109 N. Main St., Burlington. Tickets for plays are $10 each; Haunted Theater tickets are $7.
In addition, the Haylofters offer comedy shows by The Funkin’ Wassels, featuring audience participation improv games.
For more about all shows and buying tickets, go to www.thehaylofters.com or call (262) 763-9873.