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Previews
It's Only a Play

It's Only a Play
Corn Stock Winter Playhouse

October 21 - 22 & 27 - 30


It’s no secret to theatre audiences in Peoria that Peoria’s best kept theatre secret is the brick building located in Upper Bradley Park, just a few hundred yards away from Corn Stock Theatre’s summer tent. The relatively new sign on its fa├žade gives away that it’s the “Corn Stock Theatre Center” which is home to their several “indoor” programs, including Corn Stock’s Winter Playhouse.

Known originally as Corn Stock’s “Lab Theatre” its mission has always included producing material that caters to more of a niche audience than what you may find at CST’s Tent during the summer months. While the name and identity has evolved a bit in its 39 seasons, the Winter Playhouse (as we know it today) still carries out the mission of presenting niche material AND providing a training ground for new directors and artisans.

The first offering of their new season accomplishes both; a production of Terrence McNally’s play entitled It’s Only A Play. While the play was originally written in the early 80’s when the New York theatre landscape was a bit different than it is now, this production will utilize a new version of the script recently revised for Broadway that updates many of its references to feel fresh, new, and especially, now.

And while it may be “only a play” it’s a smart, interesting and hysterical one. In the grand tradition of shows like Noises Off and Moon Over Buffalo, It’s Only A Play is “theatre about theater”. The setting is the lush Manhattan penthouse of newly minted Broadway producer Julia Budder, as she and other members of their company (producers, playwright, star, etc.) anxiously await the opening night reviews of their play entitled “The Golden Egg”. Observing and commenting on their evening is Gus, a simple young man hired as a coat check valet for the evening, just arrived in the Big Apple to make it big himself.

As for the show’s director, the name Gary Hale (or rather, his nom de plume “Hale Garrison”) should be a familiar one to Winter Playhouse audiences. An Illinois Central College communications professor by day and playwright by night, Hale’s writing efforts have been produced numerous times at the Winter Playhouse; he also directed the Woody Allen penned one-act “Honeymoon Motel” in the space back in 2013. He makes his full-length stage directing debut with It’s Only A Play, and couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome.

“I hit the jackpot with this cast. It’s a good mix of familiar faces returning as well as new people, and some that are returning to Corn Stock after a long hiatus,” Hale gushes. “I’m extremely happy with this cast, and the crew is amazing too.”

The conceit of the show’s recent successful Broadway run was a cast stacked with established bona fide stars - various Tony, Emmy and even Oscar winning actors such as Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Martin Short, Stockard Channing, F. Murray Abraham, and many more appeared in the show through its run, while the role of Gus was played appropriately by a young actor new to Broadway (and he nabbed the show’s sole Tony nomination against all those heavyweights).

Filling the roles of these big theatre personalities at the Winter Playhouse will be some of Peoria’s finest big theatre personalities. Trish Ballard plays producer Julia, and the rest of the cast includes Michael Downey as playwright Peter Austin, Nate Downs as his bombastic actor friend James Wicker, Mollie Huisman as the drug-addled and aging diva Virginia Noyes, Zachary Robertson plays director Frank Finger, Chris Peterlin is critic Ira Drew, and appearing as Gus is Jordan Zimmerman.

“It’s a funny show, but what these actors have brought to their characters…there’s a real humanity.” Hale goes on to say. “They are real people with real feelings. Bad reviews hurt, they attack our insecurities and flaws, and while they are all ‘caricatures of the theatre’ I think audiences will also like and understand these people. People will have a lot of laughs!”
It’s Only a Play opens Friday, October 21st and runs October 22, 27 – 29 at 7:30 pm, and October 30 at 2:30 pm. As this is the 39th Season opener, there is still an entire slate of shows to follow after It’s Only A Play.

Tea & Sympathy directed by Rebekah Bourland runs November 11 – 12, 17 – 20, 2016. A student at a private boys’ school feels uncertain and uncomfortable. He develops an innocent but powerful attraction to the wife of his housemaster, who is herself in an uncertain situation but has an understanding and sympathetic ear. The play explores what it means to be “manly” and who is the best judge of masculine behavior.

An Evening of One Acts will be produced January 13 – 14, 19-22, 2017. One Acts have always been a favored tradition in Winter Playhouse programming, and this offering will feature three very different and enjoyable short plays directed by Doug Day, Celeste Wohl and Cindy DeVore.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson directed by Chip Joyce will be the season’s lone musical offering and run February 10 – 11, 16 – 19, 2017. Follow America’s seventh president from his early days on the wild frontier to his controversial reign in the White House. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is an emo-laced anachronistic rock invocation of the seventh U.S. President set in an alternate universe that draws parallels to today’s political/populist landscape.

A Man For All Seasons directed by Tim Wyman will close the season March 3 – 4, 9 – 12, 2017. This tragic historical drama offers a portrait of Sir Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor of England during the reign of Henry VIII. When Henry fails to obtain Papal approval for his divorce from Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, he mandates his subjects to sign an “Act of Supremacy”. Sir Thomas cannot in good conscience comply, and is ultimately accused of high treason.

Season tickets are $50 and are available at performances of It’s Only a Play or during Corn Stock’s Box Office hours. Individual tickets for the show are $12 for adults and $8 for students 18 & under with ID.  Call 309-676-2196 or visit
www.cornstocktheatre.com for more information. We hope to see you this season at the Corn Stock Winter Playhouse!

Posted on October 17, 2016 

 

 
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