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Arts and Entertainment

Powerful Message in MSU Theatre and Dance's Production of "Bare--The Musical"

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(Poster design courtesy Missouri State University Theatre and Dance)
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The Missouri State University Theatre and Dance Department presents "Bare-the Musical" by Damon Intrabartolo and Jon Hartmere, directed by Sarah Wiggin, now through Mar 6 in the Craig Hall Balcony Theatre.  For “Arts News” we talked with the production’s assistant director—and an understudy for one of the roles—Caitlin Palmisano.

The show opened Thursday night, and Caitlin did not, in fact, get to perform last night—the actor for whom she’s covering was cleared to go on. (She did get to perform the final dress rehearsal.)  However, she’s been heavily involved throughout the rehearsal process. “It’s been great. I was originally supposed to be in the cast, but I had some vocal-health problems and had to drop out of the show.  So Sarah (Wiggin) offered me the position of Assistant Director.  And it’s been a great process. I’ve learned so much about directing, and I’ve really grown as an actor myself, just being able to see my peers grow throughout this process, and see their mistakes and be able to pick out little acting things and give them notes.”

“Bare” takes place during the Feast of the Epiphany at St. Cecilia’s, a private, coed, Catholic boarding high school. Peter, an altar boy, dozes off during mass and has a nightmare in which he is outed and condemned by everyone for being gay. Still, he feels increasingly compelled to reveal not only his own true nature, but also his secret relationship with the school’s golden boy/jock/big-man-on-campus, Jason, who fears losing everything if he’s outed. As Caitlin Palmisano says, “They never specifically say that they’re boyfriends,” but that is definitely the implication. Compounding their angst are peer rivalries and crushes, parental expectations and rigid church doctrines. “The whole show is really about their struggle with each other, with their own personal religious journeys,” according to Caitlin Palmisano. The school production of “Romeo and Juliet” brings matters to a head, and the lovers must decide whether to continue hiding or bare their souls. Palmisano calls it “a play within a play, and there are a lot of parallels between those plays.” This timely musical features a heartpounding pop/rock score that propels its powerful message. “It’s a pop-rock opera,” according to Palmisano. “It’s mostly sung.” And what one would expect to be conventional spoken dialogue is also sung, recitative-style. “It’s really interesting in this pop-rock form,” Palmisano continues.

MSU’s cast includes 21 individuals, which is actually several more than are called for in the script. “We added some ensemble members in order to include more students.” Considering the intimate size of the Balcony Theatre, Palmisano says “it’s been a bit of a struggle to have everyone on stage at once—but we definitely made it work.”

The show contains strong language and adult themes. Performances are tonight (Friday Feb. 22); Sunday through Friday Feb.25-March 1; and Sunday-Wednesday March 3-6. All curtain times are 7:30pm.  Tickets range from $12-$18.  Caitlin Palmisano advises that they are sold out through Monday night the 25th, “but beyond that there’s plenty of availability.”

For information visit http://theatreanddance.missouristate.edu/currentproductions.htm; for tickets call the MSU Tix number, 836-7678 or go to www.missouristatetix.com.