Shakespeare As Wild-West Musical Comedy: SCT's "Desperate Measures"
Director Jeffrey MIndock and actor/singer Jeff Carney from Springfield Contemporary Theatre joined us on KSMU’s “Arts News” to talk about SCT’s newest show, ”Desperate Measures”, described as a Wild West musical comedy based on Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure.” It opens next weekend and will run August 13-15 and 19-22 on the Backlot at SCT’s Operations Center, located at 2025 E. Chestnut Expressway at Pythian in east Springfield.
The show’s director Jeffrey Mindock provided a description of the show’s history. “This was a production that ran predominantly off-Broadway in the late 20-teens. It is traditionally a play told with six actors, and it tells the story of Johnny Blood, who is your traditional glossy eyed cowboy, (who) gets himself into a little bit of trouble and is sent to jail and sentenced to hang. And for those of you who know ‘Measure for Measure’ by William Shakespeare, you know where this is going. The governor of the town tells his sister--who is about to become a nun--that the only way that she can save Johnny's life is by giving up her chastity. And the sheriff gets involved, because he wants to hatch a plot to make sure that Johnny is saved. And the governor is revealed as the monster that he is. The plan is for one of the lovely saloon girls to take the nun’s place. And if you are still with me, only more comedy ensues! It is just a really fun, energetic evening.”
Mindock, who works as Springfield Contemporary Theatre’s Development Director, said this is his first opportunity to direct a show at SCT. “My background is in Shakespeare and musical comedy. So when we were looking at what my first opportunity (at SCT) would be, this kind of hit the sweet spot.”
He calls the musical score of “Desperate Measures,” with music by David Friedman and book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg, “some of the most beautiful music that has been written in the contemporary theater. And it's being sung beautifully” by his SCT cast, which includes Aryn Bohannon (who also choreographed the show); Clayton Avery; Jeff Carney; Samantha Fleming; Megan Marks; Joey Myers; Ron Seney; and Justin Zickefoose—a mix of newcomers and SCT veterans. Music direction is by Alex Huff, leading a five-piece live band.
“When I was putting together the cast,” said Jeff Mindock, “the play automatically lends itself to having, I would say, a wide array of generational talent. I feel like I've really been gifted with an all-star opportunity to get to know what Springfield has to offer in terms of talent. And I'm excited for audiences to be able to enjoy that. We've really been working hard, putting in the time and rehearsal. You know, when you're doing a musical comedy, you've got to make sure you’ve got the music and the choreography. But with a Shakespearean comedy, you also have a lot of technique that you need to apply to make sure that it's funny.”
Not only is the plot based on Shakespeare, so is the structure of the script. “The entire play is in rhyming couplets,” said Mindock. And the rhyming dialogue comes at the audience in fast and furious fashion. “It’s a mile a minute,” he said.
Jeff Carney plays the governor, improbably named “Otto Von Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber.” “And he's a he's a lovable old letch,” said Carney. “He’s not a geezer—he's got some spring in his step.”
“The production is going to look beautiful,” added director Jeffrey Mindock. “We've got one of my colleagues from New York City, Jack Golden, (who) flew in to do the scenic design. So we've got a 16-foot exterior of a Wild West saloon on the SCT Backlot. Our technical director, Payton Jackson, and (Artistic Director) Rick (Dines) erected the walls just yesterday. I mean, it's really going to be a sight to behold and, I think, a real celebration of what the last 16 months have been for a lot of us in the arts industry. I think we're pulling out all the stops.” Added Jeff Carney, “It’s one of the nicest sets we’ve had in this city.”
Of course, they’re hoping for good weather through the run of the show, and that it won’t be too hot. “All the shows start at 8:00pm,” said Mindock, “so we’re doing a really good job of trying to maintain the temperature for our audiences.” There will be drinks available for purchase, as well as a different food truck each night. “So if folks want to come down to the Backlot and enjoy a little bit of dinner and a show, the house will open about 45 minutes ahead of time, and the food trucks are going to be there for an hour before the show starts.”
In addition to being held outdoors, current SCT Backlot productions offer socially-distanced seating, with audience capacity limited to 100 persons per night. Jeffrey Mindock told me that they’re already about half sold out. “I think that this is one of those shows that, after the first weekend, a ticket is going to be hard to come by. And furthermore,” said Mindock, “just for anybody who is thinking about coming or considering purchasing a ticket, the entire cast and staff at SCT are all (COVID-19) vaccinated. Masks at this point are recommended but not required for individuals. We have done a really good job, with our outdoor performances, of keeping people socially distanced. If there are any specific requests or things like that, we're always willing to accommodate. We just want to be able to welcome everyone back again and celebrate the communal experience of enjoying a show together.”
Performances of “Desperate Measures” are Friday through Sunday, August 13-15, and Thursday through Sunday August 19-22 at the SCT Backlot. All opening-night tickets for August 13 are $27; otherwise tickets range from $12 (student rush) to $32. Another important point: the Thursday August 19 performance will be a “Pay What You Can” night. “Accessibility is a huge thing at Springfield Contemporary Theater,” said Jeffrey MIndock. And in case of rain canceling any of the performances, you can either get a refund or credit for an upcoming performance.
For ticket information visit https://www.springfieldcontemporarytheatre.org or call their offices at (417) 831-8001. Tickets are also available in person at the box office at SCT’s Operations Center, 2025 E. Chestnut Expressway Suite D.