Just because the Landers Theatre on Walnut is currently closed for renovations, no one at SLT is taking time off, according to Artistic Director Beth Domann and Marketing Director Megan Buchbinder, who visited KSMU’s “Arts News” to catch us up on what’s happening.
Before we talked about LT’s production and class schedules, I asked about how renovation is going. “It’s amazing,” says Beth Domann. “I was backstage the other day, and they’ve been working on the inside of the ‘stage house’. And I’ve never seen it like that.” What about the infamous bats who have long occupied the backstage and fly areas? “We’ve sealed the whole building—I don’t know if the bats are in or out! But all those little holes they crawled in and out of all those years, they no longer exist.” “There’s no trace of them (the bats) right now,” adds Megan Buchbinder. “If you haven’t driven by the Landers Theatre, drive by it and look at the front. It just looks amazing, and the sidewalk—which is heated, by the way. Aren’t we hoo-hoo? We’re so hoo-hoo. But it just looks beautiful,” says Domann. “Our boiler died right before Christimas, a rather tragic little boiler death. And so we have a new boiler, and it’s about a third of the size of the old one.” Little Theatre is in the middle of a major capital campaign. “The building’s 110 years old—I’m 56 and I need a little freshening up! You know, a little lift, nip ‘n’ tuck. So we’ve got that, and we’ve got the Education Building, which we’re going to purchase.” Currently Little Theatre is leasing the old McDaniel elementary school building near the corner of National Avenue and St. Louis Street, at 237 S. Florence Avenue. “We have 80 classes a week happening over there.” And, adds Megan Buchbinder, six or seven shows either in production or rehearsal. Needless to say, the Landers was getting awfully crowded. “That Education facility has been a godsend. We’re able now to grow exponentially in the abilities that we have, and the opportunities to bring more arts education to the community.” “I don’t miss the tap-dancing above my head” at the Landers, adds Beth Domann.
“This year’s been a little strange,” Domann admits, “because we’ve had to be out of the theater for two months. So we had to do ‘Cabaret’ at Nathan P. Murphy’s, and then we decided to go back to The Old Glass Place” for their next “mainstage” production.
Domann is directing—“you can attempt to call it that,” she laughs, as Megan Buchbinder describes it as “organized chaos”—Ken Davenport’s “The Awesome 80s Prom”, opening Valentine’s Day, February 14, and running through the 23rd at the Old Glass Place, 521 E. St. Louis Street. In the style of “Tony and Tina’s Wedding,” which was also produced at the Old Glass Place, this is an immersive, audience-participation romp where you can “party like it’s 1989.” “It is so fun,” says Domann. “We’ve got an incredible cast. A lot of our ‘Tony and Tina’ people are back… and it’s like you’re going to a 1989 prom.” “When you’re coming to the show, you’re coming as a classmate” of the various cast members, adds Buchbinder “The characters are going to treat you like you’re one of their classmates, or maybe a teacher. Whatever they assign to you, you’ve gotta go with it.”
The cast members play all the usual cliques and stereotypical characters you would find at a high school ca.1989: the nerds, the preppies, the jocks, the head cheerleader, the exchange students. And every one of them is running for Prom King and Queen… which means the audience gets to vote for the King and Queen at every performance… which means that, in all likelihood, different characters will win each night. And the competition is “hardcore,” says Megan Buchbinder, who is herself playing one of the Prom Queen candidates. “And she is GOING to win—she’s on a mission!” Because the audience will cast votes for them, all the characters actively campaign throughout the performance. “It’s our job to go around and educate the audience about us and our relationships with other people, and convince them that we are worthy of that crown.” Buchbinder says the audience can dance to the music, schmooze with the cast members, or just sit back and watch the fun unfold.
Beth Domann describes the structure of “Awesome 80s Prom” as not so much strictly scripted, but with definite scenes interspersed with what she calls “freeform.” Buchbinder says the cast members take their cues from what music is playing in the background at any one time. “Some of us characters have talked to each other about what we want to do during the ‘freeforms,’” she adds.
This show is for audiences age 18 and up because they will be serving alcohol—and there is some adult content in the play. General admission tickets are $45-$55. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm Feb.14-23 at the Old Glass Place, which can seat about 200 patrons per night.
And this weekend, February 8-10, SLT presents an Education Studio production, “Lily Plants a Garden” by José Cruz González, at their new Education Building on Florence Avenue. Megan Buchbinder calls the show “a really exciting opportunity for us at the Education facility, because not only are we doing education classes but we have two performance areas there. We have a big auditorium, and we’ve also built a black-box studio. So that’s where ‘Lily Plants a Garden’ is. It seats about 60 to 70 people. So it’s a really intimate space and we can do more creative, smaller shows.”
“Lily” tells the allegorical story of a young girl who is a child of two different cultures—the Wululanders and the Zobeings, living in a world of intolerance and ignorance. WuluLand and Zobe were once friendly, but have been waging war for centuries… only no one can remember how or why the two cultures became such mortal enemies. Through her optimism and imagination, Lily helps create a healing sanctuary out of the rubble of war. Performances are Friday and Saturday Feb. 8 and 9 at 7:00pm and Sunday the 10th at 2:00pm at the SLT Education Building. Tickets range from $6-$10.
We also talked a bit about the offerings of the SLT Education program. They’ll begin their next quarterly round of six-week class sessions in dance, voice and acting for youth ages four to teens. Dates are February 18 through April 4th, late Monday and Thursday afternoons. Tuition packages are available; individual classes are $75, and there are special prices as students add more classes. “We also have adult classes that are year-round,” says Megan Buchbinder. “There’s something for absolutely everyone at all levels,” according to Beth Domann. All it takes, they say, is the courage to step out your comfort zone and try something different.
More information about classes, costs and schedules can be found at: https://www.springfieldlittletheatre.org/education/six-week-classes/.
For ticket information on current productions, call the Landers box office at 869-1334 or visit www.springfieldlittletheatre.org.