Following up their Ten Years Apart, which will have a second regional production at Minneapolis' Ordway in the fall, Matthew Bennett and Sean McCourt will read their second play with music, Badger Country, May 19 at Off-Broadway's Douglas Fairbanks Theatre.
The title refers to the rabidity of Jordan, Wisconsin's townspeople for their beloved University of Wisconsin football team, the Badgers. As Amanda Gremyl, a rising alternative rock singer, looks back on her life, she remembers the 10-year-old child she was and how confusion about her own worth has brought her back home to "Badger Country."
Bennett says the Badgers are more than the just football to the people of Jordan. "It is an active pastime to watch them on Saturdays and [the Badgers] serve as a metaphor for what is happening in their lives."
Bennett and McCourt have fashioned six songs for the show, mostly penned by McCourt. These songs are set around the story, in a conceit that places Amanda in an alternative rock concert. As she sings songs from her oeuvre, the audience is told the stories from her past that created them.
Among these are "She's Just a Girl" (which opens the show), "Uncle Dan," "Welcome Home" and "Badger Country." Bennett described his songwriting process with McCourt thusly: "The only thing mine about those are the titles. I would call him up and say, 'I need a song called 'She's Just a Girl' to open the show.' He complied."
Two songs are not solely McCourt's, "Fighting For The Cream," which was written in total by Bennett and "I Have Seen Roses" with music by McCourt and lyrics by Bennett.
Reading Badger Country will be Amanda Naughton ("Remember WENN"), Clarke Thorell (Saturday Night, Titanic), Marsha Dietlein, McCourt, P.J. Morrison, Joyce Reehling, George Riddle and Tom Tammi.
The reading of Badger Country is open. The Douglas Fairbanks Theatre is located at 432 West 42nd Street. For reservations, call (718) 768-4852.
According to Bennett, Ten Years Apart has been optioned by Kevin McCollum (Rent, Damn Yankees) who will produce it first at the Ordway Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota, Sept. 12-Oct. 22 with hopes for a commercial run in New York City to follow. The play with music made its world premiere April 6-May 2, 1999 at Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park.
In Ten Years Apart, two musician brothers, Orville (Bennett) and Parker (McCourt) Anderson, are brought back together by the death of their father. Although they have been separated most of their lives, they discover their adulthoods have run strangely parallel to one another with one uniting feature: music.
Bennett won raves as Friar Laurence in Terrence Mann Romeo and Juliet at MN's Ordway. His New York credits include Thomas Andrews in Titanic, Floyd Collins, Honky Tonk Highway, and the 1991 cabaret piece Crooners Anonymous which he co-wrote and directed. McCourt, who made his Broadway debut as Joseph Boxhall/Jay Yates in Titanic, last appeared on the New York stage in It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues at the Ambassador Theatre. He has performed Off Broadway in Woody Guthrie's American Song, Honky Tonk Highway and Last Romeo, his own solo musical piece.
-- By Christine Ehren