A draft of the new work, by writer-director Aaron Posner and composer James Sugg, has been completed and refinements are ongoing, toward a bow April 26, 2006.
The cast is expected to include Dan Manning, Sherri L. Edelen, Tony Lawton, Erin Weaver, Den Dibble and Scott Greer.
The creators have nicknamed the show M3 for short. The work is a musical for the entire family "in a toe-tapping bluegrass style," according to DTC. It "depicts the loves, hopes and foibles of small-town America."
"The short story the musical is based on was written while he was in the middle of writing 'Huckleberry Finn' in the mid-1880s," lyricist-librettist Posner told Playbill.com via email. "M3 is vintage Mark Twain. One can see many themes that he would explore so brilliantly in 'Huck Finn' taking shape here. It is clear in this work how Twain came to embody and define the distinctly American sense of humor. It is exciting — at a time when so much puzzling is being done and about what we mean by 'American' — to be working on something that at its core is so quintessentially American."
Using Twain's "unique blend of sentiment and irony, the piece is conceived to be friendly, informal, straight-from-the-hip and a little bit folksy, very much in keeping with the tone of Twain's narrators," Posner explained. "Nothing fancy, nothing too highfalutin'. Just a good tale, well told." What is meant by a bluegrass "musical melodrama"?
Posner explained, "The theatrical style of this work was inspired by a Jug Band I saw at the Oregon Country Fair a few years back. Folks played whatever they could as best they could. The joy of the playing was first and foremost in their minds. It was music-making as a communal event. The energy and the playing off of each other was as important as what was being played, or even how it sounded. We hope to capture this infectious and playful energy in our production, where the whole cast will be part of the band and will simply step forward to tell the story at hand. We have set out to create a high quality new musical — one that will have a broad appeal to audiences, but be quirky, original, and work in new and playful ways."
Designers for the project are Tony Cisek (set), Kate Turner Walker (costume), James Leitner (lighting). Music director will be Jay Ansill.
"We are aiming to create something new within the confines of this uniquely American form, utilizing the unique perspectives that we both bring to the process," Posner said of his collaboration with Sugg. "These include strong backgrounds in literary adaptations, storytelling, Shakespeare [Posner's experience] and classical music, sound design, and more experimental theatre [Sugg's background]. This project is a great stretch and challenge for both us. We have worked together several times as director/actor and director/sound designer. We are now excited to take on this new level of collaboration, as well as stretch ourselves as artists and writers."
Posner and Sugg are respected artists who work regularly in the Philadelphia theatre community (indeed, the geographically-close Wilmington is considered part of the Philly theatre scene and DTC shows are eligible for Barrymore Awards). M3 performances play the 389-seat Delaware Theatre Company space April 26-May 14. 2006.
The 2005-06 DTC season, under the artistic directorship of Anne Marie Cammarato, includes Larry Shue's The Nerd, Glen Berger's Underneath the Lintel, Roger Bean's Winter Wonderettes (a revue of holiday music in a '60s style), Arthur Miller's The Price and Pamela Gien's The Syringa Tree (a South-Africa-set solo show performed this time by a black actress and a white actress, under the direction of C. Michael Wright).
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