The New York Theatre Barn, which has been developing Speargrove Presents for several years, has partnered with the Ohio-based Encore Theater Company to stage the production this summer. The musical has book and lyrics by Sammy Buck ( Like You Like It, And Then I Wrote A Song About It) and music and lyrics by Brandon James Gwinn ( Matchmaker, Matchmaker – I’m Ready to Settle).
Speargrove Presents is inspired by an actual 2007 high school production of Rent: School Edition, which was canceled after community members in the town of Rowlett, TX, took issue with the content of the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning Jonathan Larson musical based on La Boheme.
The Dayton, OH, staging of Speargrove Presents takes on additional context following a very public battle over the Loveland High School production of Legally Blonde last November. Sonja Hansen, who staged the musical at Loveland, was recently fired when the school's administration determined that the material was unsuitable for young performers. The musical is frequently performed in schools across the U.S. Despite the support of parents and students who had completed a successful run, Hansen lost her job.
New York Theatre Barn artistic director and co-conceiver of Speargrove Presents, Joe Barros, will direct and choreograph the developmental production that will cast local high school-aged and adult actors. The two organizations have been working to bring Speargrove Presents to Ohio since last September, prior to the Loveland High School story. Here's how it's billed: "In Speargrove Presents, at the urging of his father Larry, adorkable Scott Ames auditions for the Speargrove High School musical to get closer to drama club queen bee Caroline. But when Larry discovers the show is Rent, he pulls Scott out. With the arrival of New York transplant Alex, her outspoken mom Lois, and rising community fear about the show, the stage is set for a controversy unlike this small town has ever seen. As the escalation drives wedges between father and son - and mother and daughter - Speargrove, Texas will discover that the show can't open until their minds do. Inspired by actual events, Speargrove Presents explores the indelible power of theatre and the inherent dangers of silence."
Encore Theater Company recently partnered with the Human Race Theatre to present a full production of 35mm: A Musical Exhibition, a collection of songs by Ryan Scott Oliver based on the photography of Matthew Murphy. The company has also staged Hedwig and the Angry Inch, I Love You Because, tick...tick...boom!, The Last Five Years, Spring Awakening and Pump Up The Volume in recent years.