‘Picnic’ continues Brucemore tradition with fresh faces

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Classics at Brucemore Presents: Picnic

Peggy Boyle Whitworth Amphitheater at Brucemore — opens Thursday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m.

Madge (McKayla Sturtz, center) finds her loyalties torn between Alan (Chris Walbert, left) and Hal (Greg Tucker, right). — photo by Struttmann Photo

Next week, Brucemore opens its summer classic, Picnic, and it promises to be an outdoor theater experience that offers the community an opportunity to be part of the show. Since 1996, Brucemore has staged its summer show against a natural amphitheater that offers the audience not only a performance but an unique interactive experience. From the ancient Greeks to Shakespeare to American drama, this annual summer show brings the community together around truly community-based theater.

This year, Tara Richards, Brucemore’s director of community engagement, notes that when they invited show proposals from directors, they wanted something that would “continue the tradition of engaging audiences and a unique way … making use of the space and spirit of the program.”

Richards said that because Brucemore is not a theater company, they are able to offer flexibility and encouragement for new faces to participate. Director Rachel Korach Howell notes that the majority of the cast did not know each other prior to the first reading.

“It’s a very special experience to have an almost entirely new group of people working together on this project. Watching their relationships blossom on stage as well as off can only be categorized as a unique and lovely joy,” Howell said in an email.

Originally staged in 1953, William Inge’s Picnic is a classic American tale of friendship and family that focuses on the interplay of relationships, decisions and outcomes. While a play that was Paul Newman’s Broadway debut might seem outdated, Howell and her cast promise to bring the characters, as well as their struggles and joys, alive.

“Every moment is ripe with possibility, excitement and the unpredictability of life. You’ll get to know real people,” Howell notes.

L-R, Angelica Fink (Christine), Karlē Meyers (Rosemary) and Tierra Plowden (Irma) are a trio of schoolteachers in William Inge’s ‘Picnic,’ opening July 12 at Brucemore. — photo by Struttmann Photo

The story kicks off when a drifter comes into town the day before the annual picnic, and his presence prompts the townspeople to examine what they feel and want.

“This show is built on is honesty,” Howell says. “It’s real: these people, what they go through, and how they live in the world.” She added that audience members will likely see themselves and their friends and neighbors reflected on stage.

Centered on the back porches of two women, the show will introduce the audience to a cast of characters with concerns and relationships as modern as their own. Howell mentions that Picnic “…is a snippet of a life we thought we left behind years ago.”

“We think we’ve come so far; yet the themes in this play reflect a stagnancy,” Howell said, in the way we treat women, the poor and the elderly. Of course, the play also offers lively dialogue, blossoming relationships and a bit of dancing as the characters prepare for their upcoming picnic.

Picnic opens next week and runs through July 21. Tickets are $15-20. Brucemore invites community members to bring their own picnics and join the characters in their yards. The gates open at 6:30 p.m. for picnicking and on-site parking is available by entering the property at 2160 Linden Drive SE. Storytelling at its finest offers an immersive experience, and Picnic promises just that, along with the reminder that, as Howell said, “every simple moment has the potential to change everything.”

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