Cross the timeless charm of Lucille Ball, Martha Raye, and Mary Tyler Moore with the striking modern wit of two local ladies, and what do you get? The world premiere of Girard's Nude, running at Theater Red with Kettle Moraine Playhouse September 6th through 22nd!
In a conversation with playwright Kristin Bayer and composer Deanna Gibeau, the creatives spill all regarding this new comedy.
Gibeau and Bayer.
What is Girard's Nude about?
G/B: "The story is a comedy about a middle-aged woman whose routine life is upended when she meets a French artist who wants to paint her nude. She desperately wants to do it, but she knows it would create a scandal in small town Waldenford, so she plans to keep it a secret from everyone (including her husband).
Imagine if [in an episode of I Love Lucy], Lucy wanted to pose nude for a French artist, but didn’t want Ricky to know. You can imagine how that works out for her."
Taking place in 1953, how will Girard's Nude resonate with a modern audience?
G/B: "[...] Our story uses the trappings of 1950s music and situation comedy to tell a story about timeless issues: distrust of “foreigners,” transcendence of art over everyday experience, perceptions of feminine beauty, how conventions and mores can stifle creativity, and the importance of growing and changing throughout your life."
Being a world premiere, what unique challenges has this process brought the team?
G/B: "We'd say both challenges and opportunities [...] When a company produces a well-loved classic, they bring their own prior experiences to the new production: the blocking, the costuming, the interpretation of the characters, the set design, all that.
With a new production, it is a blank slate. Everything is originated by these actors, directors and designers, which is both daunting and exciting. It’s exciting for the audience too, which has no preconceived expectations for what the show will look and sound like.
And that is the magic of a world premiere -- that can only happen with something completely new."
The era of entertainment which this piece emulates has a bit of a stifling reputation for using female oppression as the means for a punchline. How does this new piece, having been written by contemporary ladies, embrace the 50s nostalgia while empowering women?
G/B: "In the 1950s, a happy ending for a heroine often involved learning to accept her circumscribed role as a wife and mother. Our heroine is a housewife and mother who finds that isn’t enough to give her a fulfilling life.
In many ways, this is a coming of age story for this middle-aged woman. But, it’s a coming of age story for her husband as well. Both characters need to grow in order to earn the happy ending for themselves and for their relationship. It’s probably not atypical of what actually happened for women of the time."
What do you hope for audiences to take away from this piece?
G/B: "We love the way one of our actors described the show. He said, “Everywhere you look in this show, you find funny.” We want our audiences to laugh. We want them to leave the theater humming the songs and smiling. We want them to escape some of the pressures of the world for a few hours, to have a magical theater experience, and to come away feeling inspired.
That would be a great takeaway for us as well, as the creators of the show. And, we wouldn’t mind if other directors asked us for the script. We’d love to publish this play, and we’d love for it to continue bringing delight to other audiences well into the future."
The joys of an era-style musical comedy are icing on the cake of Theater RED's already stellar reputation for impeccable entertainment. Patrons are eager to fill seats for Girard's Nude and get a taste of old nostalgia crossed with universal themes. Director Christopher Elst describes the piece best as such:
"Kristin and Deanna have done a superb job of balancing comedy and epiphany in every scene, and of using the clichés in that genre to point out the underlying humanity in them. We get to see fully-realized characters on a path of growth, with all the pain and laughter that such a path brings.” (In an interview with Russ Bickerstaff of The Small Stage.)
To join the first official walk of this path, get tickets while they last and don't miss on the groundbreaking for this new musical!