The New Theatre Project celebrates Peace Day with 'Mother Courage in Concert'
Peace never comes easy, and apparently, neither does a show that celebrates United Nations International Peace Day.
For the recently launched New Theatre Project — led by Matt Andersen (managing director) and Keith Paul Medelis (artistic director) — had originally planned a staged reading of Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children,” with a regional all-star cast, in Ypsilanti’s Frog Island Park on September 19.
But some not-so-funny things happened along the way.
“Unfortunately, we had some cast members that had to leave for health reasons and scheduling issues,” said Medelis. “So we had critical actors leave for various reasons. But we’re still doing a show. We’re putting it together now. It’s kind of ‘Mother Courage’ in concert, where the music is the focus.”
Tony Kushner’s celebrated translation of Brecht’s play contains 12 songs; and because TNTP opted out of paying additional money for the songs’ music, the troupe will instead use the script’s lyrics to create their own soundtrack.
“The music is being written by (TNTP associate artist) Caleb Kruzel,” Medelis said. “He’s a brilliant musician. I called him last Saturday at noon to tell him what we were doing, and when we met at 5 p.m., he already had three great songs written. It was amazing. He’s the only person I would trust to take this on.”
This complicated things even more, however, when Medelis and his team learned that because of Frog Island Park’s noise restrictions, TNTP would have to find a new venue for the show. (The new venue is Elmo's Hideaway, at 220 S. Main, on the same day and time as previously planned.) Plus, when the plan for rehearsals shifted, director Austin Michael Tracy faced a daunting work schedule, leaving Medelis to step in as the show’s primary director.
“It’s pretty scary,” Medelis said regarding the flexibility the company has necessarily had to demonstrate throughout the process. “A theater emergency, (associate artist Ben Stange) and I have called it. But I love it, too. I think focusing on the music will be a lot of fun, and it’s a very cool idea. But we’ll also definitely take the audience through the narrative with some dialogue, too.”
Yes, while some marquee players had to bow out, many actors will still be involved and perform excerpts from the play.
TNTP company members plan to be at the Peace Day rally on the Diag on the day of the show (September 19), from noon to 4 p.m., performing songs and manning a table; and later, just before “Mother Courage” begins, EMU theater professor Pirooz Aghssa will offer a free, pre-show talk on Brecht.
That, at least, hasn’t changed.
“All this is very much in the spirit of TNTP,” said Medelis. “I like to plan, of course — I’m a planner — but if it doesn’t work out, I know I have this ensemble that will create something great.”