Theater sets full production schedule
The show must go on … and so it is at The Merc Playhouse, with plans in place for a full season of live theater after the regular production schedule was suspended during the pandemic shutdown.
The Merc has hosted a few performances since last fall, including a readers theater, a children’s theater and a high school production. The playhouse is resuming its regular presenting schedule again with a children’s summer musical theater camp, a comedy and a readers theater in the fall, a winter holiday performance and a children’s theater performance next spring.
Coming right up on July 1-3 is “The Brunch Club,” a parody of the 1980s cult film “The Breakfast Club.” The performances will culminate a one-week character development workshop for high school actors directed by The Merc’s new executive director, Kira Wood Cramer.
Cramer said she’s had the idea for the one-act play with a five-member cast since she proposed it as a senior project when she was 17 years old. “It’s sort of like a scrunched-up Breakfast Club,” she said. “We’re going to do a lot of character work.” Performances will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 1 and Saturday, July 2, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 3.
The Merc is offering its annual summer musical theater camp in July and registration has filled up. Young thespians in third-eighth grades will begin rehearsing July 11 and present “Winnie The Pooh” on July 14 at 4 p.m. and July 16 at 2 p.m. The weeklong camp is directed by Megan Hicks, a director, actor and choreographer from the Puget Sound area, with Cramer as her assistant director.
Auditions are taking place at the end of June (see box) for The Merc’s fall comedy, “The One Act Play that Goes Wrong.” The play is about an inept and accident-prone drama society that attempts to produce a murder mystery, with disastrous results.
“It’s slapstick comedy, a play within a play,” said Cramer. “It reminds me of a SNL [Saturday Night Live] skit.” The play will run for three weekends from Sept. 16-Oct. 2. That’s an extra week longer than most productions, she said.
“It’s an experiment. We think this is such a hilarious show that we want to give people an opportunity to see it,” Cramer said. The longer run also offers an extra “pay-as-you-can” Thursday performance. “Those are always the most popular for every show,” she said.
Also planned for fall is a readers theater production of three one-act comedies — “Mere Mortals,” “Time Flies,” and “The Butleress” — directed by Phil Quevillon. The performances will run two weekends rather than one weekend as readers theaters have in the past — “another experiment,” Cramer said. Auditions will be held in August.
The holiday performance will be “The Nutcracker,” featuring kids and adults, music and dance. It will be directed by Missi Smith, The Merc’s previous executive director, and Jane Orme. The show will run Dec. 2-11, and audience members will be able to bid on silent auction items when they attend.
Orme, who directed the Tom Zbyszewski Children’s Theater production of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” in March, will direct next spring’s children’s theater show, “Beauty and the Beast.”
People who haven’t attended an event at The Merc in a while will notice some improvements to the theater. While the theater was closed due to COVID, the staff and board of directors were busy upgrading the facility.
The Merc has gotten a new HVAC system with a commercial air scrubber. “We have a really good air filtration system,” Cramer said.
The Merc also updated seating to include new seats with cup holders. The seats are maneuverable and can be moved around to accommodate smaller audiences in more intimate settings as needed, or can be expanded to seat a full house of about 130.
Box office windows have been added for outdoor access and easier entry into the theater. A new tech booth in the audience helps separate the tech crew from audience members and provides better views for the tech booth to see the action onstage.
The concessions area has added a sink so concessions volunteers no longer have to go backstage to get water or rinse dishes. And backstage, a dressing room facelift includes new flooring that will be easier to clean than the old 1980s carpeting, new makeup mirrors, and brighter lighting to make the dressing room a more pleasant place for actors.