New York Theatre Barn (New York, NY) is partnering with Encore Theater Company (Dayton, OH) to produce an out-of-town developmental production in Dayton of Speargrove Presents, the new musical about two families in a North Texas town who struggle with a community battle ignited by a controversial high school production of the musical Rent, in Summer 2013.
Commissioned by New York Theatre Barn in 2010, Speargrove Presents has book and lyrics by Sammy Buck and music and lyrics by Brandon James Gwinn. It is inspired by true events that took place in Rowlett, TX in 2007, when a drama teacher was forced to cancel a high school production of Rent after a few parents complained to the school board about its content, as well as other similar events over the past five years pertaining to controversial productions of The Laramie Project, Falsettos, and The Rocky Horror Show in Nevada, New Jersey, California, and now Loveland, OH (over a production of Legally Blonde).
In a recent letter to the Loveland Schools Superintendent Dr. John C. Marschhausen and President of the Board of Education, Christine Olsen, Gwinn reflected that "I am writing a musical [Speargrove Presents] that really strives to illustrate a community that (using musical theatre as a catalyst) allowed parents and administrators to insinuate high school students can't handle mature issues and therefore suffocated communication. My big fear is that this musical's subject matter (which is based on events that happened to actual high school students) will be called 'too much for high school students.'"
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.
NYTB's Artistic Director and co-conceiver of the project, Joe Barros, will direct and choreograph the developmental production. Jason Najjoum, NYTB's Producing Director and Casting Director, will cast. Casting will be conducted locally, comprised of high school-aged and adult Ohio actors. Casting, creative team, and ticketing information will be announced at a later date.
NYTB and Encore collaborated on a successful run of the multi-composer musical Hot Mess in Manhattan this past fall, and both companies are members of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre. Branden Huldeen, NAMT's New Works Director and Festival Producing Director, offered his support for the collaboration: "The National Alliance for Musical Theatre's strength lies in our network of theatres across the country coming together to help further musical theatre. We are always excited when our member theatres connect through NAMT and go on to collaborate on developing new musicals. We hope that collaboration between New York Theatre Barn and Encore Theater Company will inspire and motivate other theatres to join forces to bring exciting new works to life."
Speargrove Presents was conceived by Joe Barros, Laura Brandel, Sammy Buck, Karen Marshall, Reed Prescott, and Sam Willmott.