Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Robby McGhee on THE BURDEN OF BEING

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Robby McGhee has been very, very busy this summer. The comedy that he's been doing has been scheduled in and around a trip to New York to perform a run of Waiting with World's Stage Theatre Off- Broadway. McGhee returns this August to work on what appears tone a very, very ambitious show. 


The Burden of Being is a musical. With puppets. It's comic. It's serious. And it's a musical. And it's probably one of the most intriguing main stage things to make onto a local stage this summer. Concieved by McGhee, it's the story of a monster named Aaron who is one of only a few monsters living in the town of Flatville. He's graduating from high school as the Valedictorian. 


McGhee on the piece's creation: " We held three workshops at Comedy Sportz; at the workshops, I gave some strong improvisers (Mara McGhee, Jordan Gwiazdowski, Amanda Carson, etc) plot points and character hints and they improvised some dialogue for the story. I took some of it, and let the other bits inspire me to write something of my own. Sara Buchner, who I know has experience in poetry, and I wrote the lyrics together. "


From there, McGhee and the house band for T.I.M.: The Improvised Musical went on a retreat and came up with the proper scoring for everything and it all came together. Says McGhee: "Colleen Schmitt is our musical director and our music ranges from upbeat, to grunge rock, to a couple of heartfelt ballads (my specialty)."


What with there only being a few monsters in Flatville, the cast is a mix of puppets and non-puppet actors. The puppets themselves were cerated by Brian Bzdawka, Andrew Parchman, and Jessica Bradway. There are seven of them and McGhee says, "they're beautiful."


The challenges of bringing this to the stage in late summer are numerous, but McGhee is happy with who he is working with on the show:


"We've got an incredible cast lined up. Some have puppeteering experience, and others do not. The rehearsal process is going to be a learning process for all of us. The payoff will be worth it. Our story is truly original, and I'm excited to hand it over to Jared Stepp (Producer of the 48 Hour Film Festival and Director of Tall Boys Improv) to direct."


AND it's a serious and complex comic musical with puppets AND human actors being staged in a studio theatre. (The Alchemist Theatre to be precise.) So the challenges only get more tricky from here. Because not only do they have a delicate balance between comedy and serious drama to try to maintain in an American musical package, but they have to do it on a small stage with the audience very close to them AND the delicate theatrical sleight of hand that turns an inanimate object into a living, breathing character  to try to handle. 


Says McGhee: " I think the intimacy of the Alchemist Theatre is exactly what this show needs. It'll be quite a contrast from King Lear, [The Alchemist's production of LEAR closes only  a couple of weeks prior to the musical] but I'm very proud of the script. It's really difficult for me to call it a comedy. I think it's hilarious. I sure hope others think so, too."


Robby McGhee's The Burden of Being runs August 15th - 31st at the Alchemist  Theatre on 2569 South Kinnickinnic  Avenue. For ticket reservations, visit Alchemist  Theatre online. 




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