2nd Street Theater is now in the business of taking chances. When Maralyn Thoma first opened the theater, its slate of shows leaned toward safer fare, like Greater Tuna and Dracula. But when the space fell into dire financial straights several years ago, they threw caution to the wind and started experimenting. With Evil Dead: The Musical, they found they had an audience outside of the typical blue-haired comfort zone that makes up a sizable chunk of the Bend theatergoing scene.
Cut to a few years later and Thoma (along with Greg Thoma, Sandy Klein and Joe Reynolds) brought back Evil Dead with new casts, a show with full frontal nudity (full disclosure: I was in that play but I swear I wasn't naked) and massive Broadway musicals that normally would not be touched in Central Oregon.
As they focused on just doing shows they liked, instead of aiming at a specific demographic, 2nd Street's ticket sales have expanded exponentially. This success allows them to present something wholly original for Central Oregon: world premieres.
In the last four years, 2nd Street Theater has premiered six shows (four belonging to local playwright Cricket Daniel). Late last year, the theater offered a contest and playwriting platform for local writers to compete in and get their play produced by 2nd Street. And on May 2, they will sponsor their seventh world premiere with the winner of the competition: Blemished, A Musical, written by Bendite Katelyn Alexander.
Blemished tells the story of Mer, an ex-cabaret singer who is adjusting to life as a preacher's wife. When she runs into an old lover, Mer is faced with the choice of stepping back into the spotlight or staying in a safer life, where most of her choices are already made.
The rehearsal I attended was mostly conducted with the play out of sequence, so I wasn't able to discern where the show stood on organized religion and larger questions of faith. What I saw was more character driven than focused on bigger picture ideas.
Watching director David DaCosta work was like witnessing a master class on how to talk to actors. Any time a song became pitchy or an actor failed to reach the emotion a scene called for, DaCosta tinkered just enough to make the moment better instantly, while still keeping the rehearsal in the realm of collaboration. His direction is tough and honest (he doesn't even remotely mince words), but the amount of fun the cast and crew seem to be having proves that his style is appreciated.
With DaCosta's direction, Alexander's catchy songs and the more than capable cast, Blemished, A Musical seems like it will be a blast once all of the pieces are finally in place.
Blemished, A Musical
7:30 pm., (3 pm. Sunday)
2nd Street Theater, 220 NE Lafayette
$10, tickets available at 2ndstreettheater.com