2017 Lisa, My Friend
Yes, two playbills of sorts. There’s quite a story behind this. But first, the story. Lisa, My Friend is a brilliant short piece, tragic and comic both, written by Abe Koogler. It received its world premiere by Kitchen Dog Theatre in Dallas, TX in October, 2016.
Dennis Corcoran happened to see that first production and decided on the spot he wanted to bring it to St. Louis. Abe, the author, was fully supportive and it became Black Mirror’s offering for the 2017 Grand Center Theatre Crawl. It was voted one of the best by St. Louis audiences.
Now, back to the playbills. The best laid plans … When seen in Dallas, the piece, one woman and a male voice, seemed perfect for St. Louis actress Madeline Finn, depicted on the right. She read the script, fell in love with it and that was that. Well, almost …
After the playbill shot (above) was taken, playbills printed, rehearsals begun, Maddy, as she is known to many, had to have emergency oral surgery – followed by complications – forcing her to withdraw from the production one week prior to opening.
As luck would have it – another example of how ”the universe provides” – Dennis Corcoran happened to be standing in a line next to Julia Belz, depicted on the left. He knew Julia to be a strong, talented actress and, after a moment of pleasantries, asked … Julia said ”absolutely” (which tells you something about Julia) and that was that.
The script – 8 pages long, single spaced, full of non-sequitur, repetitive throw-away phrases, exasperation, takes and double-takes – and Julia, working as many hours as she could to earn college money … well, in the end (a week later on opening night) she was not off book. But, she was the most off-book on-book person any of us had ever encountered.
Julia performed 12 shows over two days – that’s the ”grind” known as the Grand Center Theatre Crawl – script in hand, a glance at it here and there … and in the end, almost every show, a standing ovation.
A highly experienced New York-based actress who happened to be in St. Louis and happened to come to one of the shows said that getting a script like that down in a week is not at all impossible – a feat, yes, but not impossible … BUT to then be able to bring such energy, life, personality to the character – that, she said, was impossible. She, too, gave Julia a standing ovation.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t time for a quality cover shot of Julia and to have playbills reprinted. And, truth be told, it was most unfortunate that Maddy didn’t have the opportunity to bring her own ”magic” to the part. It, too, would have been wonderful. But the stars, the universe … hard to say why, but it was meant to be Julia’s part, her time to shine and she shone lustrously! A star was born … (or, well, maybe a lot of people already knew how good she was, but you get the point).
I don’t want to overlook the others involved – afterall, it was the entire show that audiences loved. David Robinson played the male voice, visible in this production (unlike that in Dallas), under the direction of Michelle Zielinski who also designed and operated the lighting. All were STLCC theatre students or alums.