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Thursday, May 13, 2004 11:52 pm

Backstage Pass

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Springfield stages are busy these days, with more new and experimental works being staged here than in most communities of comparable size.

Here are just a few of the new shows being hatched locally:

This weekend, Springfield Theatre Centre's production of Holes continues, with a large-cast production headed by young Sam Germann and a near-professional-quality gang of boys bringing the popular Louis Sachar novel to life. Director Jason Goodreau has woven a tight ensemble of children and adults. Deirdre Rosenberger is wonderful as the Warden; Scott Kelly is humorous and menacing as Mr. Sir. My recommendation: Theatre Centre should definitely extend the run so more folks can see it. This is a popular show, so call for tickets (217-523-0878).

George Heroux's One More for the Road, a new drama about the effects of drunken driving, boasts a big cast of local actors and has an unusual way of involving the audience: At one point, the audience is a group of people charged with DUI, forced to listen to victims' stories. Later in the play, they're patrons of a nightclub; finally they're jurors. The play concludes its run on the Mainstage of the Center for the Arts this weekend.

I've been having some fun lately sitting in on rehearsals of Grace Smith's show Grace Talk #1, which I've been helping put together. People have been asking whether it's a play or a standup-comedy routine. It's neither. Consider it a live extension of her Illinois Times column "Grace About Town," but a little "theatricalized." Smith has an interesting way of observing life and a boatload of stories that no one but she can tell. She performs two shows at Stella Blue at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, May 19 and 20.

A quick note: Local writer Michael Leathers received word this week that a sketch he wrote on racism has won first place in a national playwriting competition held by Christians in Theatre Arts. His work, "Beneath the Smiles," will be performed next month at the CITA conference in San Diego and will be published in the group's magazine.

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