A playful play
Edwards Place Players’ latest production is a backstage farce
“I had always had this dream to do a play about Abraham Lincoln’s wedding,” said Springfield Art Association curator of collections Erika Holst. “I have zero theater background, so I just couldn’t do it myself.” Holst was introduced to Springfield-based writer Rose Harmon who, it turned out, has an undergraduate degree in theater and a master’s degree in history. Something clicked. “I thought, ‘This could be perfect.’”
Harmon wrote the original play Love is Eternal and directed a production at Edwards Place in spring of 2016, initiating the aptly named Edwards Place Players. “I think people liked seeing this aspect of Lincoln’s life dramatized,” Holst said. “It’s one thing to read about it but it’s another thing to actually see it acted out in an actual historic setting that Lincoln would have been in.”
With one well-received production under its belt, Holst started looking for another production for the Edwards Place Players to tackle. Harmon suggested Mary Lincoln’s Funeral, another original play which was mounted to positive reaction last fall. “From there we decided to try to make it happen in the spring and fall each year,” Holst said.
This year, Harmon passed both writing and directing batons to actor and writer Mark Beanblossom, who had been involved in the first two productions. Beanblossom wrote the script for Historical Fiction, a comedy which takes place backstage during a community theater production about Abraham Lincoln, which debuts this weekend.
“This is my first time writing and directing a play,” said Beanblossom. “It’s about the backstage goings-on at a community theater show. It’s opening night and things get crazy backstage. It came out of a lot of actual experiences I’ve had doing theater. Everyone’s had something go wrong.”
Beanblossom is from Carlinville, where he took part in high school productions and then repertory theater. He later did community theater in Decatur while studying at Millikin and, starting in 2014, he participated in productions at the Springfield Theater Center. “I always find meta-backstage humor really funny,” he said, admitting that the approach can come in handy on a practical level as well. “If something isn’t working or a costume doesn’t look right, the audience can assume it was supposed to be that way.”
Beanblossom says that it can sometimes be a challenge for a director to find the balance between what he wants and what an actor wants, but reports there were no such issues with Historical Fiction. “From day one every single actor has been right where I need them to be and we’ve all been in agreement about where the characters should go. They have added all kinds of physical comedy and reactions. People should expect to laugh more than anything,” Beanblossom said.
Historical Fiction will debut in historic Edwards Place on Friday, March 24, and run through Saturday, March 25. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at www.edwardsplace.org or at the door. Call 523-2631 for more information.