LionHeart Productions has had a rather lengthy string of successful musicals. Admittedly I had never heard of Bright Star before LionHeart Productions announced it as their fall production but after learning it was written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell and inspired by their bluegrass album “Love Has Come To You” I was intrigued.
Learning that sometime N3 contributor, former standup comedian extraordinaire and tireless hiker Megan Wirts was in the show we reached out to her for a few questions.
How long has Bright Star been in rehearsals?
We did a couple workshops over the summer, but the bulk of the work started September 5th.
Tell us a little about the play and your role ?
This is a coming of age story about a young soldier, Billy Cane, who has just come home from WWII and about the secrets that Alice Murphy carries. Their two lives are intersected in ways that surprise them both. I play Alice, a woman who has lived a life that has hurt her and taught her about faith, hope and forgiveness. The story is set in North Carolina in the small town of Zebulon. It begins in the 1940’s and then goes back into Alice’s memories in the early 1920’s when she was a teenager falling in love. When Alice is young, she’s a free spirited stubborn firecracker. She has her eyes set on Jimmy Ray, the mayor's son and when Alice decides she wants something, she goes for it. A jarring tragedy occurs and Alice needs to move forward with her life. In the 1940’s Alice is a strong, fierce woman, who runs a magazine. Being a strong independent woman was not always welcomed in the 1920s or 40s. She’s a woman before her time. Her ability to forgive those that hurt her and to grow into the woman she became is an inspiration.
Tell us about the cast.’
I don’t think there are enough words to say how much I love this cast. One of the things I love the most about community theater is the “community” part of it. Some of my favorite LionHeart alums, like David Hatter, Jamie Evans, Devon Conley, Brenden Carroll, Jim Renney, Rosie Tomlinson, Anna Stephens, and many more are part of the cast. Then there are newcomers like Erica Wagner and Caesar Gonzalez that are such a gift to work with. The ensemble is one of the most important and hard working groups in this show and I’m so impressed with the work that every single one of us is putting into this. They all make me want to do better. Every day I am in awe of the talent that is grown right here in Grant. For a small community theater, we are truly blessed with big talent.
The storyline seems to be one of love, loss and reunion. What do you find compelling about the character you play?
The first song I heard when I started researching this show, was “If You Knew My Story”, the line “Many backs have broken from lesser weight I know, but I was born to carry more than I can hold” hit me like a brick. I looked at my husband and said, “Try to convince me that this song was not written for me to sing”. I connected to Alice on a deep level immediately. It feels like breathing for me to sing this music. I have been through my own personal struggles and to get here, to be able to be in a show like Bright Star and play a character like Alice, is a miracle in itself. Playing Alice has taught me that taking risks, holding on to hope and learning to forgive are worth it. She’s one of my favorite characters that I have ever played. Her strength and perseverance and feistiness are some of the things I love most about her.
Putting together a musical is an enormous task. What have been the challenges for the cast and crew and you personally?
It is definitely an enormous task! Everyone involved is a volunteer and has put in countless hours bringing this to the stage. The work behind the scenes is what makes a show happen. Our director Leslye Fries, along with Assistant Director Mellissa Hanes, have been doing an incredible job of helping us actors bring Leslye’s vision to life. Without the crew, the ones that set the stage for us actors, our shows would be bland and boring. The sound tech, light guru, set designer, costumer extraordinaires, musicians, choreographers and everyone else that pulls this all together is so important.
One of the challenges for me personally has been not allowing myself to hold back and trusting myself. My own health struggles have been something I have been challenged with and I have worked diligently to overcome and adapt to. Three years ago, I was using a walker for mobility and I have pushed myself to be able to not just walk without assistance for short times, but to also dance and move freely and do it in heels! Alice takes us all on an extreme emotional journey and goes from a teenager to a 40 year old woman throughout this show. Digging into that has been a great challenge that I am loving. I think going back and forth between the two timelines can be a bit of a challenge for all of us.
Steve Martin and Edie Brickell composed the music. Is there a particular song that stands out for you?
Steve Martin and Edie Brickell have created one of my favorite musical soundtracks to date. It’s a blend of bluegrass, americana and contemporary country that will leave you humming the tunes as you leave. The story the music tells is so beautiful and compelling. My favorites range from the high energy Whoa, Mama, to the sweet love song Always Will and the emotional ballad I Had A Vision.
You’ve long been a part of LionHeart. What is it that draws you to the stage and what would you say to readers who might consider being involved in community theater?
Having a community theater in Grant like LionHeart is one of the best parts of living here. I have loved being on stage my entire life. I grew up singing solos at church and then I joined choir in middle school and that led to being part of the highschool theater program. For people like me, that didn’t leave their small town but still love to perform, having something this close is a gift. As I said before, the “community” part of community theater is what makes it so special. I have met some of my dearest friends through theater and it has helped me to grow a person. I encourage everyone to get involved with community theater in whatever way possible, whether it’s being on the stage, behind the scenes or in the audience. It’s a fulfilling and wonderful way to be part of a community. It’s also fun for the audience to see their highschool teacher, local pastor, next door neighbor or local librarian, up on the stage.
Tell us what theatergoers should expect and why they should attend?
Theatergoers should expect to laugh, cry and feel a sense of hope after seeing this show. This show is honest, heartfelt and has a beautiful story to tell. I hope that when people leave the theater that they will want to come back for more.
Bright Star Showtimes
Friday November 3rd—7:00 p.m. show
Saturday November 4th —7:00 p.m. show
Sunday November 5th—2:00 p.m. matinee
Friday November 10th—7:00 p.m. show
Saturday November 11th—2:00 & 7:00 p.m. show
Tickets on sale now!
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