The Bellevue College drama department recently produced a rendition of “[title of show]”, an Obie winning, Tony nominated musical about two men writing a musical. This one-act play has only four characters besides the live keyboardist who provided an organic soundtrack. A slice of life, “[title of show]” follows its own development as the two main characters who are also the creators of the show, Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, set out to write a play in the span of three weeks for the New York Musical Theater festival.
Self-referential in the purest form, “[title of show]” is largely a documentation of itself, from the creative process where one character explained “writing should feel easy, like a monkey driving a speedboat,” to celebration of their success then quandary and concern over what should or should not be edited as “[title of show]” approaches a Broadway premier. “It’s crazy,” said Tori Cooper, who played Heidi Blickenstaff, “it’s been so weird but it’s actually really fun.”
On posters, the Internet and the first lines in which the audience was directly addressed – all were warned – “[title of show]” features explicit language and themes. “Many modern plays are written the way that modern people talk. And many modern people swear,” Tammis Doyle, chair of the theater department explained.
The production had a round-robin type lineup, with two actors cast for each role. Those on stage were switched around each night. In the play’s program, Doyle wrote she believes “that not only is this the best way to expose more students to this wonderful contemporary piece of musical theater, but it actually supports the very thing that “[title of show]” champions – creativity.”
Hannah Conradt, one of the two actresses who played the role of Susan Blackwell – another character who was a real person, a friend of Bell and Bowen who played an important role in the show’s initial development – enjoyed performing in “[title of show]”, naughty language and all. “Oh it’s fantastic, super fantastic it was great. I learned so much and it was so nice having such a tight ensemble as well as being able to work with so many different people.” With a rotating cast “every day is a new adventure,” she said.
Conradt, who has finished her BC career and is going to Utah Valley University to pursue acting, explained the cast “all had such wonderful abilities to expand on the work and add our own personalities into each character, which is really called for in the script.” She praised the production staff at BC as well, saying “the lighting is wonderful and just so fantastic it works with the show so well and really lifts the whole story forward.”
Doyle explained she chose to produce “[title of show]” because of “the interesting concept of the play within the play and the opportunity to mix the actors up.” The show was cast and began musical rehearsals in winter quarter, and continued in the spring. The first performance was May 25, the last June 4. Eight nights in total saw this distinct musical performed by eight different casts in the black-box Stop Gap theater.