‘Leading Ladies’ at South Bend Civic Theatre

Published 10:45 am Thursday, January 9, 2014

Submitted art

Submitted art

South Bend Civic Theatre, an award-winning and nationally-ranked theater, company is opening its 2014 season with “Leading Ladies” on Jan. 17. Organizers hope that the comedy, which runs through Feb. 2, will give theater-goers a reason to come in from the cold.

“It’s just a wonderful comedy to brighten up these cold winter days,” said Scot Shepley, marketing director for the theater company.

“The play is by Ken Ludwig, who is very famous for farces in the theater community,” Shepley said. “His plays, like ‘Moon over Buffalo,’ are some of the standards of contemporary comedic theater.”

“The play takes place in the 1950s. Two English Shakespearean actors, down on their luck, and acting out of desperation, see a newspaper article about a dying widow who is seeking out her long-lost nephews, but it turns out that she is really looking for her nieces,” Shepley explained.

Undeterred by this twist, the actors resolve to impersonate the nieces in order to secure the fortune, and one absurd situation develops out of another.

“They both have love interests, and they are also pursued by gentleman, as well as by someone who is rather suspicious of them,” Shepley said. “The characters get themselves into all kinds of crazy predicaments.”

Audience members who are familiar with Shakespeare may find that the plot of “Leading Ladies” sounds rather reminiscent of “Twelfth Night,” and that is no coincidence.

“The playwright, Ken Ludwig, is a very strong aficionado of Shakespeare. He’s even written a book, ‘How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare,’” Shepley pointed out.

“One of the things the characters do is put on a little bit of ‘Twelfth Night.’ You have some of that Shakespearean cross-dressing comedy. Knowing that adds a whole new level of depth to the play,” Shepley said. “It is a little bit of a play within a play.”

Directed by Leigh Taylor, the cast includes Martha Branson-Banks, Christy Burgess, Matt Deitchley, Zach Gassman, Casey St. Aubin, Bill Svelmoe, and Jared Windhauser.

“The actors are all volunteers drawn from our local area. Some are familiar faces, and some are new faces,” Shepley said. “We came up with a good group.”

“Leading Ladies” performs in the Wilson Theatre, located at 403 N. Main St. in South Bend, Ind. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.

Tickets are $18 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and $15 on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Tickets can be purchased online at www.sbct.org or by calling the box office at (574) 234-1112.

The South Bend Civic Theatre will take up a literary theme again later this season.

“In October, we’ll be having a world premiere of an original adaptation of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein,’” Shepley said.

The St. Joseph County Public Library is featuring the book this spring, and members of the company hope to tie the production into the activities at the library.

“It will be an outgrowth of workshops where actors, designers, the playwright and the director will all be creating ideas that will coalesce into the final script,” Shepley explained. “Their ideas will serve as a pool for the playwright to draw from. That will all culminate in a production that we hope will be thrilling for audiences.”

Residents of the South Bend area who would like to become involved in the activities at the South Bend Civic Theatre are welcome to contact them about volunteer opportunities.

“We are very much interested in volunteers coming in and helping out in all sorts of capacities. We need volunteers to help out backstage, as ushers, making costumes, running the lights and sound, and even representing us in the community in various capacities,” Shepley said. “We are very much a community theater in the very best sense of the word.”