TheatreSquared to premier original production ‘Twas The Night

TheatreSquared will debut a new holiday show written by company co-founder Robert Ford and directed by co-founder Amy Herzberg this week when “‘Twas the Night” opens at the Starr Theatre Studio Theatre, inside Nadine Baum Studios on Friday, Dec 11.

“‘Twas the Night” is set on Christmas Eve in 1954 in a studio in Chicago and follows a hit radio program called the Wally K Variety Hour in its final broadcast, and the unlikely love story that unfolds behind the scenes. The show is a completely original production to be performed for the first time on Friday and features original songs by Ford with music by Jeanie Lee and Amy Herzberg, as well as several classic holiday songs and stories.

“My intent with this show was to warm people’s hearts, but also to provoke a little bit of thought and to stay real,” said Robert Ford, writer and creator of the show. “I’m really excited.”

The production unfolds in two acts. The first takes place around rehearsals for the radio show and the second act is the live radio show with a few behind-the-scenes glimpses.

“The first act is real scenes between real people, and then we’ll see them in performance (performing the radio show in the second act), and then we’ll come back afterwards,” Ford said. “The idea is that the radio audience is hearing one story and the theatre audience is seeing that story unfold, but they are also seeing a second story unfold behind the scenes.”

“‘Twas the Night” came about from conversations between Ford, TheatreSquared Director of Education and Program Development Morgan Hicks, and Production Supervisor David Pickens back in May when the company was discussing the holiday slot in the upcoming season.

“We were talking about this holiday show slot and David Pickens is really fond of the radio show format which has become a genre in itself,” Ford said.

“We wanted to cover several bases. We wanted some music and we liked the radio show format. We wanted a small cast and we wanted something fresh with a little bit of meat on it. And something with a little bit of edge to it. At a certain fatal point, I said, ‘We can brainstorm. I can write it. Let’s just create the damn thing,” Ford said.

Ford began writing the play back in May and the cast and crew has been rehearsing together for a few weeks now.

“‘Twas the Night’s” cast features a mix of five locally and nationally accomplished artists, including TheatreSquared veterans Jenny Gray, David Pickens, Nathan Riley as well as Jamey McGaugh and Angela Thomas, who will be making their TheatreSquared debuts.

“I’m really excited about this cast we’ve assembled. I’m also very excited to be working with Angela K. Thomas. She is brand new to this theatre community. Everyone we’ve worked with before has been a graduate of the University who has gone on to have professional careers and has come back to the area. But Angela is somebody who is really new to us,” Ford said.

Directory Amy Herzberg echoed Ford’s enthusiasm about Thomas and the cast they’ve assembled for the show.

“They’re extraordinarily wonderful,” said Herzberg.

Performances are scheduled through Dec. 27. A full schedule can be found on the TheatreSquared website. Tickets can be purchased from the site as well, and are $22 for adults ($18 for seniors, and $10 for foks under 30). They can also be purchased by calling the box office at 479-521-2728.

Photo by M. Taylor Long