'Other Desert Cities' cast members Rachel Helvey and Martin Robinette rehearse for the show.
If you’re a connoisseur of live theatrical entertainment, two plays will start their four-day runs today in Johnson City, each bringing comedy, drama and thought-provoking messages to the stage.
At the Johnson City Community Theatre, 600 E. Maple St., Glasgow Theatre Company will present “Other Desert Cities,” written by Jon Robin Baitz.
“The plot is about a very affluent, influential family that lives in California and the family has Washington connections and Hollywood connections,” Joe Smith, director of the play, said. “They’ve gathered for Christmas and the daughter of the family (Brooke Wyeth) arrives for the holiday, but she announces that she has written a memoir. The memoir is about a very closely guarded secret in this family. Obviously, her parents are very opposed to this, so as the evening progresses ... a lot of secrets are revealed and it really come down and begs the question are some secrets best kept in the grave or is honesty the best policy.”
The play, starring Rachel Helvey as Brooke Wyeth, Chris Jones as Trip Wyeth, Joy Nagy as Silda Grauman, Debra Shoun as Polly Wyeth and Martin Robinette as Lyman Wyeth, is what Smith describes as a dark show, with difficult scenes.
“There’s a level of darkness to this show. This is not a feel good, family show that is going to be done just in any theater,” he said. “It’s a very powerful script, very well-written script. These characters have great levels of depth and ... for actors, the kind of characters you just want to sink your teeth into. I was really excited to get the chance to put this play on stage here in this area. I wanted people in this area to be able to see, to be able to appreciate what I consider just really great theater.”
The show runs tonight through Saturday at 8 p.m. and on Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets for “Other Desert Cities” are $10 and can be purchased by calling 588-0558 or by visiting www.glasgowtheatrecompany.org.
According to the release, the play contains adult themes and strong language.
Also this week, “Tradin’ Paint,” written by Barter Theatre’s Playwright-in-Residence Catherine Bush, will be performed at East Tennessee State University’s Bud Frank Theatre tonight through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 2 p.m.
According to an ETSU news release, “Tradin’ Paint” –– presented by ETSU’s Division of Theatre and Dance –– focuses around the character of Darla Frye, “an insecure woman whose quest to find her destiny takes her into the world of stock car racing, a journey that includes an unexpected friendship with a gay college professor, a head-on collision with a car battery and a heavenly visit with the late Dale Earnhardt.”
The show includes an all-ETSU student cast, with senior theater major Brock Cooley at the helm as the director.
“It’s a show that was given to me as my thesis project for the honors college,” Cooley said. “I will be the first student at ETSU to ever direct a main stage (play).”
Cooley, who recently was one of eight students across the country selected for the SDC Student Director Fellowship Program and participated in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Washington, D.C., said this is the biggest play he’s ever directed.
“Casting’s one of my favorite parts of the directing process,” he said. “It was cool to actually have all of that responsibility and cast as I see how. It was a really cool experience. This is my first 11-person cast, so the cast is actually kind of large and I also have a lot of freshmen.”
ETSU students Kathryn Patterson, Jay Bales, Nick Balcells, Hannah Hasch, Ben Riggs, Josh Holley, Justin Aubin, Michael Lee, Regan James, Aryn King and Danielle Tucker were cast in the play.
Cooley said with the younger cast members, he spent a lot of time working through and teaching technique, but said he’s had a fun time as the show’s director.
“It’s been a great experience and I’m glad that I can be that first experience for them because I remember my first show,” he said. “I’ll always remember my first show here, so I hope I can do the same for them. I hope everybody comes out and watches it. It’s going to be a good time.”
For ticket information or to request accommodations for persons with disabilities, visit www.etsu.edu/theatre or call 439-6511.