GTA's February Festival of Theatre Takes Ridiculous Yet Compassionate Look at War and Women in MONSTROUS REGIMENT

GTA's February Festival of Theatre Takes Ridiculous Yet Compassionate Look at War and Women in MONSTROUS REGIMENT

Terry Pratchett may not be the most familiar name on your bookshelf, but, especially if you're a fan of Doctor Who or The Lord of the Rings, it should be.

A quick Google will give you an overwhelming look into the over 80 sci-fi/fantasy books Pratchett contributed to the genre before his untimely death in 2015. While that may sound a bit intimidating, an excellent way to dip your toes in is fast approaching with the stage adaptation of Monstrous Regiment coming to the Gainesville Theatre Alliance stage. The play, which plays Feb. 16-24 at UNG-Gainesville's Ed Cabell Theater, is based on Pratchett's 31st novel in his Discworld series. The production is directed by Gay Hammond, the resident dramatist and director of WonderQuest for the Gainesville Theatre Alliance. As an ardent fan of Pratchett's work, she rereads his entire Discworld series of 40+ books annually, noting his "sublime-but super smart-sense of the ridiculous".

Monstrous Regiment, centers on Polly Perks, an innkeeper's daughter in the distressed duchy of Borogravia, which is in a losing war against nearby Zlobenia over a border dispute, but that's the least of its problems. Polly's brother, Paul, was part of the Borogravian army, but has gone missing, so Polly cuts her hair and joins up. However, due to a shortage of troops, her regiment is full of funny and rather monstrous characters, including a vampire, an Igor and a troll. The show is rated PG13.

Using humor and ridiculousness similar to that of Monty Python and Blackadder, Pratchett addresses the serious topics of war, feminism, racism, and government corruption. However, this show is anything but preachy.

"Pratchett was an amazing satirist and gentle commentator on our human condition, poking fun at our stuffier institutions and more rigid beliefs," Hammond explains. "All the while he reminds us not to take life and each other so seriously, but to acknowledge our more ridiculous flaws and to be tolerant of them."

As an example of ridiculousness, the play's setting is the fictitious land of Borogravia in Discworld, which is a flat disc that sits on the backs of four elephants who are balancing on the back of a giant turtle, the Great A'Tuin. For the designers, bringing this fictional world to life was fun, but also had its challenges. Larry Cook, GTA's resident designer, looked to steampunk design, as well as the Napoleonic and Crimean wars for inspiration. Cook also researched Pratchett's own descriptions, which are quite vivid, cover art from Pratchett's favorite illustrator, Josh Kirby, and even fan art.

"Terry [Pratchett] has a vast and loyal following that has used the internet to post fan art. Those were good places to start," Cook said, while acknowledging that Discworld is too big to fully portray on the Ed Cabell stage (so, no elephants or giant turtles), "...the task is to present the feel of "Discworld" as it is presented in Monstrous Regiment."

Monstrous Regiment's costume designer is guest artist Eric Abele, whose work has previously been seen at the Lexington Children's Theatre (KY), Everyman Theatre in Baltimore, as well as being a lecturer in Costume Design and Associate Chair at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

"For me, the greatest challenge was the scale of this show! Devising a military is challenging because a person's rank is always visually indicated. For us, we want to ensure that as one moves up in the army, their uniform becomes even more ostentatious."

While the show, and Pratchett's writing are on a large scale, tackling big issues with wit within the walls of a fantastical universe, Hammond states, "I am always moved by the underlying threads of kindness in his work, of compassion and tenderness for this funny old world and the fragile people who inhabit it. So, all of those -- his style, his wit and his tremendous affection within the writing -- are, I think, what addict people to his work."

Comedic Atlanta actor Bill Murphey joins the college-aged cast as Sergeant-Major. Jack Jackrum -- a legendary monster of a soldier who has been in the army longer than anyone can remember. Jackrum takes control of the regiment by using his superior, a nearsighted academic who couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag, as a puppet leader. A man's man, Jackrum is the foul-mouthed, tobacco-chewing sergeant can outfight, outstrategize, and outdrink anyone. As the battles intensify, however, Jackrum realizes the majority of the regiment are women!

Monstrous Regiment opens at UNG-Gainesville's Ed Cabell Theatre, 3820 Mundy Mill Rd., Oakwood. Tickets are $18/$20 for adults, $16-18 for seniors and $12/$14 for students. Patrons can select their own seats on the website at or purchase tickets through the GTA Box Office from 10am to 4pm weekdays at 678-717-3624. Groups of 12 or more people can get a 20% discount by calling the Box Office; ADA seating is also available through the Box Office.

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