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BWW Interviews: Catching Up With 'Left of Left Center' and SPIRITS TO ENFORCE

Following their intial production a few months ago - Beta Blockers, a show composed of vignettes that outlined the triumphs and pitfalls of modern day relationships both with oneself as well as others - Left of Left Center is presenting another show with just as many quirks hoping for another positive response from the community. With the primary goal of defying the stereotypes of community theatre, the company is determined to make their mark on the Madison stage. Their newest production, Spirits to Enforce, is a comedic tale that follows a group of superheroes who are ferociously fundraising to put on a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

While schedules left one of the directors (Ned O'Reily) and I unable to chat in person, he was kind enough to elaborate on some of my questions about the show and the future of one of Madison's newest troupes:

How did the new show come about?

Ned: We had such a terrific response to Beta Blockers, which was a risky proposition, that we felt we could

Annie Jay (right) is Memory Lass, known in civilian life as Susan Blake.
Bryan Metrish (left) plays The Pleaser, who just wants
everyone to get along and have a good time.
Photo Provided by: Benjamin Barlow

produce another play in a similar production style.

How long has it been in process?

Ned: We chose the play in late February, booked the venues in March, and auditioned in early May. We're doing this with five weeks of rehearsal, which is not a lot, but the talent and experience of the actors makes that possible.

Are you on track to take it to festivals like you did with Beta Blockers?

Ned: No, festivals are not part of this run.

What is your favorite scene? (without spoilers, of course)

Ned: At one point, during an all-cast description of opening night of the play within the play, The Pleaser, an amiable fellow [who is] always looking out for everyone, shows his tempestuous side by listing off many of the villains they've fought. You don't know how funny this can be until you hear the silly, mundane, and even repulsive names of the bad guys. Another terrific moment has Ariel and The Ocean telling their prospecitve donors over the phone about how they each tried to bring about a storm to begin The Tempest. And then there's the only part of the play that breaks with the basic format, when two characters talk to each other over the phone, which comes about because Randall, The Tune, does a 'total geek thing' to tap into the line of Susan, Memory Lass.

Were you involved in the writing process with Mickle Maher (the playwright)?

Ned: Not at all. It was written in 2003 and has had many productions across the country. The nearest it has come to Madison, though, has been shows in Milwaukee and Whitewater.

Why raise money to do The Tempest?

Ned: I believe the playwright built upon the supernatural aspects of Shakespeare's play and extrapolated it to modern times.

Michael Fleischman portrays Donna Adams,
better known to the citizens of Fathom Town as The Silhouette,
master of shadow puppets.
Photo Provied By: Benjamin Barlow

Is there a purposeful connection between the superhero concept and protecting the arts?

Ned: It's all connected, yes. Many, many people are fans of comic books and game play AND theatre. Anyone who attends live performances is protecting the arts. Superhero stories have always been about analogy anyway, telling tales using fantastic abilities to underline what we all experience. One major reason we're performing at five different venues is to bring the arts to neighborhoods, right to the people, and hopefully remove some of the obstacles that often keep folks from attending. We don't even sell tickets, per se, but encourage advance reservations and a contribution at the door.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about this production?

Ned: Spirits to Enforce was written by Mickle Maher who, while successful in Chicago, is about to take his newest production to New York and may be on the verge of national recognition. My family (one son, Sam O'Reilly, is in our cast) saw it a number of years ago and I have wanted to produce it ever since. When Beta Blockers worked so well during the winter, my wife Kathleen, a theatre appreciator, but not a performer, strongly suggested it was time to tackle Spirits. Since the play requires only tables and chairs for a set and does not change setting, it's a natural for Left of Left Center. Our presentation goal is to perform virtually without tech - no lighting or sound effects, no makeup or elaborate costumes - so that it's all about the acting and the script. And this is a very smart, very layered script. You won't get it all the first time you see it, but you'll be thrilled with everything you encounter.

It is also important to Left of Left Center that we defy the usual traps of community theatre. We do not answer to a board, we have co-directors (myself and Sara Beth Hahner this time), the promotion is handled largely online, where, in 2015, you get the best response, especially when you're not trying to draw hundreds and hundreds of audience [members]. The rehearsal process involves a lot of give and take with the actors, so they have significant input.

Plus, even with the serious resumes we can boast among our cast, we want to emphasize: this is a comedy. It's a comedy you have to listen to and pay attention to, but there are many hilarious moments. It is also not a production of a Shakespearean play. The Bard's work is a part of our culture, even to those who never attend theatre, and it is lovingly integrated into this play and the actors' experience with it has strongly influenced our process - but we're not doing The Tempest. We're telling a rollicking story of superhero-dom and its everyday impacts.

Tickets to attend Left of Left Center's latest production can be purchased at:

Their numerous production dates as well as corresponding locations can be found below:

Friday, June 5th, 7:30 pm
Goodman Community Center
149 Waubesa Street, Madison, WI 53704

Saturday, June 6th, 7:30 pm
Firefly Coffeehouse
114 N Main St, Oregon, WI 53575

Friday, June 12th, 7:30 pm
Watertower Chop House
109 W Main St, Sun Prairie, WI 53590

Saturday, June 13th, 7:30 pm
I'm Board - Game Store
6917 University Ave, Middleton, WI 53562

Sunday, June 14th, 3:00 pm (Matinee)
Tapit/New Works
1957 Winnebago St, Madison, WI 53704

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