Heartrending Michigan Premiere Musical HUNDRED DAYS Heralds Actors' Theatre's Return With Raw FolkRock Sound

Hundred Days performs October 6-9, 13-15.

By: Sep. 08, 2022

Heartrending Michigan Premiere Musical HUNDRED DAYS Heralds Actors' Theatre's Return With Raw FolkRock Sound

For the first time since the pandemic shutdown, Actors' Theatre in Grand Rapids, Michigan is returning to its home stage at Spectrum Theater on the Grand Rapids Community College campus. Their return also marks the launch of their 40th season in operation.

Kicking off their season is the Michigan Premiere of the highly anticipated musical Hundred Days (book by Sarah Gancher; Music and Lyrics by Abigail and Shaun Bengson). You may be quite familiar with these names as Abigail and Shaun are the folkrock band duo, The Bengsons. Their incredibly poetic lyricism and moving folkrock/punk melodies are the heart and soul of the show. Much like their other work, Hundred Days is powerfully evocative in its storytelling. Its staging is like attending a concert but as time goes by, the concert feel is peeled away drawing audiences into beautiful theatrical storytelling.

The story itself is an unapologetically raw autobiographical exploration of the early days of Shaun and Abigail's relationship. It specifically explores the effect past trauma has on their ability to coexist as a couple. At a young age, Abigail's family was ripped apart by a horrific event. As Abigail says at the top of the show, "...Home was gone, leveled... The world changed overnight. Not just the present but the future. The worst possible future suddenly felt very...likely." Deep paralyzing fears had taken root in Abigail. She has a recurring nightmare that she will fall in love and within 100 days that person will die. So why enter a relationship that will ultimately destroy her heart as she watches the love of her life die? Hundred Days is a love story to grief and the messy intricacies of being in honest relationship. Carpe Diem, if you will, but in the most sincere and difficult ways.

The cast is comprised of a talented ensemble of 7, and much like the musical Once or the reimagining of works that John Doyle has done, the cast plays the instruments. They are led by Music Director Alex Hamel, a multi-instrumentalist who has been focusing on actor-musicianship: where the cast performs all the musical accompaniment in addition to stage work. "Any show like this ends up with a stronger sense of company and ownership which, in turn, deepens the storytelling", says Hamel. "There is, of course, an element of virtuosity in seeing actors playing instruments, but it's more than just cool that we're playing and singing. It's much richer and deeper than just the spectacle of it. And I think it goes back to some of the oldest principles of theatrical and musical storytelling."

Kyle Los, Actors' Theatre's Executive Director (and Director of Hundred Days), says, "Hundred Days is truly the perfect way to kick off our 40th season. There's something so incredible, while emerging from full pandemic life, in acknowledging trauma and grief and the need to live life as fully as we can. There is something so inspiring about this piece of theatre as it faces mortality square in the face. We emerge on the other side with Abigail and Shaun with a specific understanding of how they moved forward from where they were. It is a beautifully moving poetic celebration of life."

As a part of Actors' Theatre's return, they are changing the ticket pricing structure, making it more accessible to the community. Actors' Theatre is launching "Pay What You Can" ticketing which allows patrons to pay as much or little as they can afford. Los says, "For some, a night out to the theatre means childcare, transportation costs, etc. We are fully aware of this and want to be sure that theatre is affordable for all. Patrons might pay $3 or $20 or $30. It's in their hands. We want the full community to be a part of these powerful stories".

There are three other shows as a part of Actors' Theatre's 40th season: Petty Crimes by local playwright Kristin Andrea Hanratty, A Play About David Mamet Writing A Play About Harvey Weinstein by Mathilde Dratwa, and Witch by Jen Silverman. Each show aligns with Actors' Theatre's mission to be producing thought-provoking theatrical works by exploring dysfunctional systems of our world and asking "How do we fix this? ...Do we need to burn it all down and start over?"

Hundred Days performs October 6-9, 13-15, and runs approximately 75 minutes.
Tickets can be purchased at www.atgr.org

Directors: Kyle Los and Alex Hamel
Ensemble: Aubry Van Antwerp, TJ Clark, Ian Brown, Jennifer Collier, Alex Hamel, Alicia Rosario, and Danira Stanojevic.