BWW Previews: WHIRLWIND COURTSHIP SHOWCASED IN HUNDRED DAYS at The Straz Center For The Performing Art's Jaeb Theater
Imagine meeting the one you know in your heart is "the one" and a whirlwind courtship where you are married three short weeks later. Written by Abigail Bengson, Shaun Bengson and Sarah Gancher, HUNDRED DAYS tells the story of how the Begsons, a musician couple, would embrace life if gifted with only HUNDRED DAYS.
Running through March 24 at Jaeb Theater at the Straz Center, by no means a traditional performance, it incorporates comedy and drama into music - a fusion of a folk-punk concert, musical, and storytelling - extraordinarily crafted into a one-of-a-kind experience for its audience members.
"Theatrical concert is a hybrid form we've invented," explained Sarah. "It starts out as a concert and becomes a storytelling experience. There are parts where it's a musical, where it's a play, and then it's an actual concert again. Though it talks about grief and loss, it tackles those tough topics with a vitality, an energy, a life, a joy, and a love that makes it very invigorating. Despite the fact that it deals with some heavy topics, it's not a heavy show."
The goal is to fully immerse the audience in what it was for the Bengson's to live through this time in their life. Because of tragedies in Abigail's past, the experience of falling in love triggered a fear, skipping past the thrill of being in love, to inevitably losing her soul mate when he dies. Part of how she deals with her fear is writing songs to exorcise those demons through music.
"HUNDRED DAYS is a true story of the three weeks when they met and got married. A lot of their early courtship was them playing music and writing songs together. We're trying to fully pull the audience inside of their love story."
Even though it is a young person's story about first love and the intensity of youth - where everything you do feels like make or break - it resonates with both young people and senior theatregoers. In past performances, some attendees in their 80s and 90s stayed after to meet The Bengsons to share their own memories.
HUNDRED DAYS started as a fictional story. Sarah joined the Bengson writing the theatrical concert at the point where they realized the fictional account was more truth than fiction, actually about them.
"Together as a group, we began to really dig into that true story. It's been a really interesting process looking into the lyrics and asking where did this image come from. This word keeps coming up - what does this word mean?"
Though HUNDRED DAYS is staged like a concert, it features more acting and storytelling than a typical concert performance in a Black Box theatre setting.
"Using the poetry of the lyrics and the scenes, we're painting a picture in the mind's eye, rather than on stage. It goes a lot of places emotionally," she said. "We all take this journey - from youth to age to death and how do we deal with that truth. It's a deeply personal story to them, but our hope is that is what makes HUNDRED DAYS universal."
Sarah hopes HUNDRED DAYS will bring memories of the time where theatregoers first fell wildly in love, have the audience talking about sickness and loss, how their perspectives have changed as they've journeyed through life. "Hopefully, they will have songs from the show stuck in their heads, as well."
Sarah thinks during a time when the country is filled with heightened negative emotion, it's healing to watch something about love and the ways we can be good to each other.
HUNDRED DAYS runs January 15-March 24 in Straz Center's Jaeb Theater. Regularly priced tickets are $44. Tickets may be purchased by calling 813.229.7827, in person at the Straz Center Ticket Sales Office or online at www.strazcenter.org.