Red Barn Theatre Launches Into 40th Season with Sparkling New Website and Stellar Lineup
 

PRESS RELEASE
For further information, call: Bob Bowersox at 302-540-6102

For the SEPTEMBER 12 issue of PARADISE


Red Barn Theatre Launches Into 40th Season with Sparkling New Website and Stellar Lineup

Forty years. It rolls off the tongue easily: Forty years.

That’s 1980, in case you don’t want to do the math. Gas was seventy-nine cents a gallon. CNN, Rubik’s Cube, and Post-it Notes debuted. A decent house cost $13,000. And Key West’s Red Barn Theatre lit its stage for the first time.

This fall, the venerable Red Barn will play those lights across that stage for its 40th professional season with a mix of new, classic, and original work, featuring top local, regional, and national talent. From the unequaled Terrence McNally to the currently white-hot Nia Vardalos and Aaron Posner, the Red Barn has pulled out all the stops to celebrate this landmark season with Broadway-quality shows.

And to top it off, they’ve launched a brand new interactive website that features not only everything Red Barn – from profiles to tickets to subscriptions and more – but provides a look back at the theater’s stellar 40 year run as well. The new redbarntheatre.com is now up and running and open for business.

“Our old web host changed their hardware and software, making our website pretty much obsolete,” said Bob Bowersox, head of Publicity for the Red Barn. “The new website is terrific – it looks new and clean, and it’s much easier to navigate and use. Our thanks to designer Susannah Wells and Wonderdog Studios for a great job.”

A visit to the new website will give a full rundown of the new 40th season:

Opening December 10 and running through January 4 of 2020 will be Broadway darling Nia Vardalos’ adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s provocative book, “Tiny Beautiful Things,” wherein a struggling writer takes over an advice column and humorously addresses questions that sometimes have no answers. The show will feature national actress Jessica Patton Pellegrino, along with local favorites David Black, Morgan Fraga Pierson, and Arthur Crocker. It will be directed by Joy Hawkins.

Playwright Aaron Posner’s playful new hit play, “Life Sucks”, will take the stage January 14 through February 8, starring David Black, George DiBraud, Aaron Duclos, Jessica Miano Kruel, Karl Stahl, Caroline Taylor, and Susannah Wells, again directed by Hawkins. A group of old friends, ex-lovers, and occasional enemies gather to grabble with life’s thorniest questions and each other. What could possibly go wrong?

The Red Barn’s always original and very popular “Short Attention Span Theater” returns February 18 through March 14, with this year’s theme, “The Twilight Zone”. The evening of very funny, very oddball short plays will be produced and directed by the Red Barn’s founding family, Mimi and Gary McDonald and their now-adult kids, Jack and Amber. Expect anything and everything to happen.

And this stellar season will end with Broadway legend Terrence McNally’s classic “Frankie and Johnny at the Clair de Lune”, running March 24 through April 18. Directed by Murphy Davis, the play is a timeless love story about a waitress and a short order cook, their one-night stand, and their longing for more. It will star Erin McKenna and an as-yet unnamed actor.

There will also be two Special Events (not part of the Subscription Series): “The Mood I’m In”, a special two-night musical evening with singer, pianist, arranger Jim Rice (whose talent has graced many a stage show in Key West) will run February 2-3; and “John Wells is Still Alive and Well and Living In Key West” will run March 8 and 9, featuring raconteur and troubadour John Wells, one of the founders of the Red Barn, who will offer his audiences over 40 years of his stories and songs.

All in all, a great season at one of Key West’s true gems. For more information and tickets for this big 40th season, visit the new website at redbarntheatre.com or call the box office at 305-296-9911.

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marky pierson
FUNNY, ABSURDIST “METEOR SHOWER” IS CLASSIC STEVE MARTIN
 

PRESS RELEASE
For further information, call: Bob Bowersox at 302-540-6102

For the March 14 issue of PARADISE


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FUNNY, ABSURDIST “METEOR SHOWER” IS CLASSIC STEVE MARTIN

In the world of comedy, there are few true originals. This is particularly true with Broadway comedy. The Great White Way has always embraced roustabout farces and repurposed stand-up routines – there are a half a dozen of them running right now, one mostly like the next.

But every once in a while, a writer will come along like a shot out of left field – a playwright with a singular ability to take the mundane and using a sharp wit and hilarious perspective, elevate it in unexpected ways that make you laugh out loud simply because you really didn’t see it coming. In fact, you couldn’t even imagine it.

So it is with comedian Steve Martin, who in recent years has turned his absurdist, off-the-wall comedy mind to crafting exquisite, intellectual comedic gems for the stage. His latest Broadway hit, “Meteor Shower” will make its south Florida debut at the Red Barn Theatre in Key West next week.

Starring Dave Bootle, Michael Castellano, Elena Devers, and Susannah Wells, and directed by Joy Hawkins, “Meteor Shower” will run Tuesday, March 26 through Saturday, April 20. It is important to note that only the Reduced-Price Preview on Monday, March 25 and the Opening night performance on Tuesday, March 26 will be at 8 pm. All others will be at 7:30 pm.

The play – true to Martin’s oeuvre – is conceptual comedy. The funny action and dialogue are attached more to the theme he’s exploring than the characters he uses to explore it. And as the New York Times said, “Mr. Martin is peerless at crafting tiny wit bombs,” which he uses perfectly and liberally throughout the play.

The story revolves around two couples – Norm and Corky, and Gerald and Laura. The first two have been married for 19 years, and most of that time has been spent working on their relationship with the help of magazines, books, and a lot of psychobabble (the play takes place in the 90’s, after all). Any conflict between them is immediately addressed with trite rituals: “I understand you probably did not know you hurt me”, or “I honor your feelings.”

Repressed though they may be, Norm and Corky invite Gerald and Laura over for drinks and to watch the coming Perseid Meteor Shower about to light up the sky over the boutique town of Ojai, California. But unbeknownst to them, the latter couple have a nefarious agenda – they have come to conquer and destroy: ”Let’s go for total collapse” Gerald tells his wife as they make their plans to crack open the perfect balance Norm and Corky have seemingly achieved in their relationship.

While the meteor shower definitely plays an important role in the play (wait ‘til you see how), it is the emotionally alluring moves by the interloping couple that leave Norm and Corky reeling. Like us, they didn’t see it coming.

Martin’s theme here is the vulnerability of marriage and a commentary on the obstacles faced in keeping a modern marriage together. But true to his absurdist roots, he’s not going to just hand it to us. He uses temporal shifts to go back in time and re-run a scene, offering funny, completely unexpected, alternative outcomes to the evening’s confrontations.

It’s all an hilarious exercise completely true to Steve Martin’s absurdist, intellectual, very humorous view of the world, and one that will leave you laughing at the ideas he’s presented while at the same time, thinking how much you related to what he was saying.

Tickets for “Meteor Shower” can be purchased at redbarntheatre.com/tickets or by calling the box office at 305-296-9911. Ticketholders for the Opening Night performance are invited to join the cast and crew for the Opening Night party immediately following the show that night. The engagement is sponsored by Jane Gardner Interiors, Wonderdog Studios, and Design Group Key West.

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marky pierson
TROUBADOUR JOHN WELLS IN SPECIAL SHOW AT THE RED BARN
 

PRESS RELEASE
For further information, call: Bob Bowersox at 302-540-6102

For the March 7 issue of PARADISE


TROUBADOUR JOHN WELLS IN SPECIAL SHOW AT THE RED BARN

It’s been said that all you need to do to wind up a “Living Legend of Key West” is hang around long enough, know everybody in town, and be a really good guy everyone likes to be around, and you’ll just kind of end up in the Legend category.

If that description doesn’t fit musician/thespian/storyteller John Wells, it probably won’t fit anyone. Because Wells is all those things and more.

If you’re lucky enough to grab one of very few tickets available for his upcoming one-man show at the Red Barn Theatre, you’ll also see that the man is a consummate entertainer. His unique combination of storytelling and song makes for an intimate, very personal and engaging evening.

Wells will be appearing at the Red Barn Theatre for two nights only, March 10 and 11, with his very original new show, “John Wells is (Still) Alive and Well and Living in Key West.”  Showtime is 8 pm each night.

“It was back in 1978 that Joy and I moved down here to Key West,” Wells said. Joy is his wife, Joy Hawkins, actress and artistic director of the Red Barn. “I had been very successful with my band up in the Washington, D.C. area, and Joy had just left the Dean Martin show as ‘Tiger Girl’, and we were both looking for something new.”

John and Joy spent a couple of nights camping on Simonton Beach – “You could do that back then,” Wells said – but eventually found a nice place to rent – “For $160 a month, if you can believe that!” – and settled in.

It wasn’t long after that Hawkins, Wells, their good friends the McDonalds, and several others founded the Red Barn Theatre, where Wells put his musical and acting chops to work in nearly a hundred shows over the last 40 years. There are a lot of stories that have piled up over that time.

“I do about 14 songs, some original, some not,” Wells said. “But they all fit in with the stories. I tell about things that have changed me here – like founding the Red Barn, and the people I’ve met, and amazing dolphin encounters, insider Mel Fisher stories, and about my trip to Africa, where I was asked to sing with the indigenous tribal members who were our crew. That was incredible. So many stories. So much good music.”

Forty years of them, to be precise. Hand-delivered by a Key West Living Legend in Key West’s most intimate theater. A new story to add to the list. Tickets can be had at redbarntheatre.com/tickets or by calling 305-296-9911.

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marky pierson
BECOMING ROSEMARY CLOONEY
 

PRESS RELEASE
For further information, call: Bob Bowersox at 302-540-6102

For the February 28 issue of PARADISE


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BECOMING ROSEMARY CLOONEY

When you meet Kim Schroeder Long, the first thing that strikes you is her smile. It’s big, bright, and sincere, underlining a sparkle in the eyes above it. Her long hair frames a pretty, petite face that unaffectedly expresses joy and contentment.

But within seconds, the first thought you have is: how in the world does this woman transform herself into the sassy, brassy girl next door with a troubled soul she is in the hit play, “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical”, now playing to sold out houses at the Red Barn Theatre in Key West?

Because the transformation is nothing short of remarkable, both externally and internally. Kim Long doesn’t just “play” Rosemary Clooney. She “becomes” Rosemary Clooney. Literally everything about her is different offstage to onstage.

“I’m really trying not to ‘perform’ Rosemary,” Long said recently. “There’s a fine line between an impersonation of someone who existed in real life, and an honest ‘embodying’ or ‘inhabiting’ that person. What I want is to let her essence come through me. And I’ve done the work, and performed this play enough that I feel I can trust that what is coming through me is her…true and honest.”

She makes it sound easy. But Long has spent years finding that essence of Rosemary Clooney, arguably one of the biggest stars in American entertainment history…a star who crossed records, radio, TV, films, and concerts, and who was best friends and onstage colleagues with the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and many more.

Long started finding Rosemary years ago.

“I watched every video of her I could,” Long said. “Her TV shows, her interviews, her guest appearances, and even the show Password – she did a lot of those. You get a real sense of who she really was by watching her reactions. I could see how she coped with things. I got a sense of the nuances.”

And then, of course, there was the music. Clooney was one of the most successful recording artists of all time, and Long listened to every song she ever sang a thousand times. Long knew her voice was very similar to Clooney’s in tone and color, but it was the phrasing, the touch, the perfect control Clooney had that she went after. And when you see the show, and you hear Long sing those many Clooney hits, you realize how perfectly she nails it.

But the show is so much more than just the music. It delves deeply into the troubled woman Clooney was, and is a compelling story about the true cost of fame.

“I did a lot of research into her intimate, internal idiosyncrasies, nuances, and struggles,” Long said. “I went to California and talked with people from her life – her showbiz acquaintances – and they gave me a lot of insights into who she really was behind the veneer of being a ‘star’.”

Clooney was an incredibly conflicted person, Long said. She had a rough time melding who she really was and who she felt the rest of the world wanted her to be. Her involvement with drugs and alcohol, and the many disappointments and tragedies in her life led her to a nervous breakdown from which she very nearly didn’t recover.

“What really made the difference for me,” Long said, “was going to her hometown in Kentucky. I met people who knew her just as ‘one of the Clooneys from town’. And her family gave me an enormous insight into who she really was. They took me to her little house on the river in Augusta, KY, and I sat there a long time just absorbing it all. That’s where I really found her…the real her.”

And when you watch the show, it’s apparent that Clooney found Long as well. Her interactions with co-star David Black – who is also remarkable in no less than ten different roles of people in Clooney’s life – are so startlingly three-dimensional that without even realizing it, you’re sure you are really seeing Rosemary Clooney on that stage…you really feel her in front of you. Kim Schroeder Long has disappeared.

“The last thing I do before going onstage every night,” Long said, “is sit and find her ‘headspace’. I just get quiet and open myself up to feeling everything I’ve learned about her, everything I’ve seen or heard. It’s like water closing up over me and she emerges. It brings me such joy to feel her come alive.”

“Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical” runs through Saturday, March 16th. Tickets are already in high demand. You can get them at redbarntheatre.com/tickets or by calling the Box Office at 305-296-9911.

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marky pierson
TENDERLY: The Rosemary Clooney Musical: Delightful, Enchanting, and Very Real
 

PRESS RELEASE
For further information, call: Bob Bowersox at 302-540-6102

For the February 7 issue of KONKLIFE – COVER STORY


TENDERLY: The Rosemary Clooney Musical: Delightful, Enchanting, and Very Real

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Spoiler Alert: Don’t expect the Red Barn’s new show “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical” to be one of those jukebox musicals where a long-gone star of yesteryear is reanimated by a talented actor who fills the evening rendering a string of dusty tunes.

Oh, there are songs a-plenty, to be sure, sung by a very talented songstress, but this is most certainly not a simple string of golden oldies. What it is, is an exquisite portrait of a woman whose grace and voice were the perfection of elegance and professional success in her day, while her private life devolved into a shambles of alcohol and drug addiction, philandering husbands, and personal tragedy. But as with all great stories, her resurrection from her dark times leaves us elated, cheering, and moved.

It is, in the end, what you might call a “play with music”. But it is so much more than that.

“Tenderly” opens Tuesday at the Red Barn and runs through March 16. It stars the multi-talented Kim Schroeder Long as Rosemary, who has flown in to play the role, supported by Key West’s David Black, who plays a multitude of different characters who figured prominently in Clooney’s life. The play is directed by the Red Barn’s Joy Hawkins. All curtains are at 8 pm.

“Her story’s pretty compelling,” Long said. “Superficially, it’s the music, of course, but it turns out to be so much more than that. The songs just help tell the story. There’s a lot of profound truth about the human condition and experience that we get to mine through that story. That’s what’s most satisfying to me.”

Written by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman, “Tenderly” takes us deep into the life of Rosemary Clooney, who found success across many fields – recordings, movies, television, and concerts. Using songs as touchstones, the imaginative script moves back and forth through more than 30 years of the singer’s life. It looks at her challenging childhood – abandoned by her family, and forced to be responsible for her siblings at a young age; at her early success; and at the betrayals and tragedies that she had to walk through while trying to maintain that “my life is perfect” image that celebrities are expected to show us.

The play opens in a rehab facility in 1968, after Clooney has had a nervous breakdown, a product of her addictions to pills and alcohol, stress, and the loss of her best friend, Robert Kennedy – she was just a few feet from him the night he was assassinated. She talks through her life’s moments with a psychiatrist – one of the many roles Black inhabits, and the play takes off from there, using Clooney’s many hits to draw us through her life’s moments—both the up’s and the down’s.

The music’s wonderful – songs you’ve heard but may not have attributed to Clooney: her big hits like “Come On-A My House”, “Mambo Italiano”, “This Old House”, “Straighten Up And Fly Right”, “Hey, There”, and “Tenderly” are joined by those she garnered in later life when she emerged from the dark times as a respected jazz singer – “I Remember You”, “Have I Stayed Too Long At The Fair”, and many more.

“I think the music and the story blend perfectly,” Long said. “I think a lot of times we look at celebrities and their problems as something only celebrities have, but with Rosie, her struggles were very essentially human. She struggled with her identity as Rosie the person and Rosie the star, as many of us do with who we are and how that’s different from the way we’re perceived by others. I’m glad that people leave the show thinking, wow, that was really true about me too.”

Musical accompaniment for the show will be provided by an extraordinary band, made up of Jim Rice on piano, Joe Dallas on bass, and Daniel Clark on drums.

Tickets for “Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical” can be had by visiting redbarntheatre.com/tickets or calling 305-296-9911. There will be a catered reception following the Opening Night performance on February 19 and ticketholders for that evening are invited to join the cast and crew. And there will be a Talkback Session with the cast and director after the performance on Friday, February 22. The audience that night is encouraged to remain and discuss the play.

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marky pierson
WITH BELLS ON: A Christmas Story with Balls
 

PRESS RELEASE
For further information, call: Bob Bowersox at 302-540-6102

For the DECEMBER 6 issue of PARADISE


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WITH BELLS ON: A Christmas Story with Balls

Canadian playwright Darren Hagen doesn’t really like Christmas all that much. So he didn’t really mean to pen a Christmas play.

“Well, it’s not quite like a Christmas play,” Hagen said recently, “but yet it is…there’s Christmas music playing in the elevator.”

Wait, wait. Elevator?!? Okay…let’s rewind a minute and start at the beginning.

“With Bells On” is Hagen’s newest play, which will have its American Premiere at the Red Barn Theatre in Key West for a four week run, December 11 through January 5. It stars Trey Gerrald and Don Bearden and will be directed -- and maybe more anticipated – costumed by Key West’s unequaled man with a needle and thread, Christopher Peterson.

The elevator is just that, and it’s the only thing on the stage. And it’s stuck between floors. Ted (Bearden) appears to be a short, quiet, emotionally unassuming, dweeb accountant who has entered the elevator in his not-so-luxurious apartment building, where he’s been living since his recent divorce. Standing next to him – or maybe “towering” over him would be more appropriate – is Natasha (Gerrald), a six-foot-seven-inch (in heels) drag queen dressed like a Christmas Tree, who is completely beside herself because this stalled elevator will cause her to miss her chance to be crowned Christmas Queen in the holiday pageant at the Magic Crystal Palace downtown.

If you’re thinking this is a perfect set-up for some hilarity, you’d be correct. You’re going to laugh a lot. The juxtapositioning of two such opposite characters in such a situation is full of comic possibilities, and Hagen takes complete advantage of them all. The puns and comic lines fly fast and furious, as Ted and Natasha try to find a way to extricate themselves from circumstances neither of them is comfortable in.

But the play is about more than that. Because Ted is not the sadsack milquetoast we initially think him to be, nor is he a prig or homophobe. He actually grows curious about the exotic creature he’s met. And this interest begins to work some magic on an initially hostile Natasha.

Says Hagen: “It’s ultimately about creating a common ground among seemingly opposite strangers – not just between the two characters on stage, but across cultural and age barriers in the audience as well.”

Peterson agrees. “What appeals to me the most is that it brings together two of my most favorite things in Key West: nervous men and drag queens.” (Big laugh) “And how a friendship can come out of something as strange as two completely different kinds of people thrown together in a weird situation.”

So, yeah, it’s a holiday show…there’s the Christmas music in the elevator and all. And it’s a very funny premise, very funnily written. But “With Bells On” is so much more than that. As Peterson put it: “The play ultimately encompasses our motto here in Key West – One Human Family.”

And the costume for Natasha?

“Oh, wait until you see it,” Peterson said, a note of pure joy in his voice. “She lights up like a Christmas tree – because she’ll be dressed like one, balls and all!”

Tickets for “With Bells On” are available now at redbarntheatre.com/tickets or by calling 305-296-9911. There will be a Reduced-Price Preview on Monday, December 10 and Opening Night ticketholders on December 11 will be invited to the Opening Night Party in the courtyard of the Red Barn, where they can mingle with the cast and crew. For more information, visit redbarntheatre.com or the Red Barn’s FaceBook page, Red Barn Theatre KW.

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marky pierson