Blogging with Brendan: Bon Voyage, Miss Electricity! QCT on the Road Returns
After a two-year hiatus, one of our most beloved student theatre programs is back. QCT on the Road, our touring production, makes its triumphant return this spring with Miss Electricity by Kathryn Walat. Miss Electricity is a contemporary play that premiered in 2009 at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse; it tells the story of Violet, a 10-year-old girl determined to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, and her best friend Freddy. It’s a funny, sweet play with a big heart, performed by an ensemble cast of four student actors.
So, why take this show on the road?
As you know, QCT is home to two fantastic performance spaces: the Lab, our black box theatre for more intimate or experimental work, and of course, the 500-seat mainstage theatre. Each space provides an excellent canvas for creating theatrical work, and a comfortable “home base” for QCT’s artistic activities. But we also believe that the idea of theatre permeates beyond the four walls of our physical building– and that as a community theatre, our mission is to provide quality live theatre and education opportunities for the community as a whole. We are blessed to be situated in a city with a rich arts legacy (anyone else looking forward to our 100th anniversary next year?) and an abiding appreciation for local talent. Even when I was working in professional theatre, I would rarely see audiences as consistently large and enthusiastic as those here at QCT. But there are members of our community that cannot physically travel to the Oakley-Lindsay Center, either due to distance, resources, or other obstacles to participation. There are rural schools that are unable to attend our student preview performances. There are service organizations, community libraries, youth groups that seek to enliven their own spaces with the magic of live theatre. This is where QCT on the Road finds its inspiration and purpose.
Here’s how it works: we cast two actors per role, creating two rotating casts for the production. Our student actors often need to be excused from school to perform; since Miss Electricity is available to perform from mid-April to June, sometimes an actor isn’t available for a given performance. Therefore, actors are trained to cover for each other and perform the story with any combination of scene partners. This is actually how professional touring companies work in theatre, where actors “swing” in and out of performances. Students involved in QCT on the Road are truly getting– and delivering– a professional theatre experience.
We selected Miss Electricity for its message, which is one worth spreading far and wide. One night, our protagonist Violet is struck by lightning…twice (what are the odds?) and acquires the supernatural power to control electricity. Well, at least she thinks she has a superpower. You see, Freddy (recently demoted to Miss Electricity’s sidekick/minion) has been working behind the scenes– flipping light switches, taking batteries out of radios, etc.– to support Violet’s belief that she is indeed a newly minted superhero. Violet lets her newfound “power” get to her head, and she rejects her one steadfast supporter and friend. As things take a turn for Violet, she learns to appreciate the people that love her for who she is– and that she doesn’t need to break any world records to be special. The themes of self-confidence, anti-bullying, and the precious nature of friendship make Miss Electricity not just a play, but a lesson for life.
On show day, we load up our scenery (which technical director Seth Campbell ingeniously designed to be collapsible and portable), props, and costumes into the QCT bus, and we’re on our way. We could travel up to an hour outside of Quincy to gyms, cafeterias (or cafetoriums!), libraries, or any indoor community gathering space to set up and perform our show. This is theatre at its most elemental– an ordinary space elevated into a sacred site of storytelling, where connections are bound between performers and audience members. Truly, all we need are bodies, language, and artistry for quality theatre to happen anywhere. And so, as we pack up the magic and head to our next destination, that connection between our new audience and QCT remains– like a golden arc, tracing a line from the Oakley-Lindsay Center to these points of light across the region, newly illuminated by the transformative experience of live theatre. This is why we travel.
And yes, yours truly drives the bus.