Force de la femme

Broadway Beveled gives feminine twist to men’s theatre

By Joyell Nevins

Fresh. Funky. Feminine.

Those are the three words the Magnolia Theatre Company (MTC) lives by. MTC is a professional theater company with a mission to produce theater that celebrates women. Their latest production offers a new spin on Broadway favorites with a feminine cabaret called Broadway Beveled.

MTC was founded by Actress and Producer Gina Handy, who loved theater but saw a lack in shows that “put women first.” Handy’s theater career has spanned the gamut of national tours, cruise shows, theme parks, summerstock and regional theater. She trained in musical theater at Mars Hill College, can dance, sing, play piano—the works. Yet, across the board, Handy says she saw a dearth in strong feminine material.

“I have encountered personally seasons where every single show is a male lead,” Handy says. “But the female voice in theater is very important.”

So she decided to move from being on stage as much to deciding what goes on stage.

“I really decided that I want to be producing and putting great theater out there,” Handy says.

That was in 2012. MTC actually started in Bethlehem, Penn., where Handy and her husband, Gary Minyard, lived at the time. They are both theater lovers and met when they were performing in the same national tour of A Christmas Carol.

When Minyard had a job opportunity on the administrative side with the Victoria Theatre Association, it brought them to Dayton. This put MTC on the backburner—for the time being. Handy started exploring the Dayton art scene and was blown away by it.

“I fell in love with Dayton—it took me in and I thought, ‘Man, this place is great!’” Handy exclaims. “I see so much opportunity everywhere I look. There is so much willingness to collaborate here, and people willing to help. It makes me want to succeed.”

So with help from Dayton artists, and a boost from Victoria Theatre Association’s ImPACt, MTC is off and running.

There are three ways that MTC makes itself “women-centric,” Handy explains. First, MTC only does shows with female leads. Second, Handy makes an effort to hire women in all parts of the process—her creative team for each show is 80 to 100 percent female. Third, she tries to pull shows from female playwrights.

This upcoming show, though, is a little different in how it showcases women. The idea started with a suggestion from a former voice teacher. When Handy was trying to think of an audition song that wasn’t completely overdone (there are certain female songs that are standard fodder at auditions), her teacher suggested looking at “guy songs.”

Handy loved the idea. Add to that the success and fun of New York’s Broadway fundraiser of “Broadway Backwards,” and Broadway Beveled was born. The feminine cabaret will feature 11 performers, all women, but doing songs and scenes written for men. Think “Razzle Dazzle” from Chicago or “Sit Down, John” from 1776.

“We’re giving songs a different meaning,” Handy says. “It takes on a whole new life.”

One of the scenes is from “Glengarry, Glen Ross,” an all-male play set in a cutthroat real estate office. The inspiration came from Mandy Goodwin’s audition, in which she did a monologue from the play.

“Hearing it in her voice was so dynamic,” Handy recalls.

So Handy and her creative team added two scenes into the show. Goodwin’s was one of many collaborative ideas.

“We have a lot of creative minds on this project,” Handy says. “We asked people to think or share something [they’ve] been dying to perform or always wanted to do. A lot of ideas were brought to the table.”

Take the hostess of the evening, Annie Kalahurka. She pointed out how both Newsies and Rent have male songs that focus on “Santa Fe.” So Beveled will include a mash-up of those two songs—and make a dream come true for Kalahurka.

“When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Newsies,” Kalahurka admits. “I always dreamed there would be a stage production, and that I could gender flip.”

As a side note, Kalahurka actually did go to college in Santa Fe, New Mexico. But she says the Newsies can’t take credit for that—rather, the college’s great arts program and family and friends she knew were the deciding factors.

Performing “Santa Fe” isn’t the only reason Kalahurka is excited to do this show, though. She loves the idea of an all-female show.

“I was working on a workshop at the Human Race Theatre Company, and I was the only female,” Kalahurka says. “I remember thinking, ‘God, it would be great to have a production that was mostly female.’”

Handy, Kalahurka and Goodwin are joined by Megan Rehberg, Leah Mikesell, Andréa Morales, Fran Pesch, Annie Pesch, Caitlin Deer, Linda Kinnison Roth and Katie Momenee and Jasmine Easler. Becca Khola Strand is choreographer, Rebecca Childs serves as music director and stage manager is Ashleigh Beckman.

Although the creative team is of the feminine gender, the audience is open to male and female, young and old. This performance will be a benefit for the third season of MTC, with all the actresses volunteering their time. It’s a show not to miss, for men and women alike!

Broadway Beveled will be performed at 8 pm. Friday, Jan. 29, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31 at the Mathile Theatre in the Schuster Performing Arts Center, 1 W. Second St. in Dayton. For tickets or for more information, please visit magnoliatheatrecompany.com, my.ticketcenterstage.com or call 937.985.4851. 

Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at swbgblog.wordpress.com or reach her at joyellnevins@daytoncitypaper.com.

 

 

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Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at swbgblog.wordpress.com or reach her at joyellnevins@daytoncitypaper.com

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