IF YOU GO
When: 7:30 p.m. today, Friday-Sunday, and July 18-21; 2 p.m. Sunday and July 21
Where: Ensemble Theater, Eastgate Town Center, 5600 Brainerd Road
Admission: $20 adults, $18 groups
ACTORS APPRECIATION NIGHT
The run of "Balconies" includes Actors Appreciation Night performances on two Sundays, July 14 and July 21, at 7:30 p.m. Playwright Vicki Mangieri says actors often don't get to see shows going on at the same time they're doing a show, so she wanted to offer that possibility with both matinee and evening performances on a day when many theaters are dark. Actors who bring a playbill of a show they've been in during the past year will receive $5 off their ticket.
When Vicki Mangieri's cruise ship was docked beside another cruise ship some time ago, she did what everyone else does in the same situation.
She wondered what scene was playing out in each of the balcony cabins across the way.
"That gave me an idea," Mangieri says, "and the stories came pouring out of my head."
Today, that setting and those stories have been turned into the world premiere of her play, "Balconies," at the Ensemble Theatre in Eastgate Town Center.
Producer/director Bruce Shaw says the production has the central setting of a cruise ship with three subplots, one of a group of women who meet regularly and will tell their stories in retrospect, one of a couple celebrating their 40th anniversary and one of a same-sex couple planning a commitment ceremony on the ship, though one of their mothers accompanying them is not aware of the situation.
"The play is about choices that adults make -- the fact that you have to be true to yourself," he says.
Mangieri says the plot intricacies are based on personal experiences or things that happened to friends or acquaintances.
"Every single thing is based in fact," she says.
And while six of the characters are over 50, they're dealing with issues such as caregiving, the value of long-term friendship, cancer, gay relationships, living with someone with a secret, infidelity and betrayal that might touch any adult.
"It's not specific to one age group," she says.
Mangieri and Shaw describe the nine-character play as a dramedy (drama/comedy).
"There's plenty to keep folks amused," Shaw says, "but some of the events are absolutely serious in those folks' lives."
"There are some hysterical scenes and some poignant scenes," Mangieri says. "But it's important for the audience to understand there are no tidy endings, no pat answers. I hope they'll leave the theater thinking, 'Hmm, wonder what I would have done?' Hopefully, it'll be thought-provoking. It's a fun evening."
"Balconies" had a local staged reading in November with an invited audience of local theater people and several people from the movie industry.
"It was very well received," says Mangieri, a veteran local actor, of her first play. "We had some very, very positive feedback, even encouraging me to turn [the script] into a screenplay."
Contact Clint Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.