|Photo by Vicki Madsen|
While Crimes of the Heart marks the first time Twin Cities theater legend Wendy Lehr has worked with the Bloomington Civic Theatre, it isn't her first time around with the play. In fact, she'd directed it just last year in a production at Hamline University.
"How often do you get a second crack at a show?" Lehr asks.
Lehr's directing debut at BCT opens this weekend. Beth Henley's play,
about an eccentric trio of sisters facing -- and overcoming -- a major
crisis, won the Pulitzer Prize for drama.
Revisiting the work has allowed Lehr to live "with the play for a longer time. You can find the richness of the piece. You become aware of all of the references around you," she says.
"I loved doing it at Hamline. I had just darling students in it, but it is also great to have a mature cast. In an academic setting, you are trying to offer instructions for the students to use. With the lovely actors at Bloomington Civic Theatre, they have shaped the show quite a bit," Lehr says.
Though the play is listed as a drama -- it centers on the murder of one of the sisters' husbands, after all -- there is certainly a lot of blurring of lines between drama and comedy in the text. "It's funny without ever making fun of the characters or the Southern traditions. It's about the recognition of human foibles, and how lavishly she wrote her characters," says Lehr.
Lehr describes the kitchen-centric setting (complete with a working sink) as like a "Petri dish. That's sometimes why films of things like this play are less potent, because they take it outside of the crucible of the space. Onstage, it engages the audience's imagination, and it makes the world larger," she says.
That's aided by the company of actors assembled for the show, which includes David Beukema, Mike Postle, Tracy Hodgdon, Lindsay Marcy, Erin Mae Johnson, and Billie Jo Konze.
"I have a really wonderful cast. Some are more experienced than others, but everyone came in really excited about doing the play. They are all doing the inherent work," Lehr says, adding that many of the performers had spent time on other major stages in the Twin Cities.
And while Lehr has more than half a century of experience -- and a Lifetime Achievement Ivey to boot -- she just wants to be treated as the director. "They are very sweet and supportive of each other. They have a great relationship," she says. "I've tried very much to encourage their version of all this. I'm there to reflect to them what is working and what isn't working."
Some of that comes in getting the right tone for the play. "It's not a melodrama. There is too much at stake for these three women, and they find a path through the support of each other," Lehr says. "I'm an acting director. There is a slight, but important distinction there. I like to assist the actor's process. I don't know if it makes for a better play or not, but it is what I have to offer."
IF YOU GO:
Crimes of the Heart
Friday through June 10
Black Box Theater, Bloomington Theatre and Art Center
1800 W. Old Shakopee Rd., Bloomington
For information, call 952.563.8575 or visit online
1800 W. Old Shakopee Road, Bloomington, MN