ESSEX - One of the region's most prominent community theater groups is aiming to bring more cultural awareness through its summer stage productions
The Essex Theatre Company opens July 9 for its 18th season, which features two very different shows.
This year's season is themed "A Celebration of Cultural Diversity."
The first production is "Blues of the Night," a musical revue by Sheldon Epps originally produced in 1982. The dialog-free show is set in a run-down Chicago hotel in 1938 and tells the interweaving stories of three women's relationships with the same "snake" of a man.
The program features a slew of blues standards, including many made famous by singer Bessie Smith, such as "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," "Baby Doll," and the show's title song.
The musical stars Thistle Tulla Carson, Antonette Knoedl, Kate List, Matt Rock and Rory Wallace, and is enhanced by musicians Russ Mulvey on bass; Laureen Carson on trumpet; Jim Huneycutt and Christopher Lynch on tenor sax; Zak Breckenridge on drums; and Barbara Winsman, piano.
Kathy Poppino, who directs the show, said many of the performers are new to the ETC stage.
"It's bringing more people in, which is one of our goals," she said.
The second show, "Lettice and Lovage", stands in stark contrast as a 1990 British comedic play that's all dialogue and no music. Set in England, it follows the unlikely friendship of two women who somehow manage to overcome their disagreements.
"It's a very wry piece and I think it's worth seeing," said Poppino.
A benefit for the Essex Theatre Company is scheduled for Friday, July 2, 6-10 p.m. at Black Kettle Farm where the band Ironville will lead a contra and square dance. Black Kettle Farm is located at the corner of Cook and Leaning Roads in Essex. Tickets are $10 and free for children younger than 12.
"Blues in the Night" shows July 9, 10, 15, 16, and 17 at 7:30 p.m. and July 18 at 5 p.m. "Lettice and Lovage" can be seen July 31, Aug. 2, 3, 12, 13, and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Aug. 1 and 15 at 2 p.m.
All performances take place at the Iroquois Masonic Lodge in Essex, next to the ferry dock. Tickets are $10 prior to the event or $12 at the door. For more information, call 524-7708 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.