Hairspray at PSU
The Education Theater Collaborative at Plymouth State University has been around since 1994. Every year, the ETC brings professionals, students and community members together for one big musical extravaganza. NHPR’s Sean Hurley spoke with the cast and crew of this year’s show, Hairspray, and sends us this.
As the musicians warm up for the last dress rehearsal, and Technical Director Bob Bruemmer staples a final black drape into place, I spot Adam Nudd-Homeyer - a chair maker from Sandwich - sitting alone in the 665 seat Hanaway Theater in a surprisingly snazzy outfit. His daughter, Amelia, is a regular performer with the ETC and I assume he’s just here to watch.
But, as it turns out, he’s in the show.
The 43 year old chair maker plays 17 year old ‘Sketch’. “I am one of the nicest kids in town,” he says of his role, “But the irony in that statement is that the white nicest kids are not genuinely the nicest kids for the most part.”
But this one of the charms of these yearly ETC musicals - seeing friends and neighbors like Adam – or restaurateur Alex Ray - onstage with talented pros like Becky Bass, who’s come up from Rhode Island and plays the part of Motormouth Maybelle. “I feel like it's just so important to have youth and community members involved in shows like this,” Bass says, “because it really - it really forms the heart. I mean pros are wonderful too. I'm not hitting on the pros! But sometimes they take it so seriously where they just forget about what's important when we're doing a show like this.”
As Director Trish Lindberg tells me – Hairspray is set in a racially divided Baltimore of 1962. “Hairspray is actually based on a true story,” Lindberg says, “that back in the 60s actual television shows did have a Negro Day when black teens were allowed to dance on their show. And so this play actually takes that story and kind of uses it as a vehicle to really talk a lot about race, about body image, about people accepting each other's differences and the importance of treating everyone equally.”
12 year old Lexi Renkert is a 7th grader from Rumney. “This is my first time doing a professional play but I have done school plays,” she says. “My character is a Little Inez. She can be very headstrong but she's also very upset about the situation that she was put into - that people are unwilling to accept other people who are different than them as people. You know there's race and there's sexuality. There's everything.”
As an African American in a largely white town and state, Lexi says the song I Know Where I’ve Been speaks to her own feelings about race and inequality. “It is kind of the heart and soul of the show,” Lexi says, “and I think it's really cool that I get to be a part of this number and it's really an emotional piece and I almost cried the first time I heard it. It is really amazing.”
Right before the final dress rehearsal starts, Director Trish Lindberg gathers her two leads, Kai De Mello-Folsom and Jenna Leigh Miller into a loose hug.
“I think at this point, in this version of what we're doing,” Lindberg tells them, “you know Link the best. You know Tracy the best. This is your story right now and it's your Tracy right? And it's your Link. And you just need to bring those characters to life.”
The music starts, the show begins…and I don’t want to spoil anything, but you don’t want to miss it.
Hairspray runs this weekend only at the Hanaway Theatre at PSU.
Jan 26 – 28 at 7 pm
Jan 27 & 28 at 2 pm and 7 pm