Presenting live theatre during a pandemic presents unique challenges, according to Dr. Cliff Thompson, Freed-Hardeman University director of theatre. At a time when live theatre is almost non-existent, FHU is currently rehearsing for the Nov. 5-7, 2020, production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” a musical spoof on 1950s sci-fi and monster movies.
Chief among the challenges, according to Thompson, is the difficulty of scheduling rehearsals, a task made more complicated by the uncertainty of who will be able to practice due to the university’s quarantine policy. Although three cast members contracted COVID-19 in September, 11 of the 20 cast members have been quarantined at one time or another because of possible exposure to the virus. What, when and who can practice is an ongoing exercise in juggling.
That being said, Thompson calls the cast “joyous” at being able to be on the stage again. Many of them had been scheduled to be in a production cancelled when the spring semester came to an abrupt end.
The directors and cast are taking the usual precautions: wearing masks when not on stage, social distancing, temperature checks and lots of sanitizing. In addition, cast members signed contracts agreeing to exercise caution about meeting in large groups.
When the play opens in Loyd Auditorium, the audience will also be expected to wear masks and socially distance, a task made easier because of the size of Loyd Auditorium. Although it will seat approximately 2,500, ticket sales will be limited to 350 reserved seats. While tickets may be available at the door, those who plan to attend are strongly encouraged to order their tickets in advance. Audience members may come in through any one of Loyd’s three entrances and the number of persons permitted in the lobby will be limited.
FHU Theatre also presented “Little Shop of Horrors” 15 years ago. “This is a new look at an old favorite,” Thompson said. In the previous production, FHU Theatre rented the plant from another theatre. This time around, Brandyn Graves, FHU theatre design professor, designed the man-eating plant, as well as the set. He has taken a brand new approach to the villain. A quintet of puppeteers will bring the man-eating plant to life.
Jack Joiner, a freshman photography and theater major from Milan, Tennessee, plays Seymour Krelborn, a worker in a Skid Row flower shop. Bishop McLaughlin, a junior English major from Henderson, Tennessee, is Mushnik, shop owner, and Jessica Hixson, a junior theater and music major from Columbia, Tennessee is Audrey, Seymour’s love interest. Jon Michael Thompson, a senior theater major from Henderson, Tennessee, portrays Orin, the play's sadistic dentist. Josie Goulding, a senior fine arts major from Richmond, Virginia, is the voice of Audrey II, the blood-thirsty, not-from-this-world plant.
The musical features a 60s-style girl group, which serves as the play’s storytellers. Members are Erin Cahill, a junior family science major from Memphis, Kaitlyn Moore, a freshman nursing major from Henderson, Tennessee and Lakyn Wools, a senior theater performance and secondary education major from Nixa, Missouri.
Others in the cast include the following: Collin Baker, a junior performance and photography major from Henderson, Tennessee; Sarah Mae Bowen, a sophomore theatre and secondary education major from Decatur, Alabama; Nate Cass, a freshman who has not yet decided upon a major from Cordova, Tennessee; Spencer Parker, a freshman who has not decided upon a major from Huntsville, Alabama; Landon Rydl, a sophomore theater performance and secondary education major from Seffner, Florida; Lincoln Smith, a freshman theater performance major from Columbia, Tennessee; J.T. Watford, a freshman theater performance and kinesiology exercise science major from Newbern, Tennessee; and Robert Young, Jr., a junior psychology major from Rosedale, New York. The stage manager is Haven Sanders, a junior theater design production major from Hermitage, Tennessee.
In addition to Thompson, the play’s directors are Becky Hartle, Chester County elementary school fine arts teacher, musical director, and Madison Davis, senior theatre and biology major from Willard, Missouri, choreography director.
The musical will be presented November 5 - 6 at 7:00pm and November 7 at 2:00pm. Individual tickets are $16.50 and groups of 15 or more are $11.50 each. Tickets may be ordered at https://fhutickets.universitytickets.com/.
158 East Main Street
Henderson, TN 38340
FHU / Dickson
FHU / Memphis
5565 Shelby Oaks Drive
Memphis, TN 38134
855 Highway 46 South
Dickson, TN 37055
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