Theatre Workshop of Owensboro will present the beloved American classic, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men at the Empress Theatre in Owensboro, October 16, 17, 18, 23, and 24.
When John Steinbeck published Of Mice and Men in 1935, it was instantly recognized as a timeless tale of hope, dreams, sacrifice, and tragedy. The story is simple, George Milton, the dreamer and schemer, and Lennie Small, his companion, a child’s mind in a big man’s body, work from farm to farm during the Great Depression. Their dream of owning their own farm keeps them striving for something better for themselves. Their dream crashes with reality when they hire on at a farm outside of Soledad, California and get crossways with the Boss, Curley, the boss’s son, and the beautiful young wife of Curley. Steinbeck himself adapted his novel for the stage in 1937 and it was a hit nationwide.
Steinbeck took the title of the novel and play from a poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns, “To a Mouse” that contains the line (in modern English); “The best laid schemes of mice and men go often awry.”
Director Kelley Elder approached TWO with the idea of doing the play a year ago. “This is a play I have often thought about doing. I knew it would take the right actors and I felt I had the ones I needed to put together a great cast” The parts of George and Lennie are being played by 2 TWO veteran actors, Worth Mountjoy and Jeremy Scoggins. Mountjoy has appeared in numerous TWO productions, and said of playing George, “It is a challenge to play a character known by so many people and to take that character and make him your own. You want people to recognize the character that they have read about or seen in a movie but at the same time you want to put your own stamp on him”. Scoggins agreed, speaking about Lennie, “Lennie could easily be just a two dimensional caricature of a mentally challenged adult. But I want to give him depth and make him a real person that people care about”.
The cast has had many discussions about the challenge of doing a play that has a well-known story. The novel is required reading in many high schools and has twice been made into theatrical release movies. Assistant Director, Chris Hart said “Since so many people know this story and how it ends, we have to make the story and characters interesting. Our actors are working hard to flesh out their characters so that the audience will care about them and feel with them and for them.”
The cast of this production of Of Mice and Men is a mix of TWO veterans and new-comers. Gerrimy Keiffer, who plays Curley, the boss’s son, has been involved with TWO for 4 years and has done 15 shows in the time. “I love acting and try to do something different every time. This is my first time to play the “bad guy” and I am loving it”. The rest of the cast is comprised of actors that have been in only one or two Theatre Workshop shows. JC White plays Candy, an old farm hand that knows his best years are far behind him. Buck Wolfe appears as Slim, the well-respected mule skinner and foreman. Relative newcomers Justin Hollingsworth and Norman Valdes play Carlson and Whit, respectively, both are laborers at the fateful farm. Layson Brooks, Sr., performs as Crooks, the black stable worker. Brooks said, “This was a different time, the 1930s, than now. Crooks has to “know his place” while at the same time is respected by his boss for his work and experience. The part is written with respect while keeping Crooks separate from the other men.”
Kennedy Jones takes on the part of the Curley’s Wife, the only woman in the play. Of her part, Kennedy said “Even though Steinbeck did not give this woman a name, not even in the novel, she is well written. Just like the men in the play, she has her hopes and dreams. And like the men in the play her dreams elude her.”
Elder has chosen to stage the play on a nearly bare stage with only a few set pieces to suggest location. “This is a timeless story that could just as easily happen in the 1960s, 1990s, or even today. I wanted to try to not tie it to a specific time and place”. Elder also said that having a minimal set means the actors have to work harder to help the audience imagine the surroundings. “I directed TWO’s production of A Few Good Men four years ago and we did that show with nearly a bare stage. I thought it would work well with Of Mice and Men.
The show will be at 7:30pm on October 16, 17, 23, and 24 with a 2pm matinee on Sunday, October 18.
Tickets are now on available for all 5 performances. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and are available by calling the Theatre Workshop box office at 270-683-5003 or online at theatreworkshop.org.