The season for dreaming is now. Front Porch Theatricals, a Pittsburgh-based boutique professional musical company, has announced the casts and artistic teams for its 2016 American Dreamers season. Heading the hires is Rachel Stevens, a Jewish 2009 Point Park University graduate.
Stevens’ selection signals several firsts. Along with serving as Front Porch’s first female director, she will also direct both of the company’s shows: “The Spitfire Grill” and “Floyd Collins.”
Enabling Stevens to guide both productions is a welcome change, said Nancy Zionts, a producer at Front Porch.
“From our perspective it’s a major difference,” she said. “It’s a major positive to organizing the season.”
Last season was Front Porch’s first attempt at a two-show season. With Stevens and others hired for both of this year’s shows, the season should prove easier, said Zionts. “Once you develop a rapport and are able to work with a group consistently, [you’re] able to be a better production company.”
Like last season’s “The Last Five Years” and “The Light in the Piazza,” this season’s selections should prove inspiring. In assessing the upcoming American Dreamers season, Stevens believes that both “The Spitfire Grill” and “Floyd Collins” will resonate locally.
The narratives will “feel very kindred to the Pittsburgh community,” she said. “Both stories encapsulate our imagination and what it takes to detach our initial perception of who people are and what they are capable of — our past is not always a true litmus test of what our future will be. And I think that is incredibly kindred with how Pittsburgh has built itself back up and revived itself and become a city that people are incredibly excited to live in and work in and raise families in.”
Both shows are “meaningful musicals,” said Leon Zionts, also a producer at Front Porch. And even though attendees may lack familiarity with either title, he believes that both shows will be put on with “extraordinarily high production values.”
“We’re very excited to bring these stories to the Pittsburgh heart,” said Stevens.
“The Spitfire Grill” is based on the 1996 film of the same name by Lee David Zlotoff, with music and book by James Valeq, and lyrics and book by Fred Alley. The American musical concerns Percy Talbot, a young parolee who after five years imprisonment attempts to build a new life while working in a small Wisconsin town.
“Here is a woman who is miserable; her life is damaged, but is redeemed and because of who and what she is the town is redeemed,” said Leon Zionts. “There’s some whimsy in the show and the music is amazing.”
“Floyd Collins” is a musical with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel and book and additional lyrics by Tina Landau. Based upon actual events, the musical recounts the story of Floyd Collins, who in 1925 became trapped in a Kentucky cave. Various activities above ground, including a media frenzy, surround efforts to facilitate Collins’ rescue.
“We expect that people who come who aren’t familiar with the titles will be happy knowing they are seeing truly meaningful shows,” said Leon Zionts.
“They’re family stories, they’re relationship-centric and there’s a lot of surprises, and the way that we’re telling these stories is to incorporate and involve the audience so that they don’t feel isolated from the experience,” added Stevens. “We really want to put them in the environment to experience the journey of these people.”
With its nearly 300 seats, the New Hazlett Theater on Pittsburgh’s North Side will serve as the venue for both of Front Porch’s shows.
The American Dreamers season will commence in several weeks, with “The Spitfire Grill” slated to run from May 27 to June 5 and “Floyd Collins” from August 26 until September 4.
Tickets are available at frontporch.showclix.com.
With a nod to the season’s title, Stevens hopes that attendees will be moved not only to dream but to do.
“I hope people will leave both shows reflecting on the state of their community and wanting to make their world a better place because that’s what our characters in both shows are striving to do.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.