Next weekend marks the start of the second season for NewBridge Theatre, a company and educational arts facility housed in a cozy 50-seat theater in a downtown Hastings storefront.
Their company is growing — it went from 14 members its first season to its current 22 — and their season lineup features versions of old classics as well as original plays written by company members.
The first performance, running Sept. 20-22 and 26-29, is their version of the 1960 musical "The Fantastiks."
Over the years, the company's artistic director, Elizabeth Christine Tanner, said she has seen various productions of the musical — a story of two neighbor fathers who, knowing the rebelliousness of young people, fake a feud in order to trick their children into falling in love.
"Every time I've seen it, I've enjoyed it," she said. "But it's so kitschy."
And so she made some alternations. "What NewBridge does with shows is we change them," Tanner said.
Tanner altered the story so that two mothers replace the two fathers as the plotting parents, and the mothers are actually in love with each other themselves. Her version, she said, is response to the passage of marriage equality in Minnesota.
"It's a whole different take on the show than I'm sure anyone has ever seen," she said.
"A Christmas Carol" runs Nov. 29 through Dec. 29. After last year's show, the company received a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council that enables them to double the number of performances and to train two rotating youth casts to take on the roles of the Cratchit kids. The auditions, for kids ages 7 to 18, take place in October.
On the first two weekends in February, NewBridge will put on the musical thriller "Jekyll and Hyde," based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novella, which made its Broadway debut in 1997. "I love the darkness of it," Tanner said. "How destructive that inner demon we have can be."
"The Cripple of Inishmaan" runs from April 24 through May 4. Academy Award-winning screenwriter Martin McDonagh wrote the dark comedy and coming-of-age story, set on the island of Inishmaan off the west coast of Ireland. It premiered in London in the mid-1990s.
The weekend of May 15-17 features back-to-back performances of "The Turned Leaf," written by Tanner — a play about a woman's struggle with mental illness and its effect on her family — and "A Goddess of Such Worth," written by company member Thalia Kostman, which tells the story of Zeus and Mnemosyne's nine daughters, the Muses, and features acrobatic choreography.
Next summer, the company will bring back its Shakespeare festival. On the 450th anniversary of the Bard's birth, they will perform "Richard III," "Twelfth Night," and "As You Like It."
Company auditions already have taken place for most of the season's performances. However, Tanner said they are looking for a baritone or bari-tenor in his mid-30s to 50s for a role in "Jekyll and Hyde," and in mid-January, they will hold auditions for the Shakespeare plays.
NewBridge, which also offers a variety of acting, voice and dance lessons, will offer a new three-part workshop this October: stage combat with weapons.
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.