Which Play Is Better? Your Chance To Choose!

One writer, two plays: You decide which is best
Christa Lawler – 06/07/2012

Tennessee Williams made his choice clear. In a battle between his play “Summer and Smoke” and the similar-but-different rewrite “The Eccentricities of a Nightingale,” the latter got the playwright’s nod. “I prefer it,” Williams wrote in the author’s note for the Broadway production of “Eccentricities.” “It is less conventional and melodramatic.” Renegade Theater Company has opted to not pick between the two plays: They’re producing both versions using the same cast and sets and different directors in alternating performances at Teatro Zuccone. “Summer and Smoke,” directed by Molly O’Neill, opens at 8 p.m. today. “The Eccentricities of a Nightingale,” directed by Anika Thompson, opens at 8 p.m. Friday. Both play on Saturdays. “I don’t know what we were thinking,” theater director Katy Helbacka said and laughed.

How this works

Renegade Theater Company’s season selection committee was kicking around a classic, something they’ve yet to do under the current theater director. When “Summer and Smoke” was mentioned, Thompson — who had read both plays — mentioned the alternate version and threw out the idea: “I said, ‘Let’s do both and let other people make the decision,’ ” Thompson said. It was more of an idea than an edict, but it stuck. The idea fit with Renegade’s lean toward edgy theater. Instead of just doing a classic, they would turn it into extreme theater. It’s not unusual for a company to have simultaneous performances starring the same cast, Helbacka said. “It happens a lot with summer repertory programs,” she said. “But usually it’s completely different shows. They’ll be in ‘Oklahoma’ and a Neil Simon play at the same time.” Rehearsals started about eight weeks ago with chunks of consecutive days dedicated to one script, then switching to the other for a similar period. This meant making clear divisions between the plays. While there was some initial brainstorming between the two directors, they’ve both stayed away from the other production. “For me, I said I don’t want to hear anything about the other show when we’re in rehearsals,” O’Neill said.

For the actors

Carolyn LePine, who plays the lovelorn Alma Winemiller, might have the trickiest job. There are similarities between the shows, but the feel is different, she said. Some of her lines cross over, but come at different points in the different plays and sometimes have a different meaning. “This has literally been the hardest theater thing I’ve ever done,” LePine said. “Once I started getting into it I thought, ‘I don’t know if this is actually possible.’ I knew that it was both plays, which is partially what appealed to me. But I don’t think I realized how difficult it would be. If they were two completely different shows, I don’t think it would be a problem. But the same characters and some of the same scenes and some dialogue moved to different areas of the play … that has been really, really hard.” Joshua Stenvick plays Alma’s love interest, John Buchanan Jr., versions that are different enough to consider them as separate characters. “I’ve had an easier job,” the University of Minnesota Duluth student admitted. “To me, Tennessee Williams wrote them completely different. He’s two different men.”

So which play is better?

Renegade Theater Company’s selection committee originally asked Thompson which version was better, and she said she didn’t know. But when she realized she didn’t have the time to direct both shows, she selected “The Eccentricities of a Nightingale” without hesitation, she said. “Previous to that, I hadn’t been able to say (which one I liked better),” she said. “There are elements to both.” The character John is more fun in “Summer and Smoke,” she said. But it’s Alma’s refusal to be a victim in “The Eccentricities of a Nightingale,” that sold her. “She acknowledges that she’s different, but refuses to change,” Thompson said. “That might make her an outcast, but she can’t change the way she is. It’s a much more empowering version.” O’Neill said she likes the old-fashioned romance of “Summer and Smoke.” “In ‘Eccentricities,’ (Alma’s) the pursuer,” O’Neill said. “John’s more cool and she’s more hot. In this one, John’s hot and she’s cool. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, I just feel like that is such a romance for me.” Plus she gets characters such as Rosa Gonzales, Dr. John Buchanan Sr. and Alma’s young vocal student, Nellie, who aren’t a part of “The Eccentricities of a Nightingale.” “I have these really cool characters,” O’Neill said. The actor’s aren’t revealing which version of the show they like best. “I don’t want to say,” LePine said. “That’s a secret I’m going to keep to myself,” Stenvick said.



Seize This Tennessee Williams Rep Deal!

We’re just a few weeks away from the opening of our summer repertory productions of two plays by one of the greatest writers in theater history, Tennessee Williams.

In 1947, Tennessee Williams’ new play, Summer and Smoke, premiered on Broadway.  It has since gone on to be rightfully included in the storied cannon of one of the world’s finest playwrights. And yet, for Tennessee Williams, he wasn’t able to let this simple love story go. And so he wrote a new version.  In 1951 he finished his sweeping rewrite of the play, now called The Eccentricities of a Nightingale.  But theatrical companies all over the country had already embraced Summer and Smoke, and it would be nearly 15 years before this new play would be produced.

Two versions of the same play by one of theater’s most powerful and important voices.  History has chosen Summer and Smoke.  Tennessee Williams preferred The Eccentricities of a Nightingale.  But which script best tells the story of Alma Winemiller and her love for the young doctor across the street?  Now, Renegade presents both plays in repertory, so you can choose for yourself as we present both plays this June 7th – 16th.

And now you can see them for half price.


One More Week To Catch “A Steady Rain!”

Our Northland premiere of “A Steady Rain” has been an incredible success. For proof, check out THIS REVIEW in the Duluth News Tribune or THIS REVIEW from Oeuvre Magazine. Or better yet, come down to the Teatro Zuccone this Thursday, Friday or Saturday and see what all the fuss is about.

We’ve been so thrilled at the full houses and standing ovations this thrilling production has received, and are so happy and proud to live in a community that comes out in force to support this type of bold, new and unconventional show.

Here are a few production photos and interviews with the cast and crew to tide you over until showtime. Oh, and whenever you’re ready, GET YOUR TICKETS, before they – and this incredible show – are gone.



See “A Steady Rain” for 50% off!

We like our blog readers. We like them a whole lot. So much, in fact, that we occasionally slip extra special deals onto our blog just for you guys.

This is one of those occasional times.

“A Steady Rain” opens on April 12th, and if you click the link below, you can buy tickets to see it for HALF PRICE. Let the deal buying commence!


Why SPRING AWAKENING is still so relevant today

Week 2 of SPRING AWAKENING starts tonight, and we’re very excited to present this show to more members of our community. And, if you needed proof that this story from 19th century Germany is still vital and relevant to the youth of today, look no further than this article in ROLLING STONE.


On a happier note, we’re pleased to share with you the final online-only trailer created by our videographer Matt Helbacka for SPRING AWAKENING. This one’s all about the Girls.

There’s No Place Like Home

That Dorothy wasn’t kidding. There really is no place like home. Especially when your home is a fantastic, inspiring and fun place like the Zeitgeist Arts Building.

Home to the Teatro Zuccone (Renegade Theater Company’s permanent space), the Zinema 2 and the Zeitgeist Arts Cafe, it’s one of the few places in town where you can spend an entire day being entertained.

And if you check out REASONS TO BE PRETTY during the final two weeks of our runs, there’s some extra special offers available just for you:

  • Hit up the Zeitgeist Cafe bar and ask for a “Pretty Cosmo” this delicious drink packs a punch and will only set you back $5.
  • Save your playbill and bring it with you to the Zeitgeist Cafe anytime between now and the 18th. Show it to your server and get 10% off your food bill.

And, while you’re in the building, don’t forget to check out a flick at the Zinema. They show movies you used to have to drive to the cities to see on the big screen. And they have the best popcorn around. Hands-down.

One Weekend Left!

If you have yet to catch our production of THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE, you’ve only got three chances left! The final weekend of shows starts tonight at 8pm. You can also catch the show Friday and Saturday at 8pm. And don’t forget that Renegade Improv follows the show at 10:30 pm and costs a measly $5.

Tickets for THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE are only $15 for adults / $12 for students and seniors. That’s a pretty good deal. But if you want an even better one, CLICK HERE and like our page on Facebook. If you do it today, you’ll see a special discount ticket offer show up in your newsfeed.

See you at the Teatro!