Director SCOTT BERG and Actor Jeanmarie Simpson Bring Robert Harling’s STEEL MAGNOLIAS to Full Bloomby Hot Off The Press (Release) on Dec. 04, 2012, under Press Releases
Beloved comedy-drama opens at the Red Barn Theatre in Tucson Arizona January 11, 2013.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The production marks the first project for Simpson since she retired recently from the professional stage. Visit her website to learn more about her -http://jeanmariesimpson.wordpress.com. She attributes the lure of the project to Berg.
“Scott is a brilliant gold nugget in a bed of sand – a tremendously talented actor and designer in addition to being probably the best director I’ve ever worked with,” Simpson said. “I’m not big on naming “bests” or “favorites,”but in this case, I’m making an exception,” she continued. “He’s both a highly skilled and talented theatre artist and also a deeply generous human being. In my experience directors have often been great artists but not such nice people, or lovely people who aren’t so gifted. I have been astonished by Scott’s commitment and the continual generosity of communication and inquiry he consistently brings to the process. I didn’t think I would ever be interested in working in theatre as an amateur – but that is what it’s all about now. I do it for love, which is what amateur means. At this point in my life, I wouldn’t settle for less, and I’m still pinching myself to make sure it’s real.”
Berg said, “My grandmother used to say to me ‘you never meets a stranger, do you?’ Such was the case when I met Jeanmarie. She responded to a casting and brainstorming call from a filmmaker I have worked with several times. Jeanmarie introduced herself, sat down, listened for a few minutes and then began to offer comments and suggestions. I remember thinking to myself “I think she knows what she’s talking about” and so did everyone else at the table. Soon Jeanmarie and I were talking and I mentioned that I work with the Red Barn Theatre Company. It turns out that she had stopped in one afternoon and looked around the space, which she called “charming”. When I told her I was directing Steel Magnolias, she was eager to audition. Over the next few weeks we worked on the film event, made the film, went to the screening (we won two awards), worked on another film, emailed each other a thousand times, she auditioned for my show and was cast as Ouiser. She is one of a kind. So generous, kind, unaffected and positive in all aspects of her life. It’s pretty amazing. The best part of it is that I am one of the fortunate ones to be able to call her my friend.”
Simpson says she’s the lucky one. “I was working on yet another solo work and in the depths of existential despair. To shake myself out of my funk, I responded to an indie film casting call and – Wow,” she exclaimed, “that put me on the path to this beautiful ensemble piece and into the kind of collaboration all artists dream of. I would be a fool not to want to work with Scott.”
Berg, an Illinois native, moved with his family to Arizona in 1978 where he graduated from Prescott high school in 1980. He caught the theatre bug and went on to study musical theatre at the University of Arizona. He is remembered in Tucson for performances including Guildenstern in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Marat in Marat/Sade, Doc Holliday in Tombstone the Musical, King Edward in Robinhood the Musical, Jonathan in Triple Threat, David in Company and many others. He worked as an assistant to the legendary Phyllis Diller in Los Angeles. While in LA, he played Dr. Stockman in An Enemy of the People for the Public Theatre in Culver City. Also in Southern California, he appeared in many television and film projects including the Court TV shows North Mission Road, The Investigators, Rescue and Guilty or Innocent. Back in Tucson since 2007, Scott has been deeply involved with the Red Barn Theatre Company. He sits on the board of directors, is resident set designer and has directed The Women and How to Talk Minnesotan, the biggest hit the theatre has had, which will be revived in April 2013. His performances at the Red Barn include Pseudolus in Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Frank Butler in Annie Get Your Gun, Uncle Silas and Judge Thatcher in Big River, Uncle Wayne in State Fair, Sidney Collier in Elevator and Prince De Long in The Unsinkable Molly Brown. In addition to his Arizona theatre work, Scott is a prolific film and TV actor, having starred in many short films including Crosswinds, It Is With God, Boxes, Out of Eden, Hobo Quest, ¿Crees Que Vale la Pena?, Confidence Game and The Conversation. He stars in the upcoming feature film, Billy Ray Gun Charles.
Why does a guy with that much experience, talent and ability want to work at the amateur level?
“Community theatre welcomes the inexperienced, the curious, the hopeful, no matter what the talent level or ability,” he said. “Because of that, you end up with an incredibly diverse mix of people. It also enables those who may never have thought of pursuing acting or stage managing or costuming or whatever, to get involved and to have fun again. For some, it’s the only social outlet they have, and that’s important. Especially in a town like Tucson, where there are very few industry jobs, it’s great to have an outlet like the theatre to keep you involved, to keep your acting “chops” in the thick of things. Community theatre is a way to develop, to grow and to practice our craft. It also gives those with the desire, the opportunity to teach and to mentor those who don’t have a lot of experience. It’s a place where talent is fostered, expression is welcomed and growth is applauded.”
Simpson agrees that it’s not a step down.
“The industry doesn’t get to define me. Nobody but I can do that to myself. Playing Ouiser is an opportunity to step into the shoes of a person few understand but who makes us all laugh. Giving to audiences the gift of laughter and laughing with the cast and crew of the show is incredibly important at this stage in my life. And learning to appreciate a delicious curmudgeon by wearing her skin and breathing her words – that’s a priceless gift. I’m a middle aged woman in an industry that throws us away like old shoes. They don’t get to do that either. I may not be a TV or film star, I’ve never headlined a Broadway show, but I’m a hard working actor and I am playing the hell out of this part, thanks to Scott and the Red Barn, which may be short on cash, but it’s got heart big as the Grand Canyon, and, dammit, that is what matters.”
Aside from the two of them, what’s the appeal?
“The cast is terrific,” said Berg, “and the script is full of humor and an undercurrent that grabs you and pulls you right into the tragedy of the story. So often, in scripts that involve death, the writer will bring you to that emotional release, the grief, the tears, the anguish, and then leave you there, wallowing in the sadness of the characters before you. But Harling shows how laughter can help us get through what are often the worst days of our lives. It is those moments that you find throughout this play that allow people to connect with each character. To be able to pull from the actors the subtleties, the nuance, the relationships that each must make believable can be tremendously difficult. To get the actor to a safe place so that they can feel comfortable stripping away whatever obstacles and boundaries they have from real life can be quite a process. That’s the part I love as a director. To be witness to the process can be as emotional as the written word. And when it finally does happen, it’s magical.”
Steel Magnolias opens January 11th at the Red Barn Theatre, located at 948 N. Main Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85705. The show runs through January 27th, Fridays and Saturdays 7:30 P.M., Sundays at 2:00 P.M. Tickets range in price from $10 to $20, with Season Tickets & Group Discounts available.