How does Jenna Tamisiea get three shows up and running with only a month of rehearsal?
“I put a bunch of eclectic, talented, crazy people together and am exploiting them,” she says with a laugh.
Tamisiea is the co-founder, with her husband, Christian Elser, of GLOW Lyric Theatre. Tamisiea directs the shows, with Elser serving as music director and conductor. This year marks their 9th Annual Summer Festival, and features Robert Ward‘s “eerie and powerful” operatic adaptation of Arthur Miller‘s The Crucible, the “witty and hilariously irreverent” political satire of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, and the rock musical hippie protest classic, Hair. The three shows run in repertory from July 13th-30th at The Greenville Fine Arts Center.
For each season, Tamisiea and Elser select and stage their shows based on a specific social or political theme. This year’s theme is Question Authority.
“When November came, we solidified our season,” says Elser. “We want to examine non-partisan issues from both sides.” Two of the primary ideas they plan to engage in their work are the cultural pitfalls of partisan politics and the dangerous nature of political witch hunts. “We want to explore the question of how do we find a way to bring us all together and then move forward.”
Tamisiea says they begin by going back to the text, casting aside any preconceptions while uncovering the roots of the piece. Then they let their own experiences and interpretations bring the work to new life.
“A show like Hair can easily become a costumed parody of itself,” Elser says, adding that the show is still “hauntingly relevant.” It’s so relevant, says Tamisiea, that “there’s nothing that needs to change.” So she’s giving her cast a chance to express themselves through this 1960’s-era protest musical.
“The cast are young, they’re of this generation and they have their own feelings about protest and rebellion,” Tamisiea says. “We want to give a voice to this generation.”
The season’s opening show is The Crucible, 1962’s Pulitzer Prize winner for music. Elser calls it grand opera fused with Copland-esque Americanism. It is, of course, based on Arthur Miller‘s Tony Award winning play about the dangers of political hysteria, with the Salem witch trials standing in for the communist-hunting House Un-American Activities Committee.
“Even straight theatre lovers would like this,” Tamisiea says. ‘It’s an American opera of an American story.”
Rounding out the season is Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, a political farce that Elser says almost has the feel of a Saturday Night Live skit. “It’s totally raucous and insane,” he says. He and Tamisiea love the way it contrasts with their other two shows as it pokes fun at the pretentions of liberals. “It flips the others on their heads,” he says.
Tamisiea’s collaborative directorial style, coupled with her strong visual sense and Elser’s top-notch musicianship make GLOW Lyric productions always worth seeing. And whether you see all three shows in one weekend or spread out the joy over the course of the month, you owe yourself the experience. Trust my authority on this one.