Lewis & Clark celebrated with musical comedy Vermillion is celebrating the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark in an original way next weekend with a new musical comedy, The Absurd Adventures of Lewis and Clark.
It all started last winter when the writing team of Daniel L. Miller, Anthony Burbach, Kurt Hackemer, and George Schlenker gathered at The Diner to discuss ideas for the community theatre's summer show. Last year's Robin Hood: Spirit of the Greene had been successful, and they were looking for another idea that had historical foundations but also had room to adapt.
What they came up with was the story of Lewis and Clark.
"If you look at the journals, there's some really funny stuff that actually happened," says Hackemer, a co-writer. "There's also stuff to play with."
The musical comedy features the standard characters of Lewis and Clark, President Jefferson and his experts, the travelers in the Corps of Discovery, townspeople, the animals of the prairie, and the native people of the land. The story of the journey is told from the perspective of a middle school class doing a presentation on the journals of Lewis and Clark. There are also a few twists thrown in as the students find their own answers to the events of two centuries ago.
The writing team gathered every week or two to decide what worked and what didn't. Eventually it was time for the auditions.
"Everyone who auditioned and wanted to be in the play is in the play," says Hackemer. "That's one of the really cool things about an original script � it's customized to the people who are interested in doing it."
An original script, 12 original songs, and a cast of 126 men, women, and children make the show a "full community production," says Miller, director. "There will be some funny moments, some unique moments, some touching moments."
"It's fun because we're changing things all the time," adds Hackemer. "We have incredible freedom because we're not held to a tight script."
Junella Kost and her children are participating in the summer musical for the second year in a row and are having a great time.
"We all love music," says Kost, "and this is something we can do as a family. There aren't many summer things for the whole family to do."
Kost is also excited about the effect this experience has on her children, both at school and in life.
"It's a great way to learn public speaking and being in front of a group," she says.
"It goes along with the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark, but it's got a funny twist to it."
The most rewarding part of the production for many cast and crew members is the community involvement. USD student Erin Conlon has participated in several Vermillion Community Theatre productions, including last year's Robin Hood: Spirit of the Greene and Nunsense.
"It's just like one big family reunion," she says. "We have so much fun, and that will just get better when we're in front of an audience."
"We have a small community here in Vermillion," says Kost, "but I've developed relationships with people that I never would have known if it weren't for this experience. That's one of the cool things about it."
Performances of The Absurd Adventures of Lewis and Clark are July 9-12 at the Vermillion High School Theatre. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. each night except for Sunday, which starts at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are currently available at Nook 'n Cranny and Davis Pharmacy. They also can be purchased at the door the night of the show.
For more information about this or other VCT offerings, visit www.vermillioncommunitytheatre.org.