Dave Hanson on inhabiting the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

Dave Hanson makes his Plan-B debut in KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. I love art that makes me think, but I’m not fond of art that tells me what to think. I’m a big fan of Jenifer Nii’s scripts, and have had the true pleasure of working with David Evanoff several times over the years, so when Jerry Rapier called me about working on a collaboration between them . . . well, he could have asked me to be part of the wallpaper and I would have said ‘yes’! What I found waiting for me was Joe Brown. He is strong, kind, and sure of himself and his place in existence as a Mormon husband and father. But that all goes out the window when his view of that world is challenged by the journey toward self acceptance his wife MJ embarks on. He seems to me to be the guy that wants to call himself open-minded and fair, but living in a hugely limited and finite view of the world has never given him the chance to prove it. He stands firm in what he believes, but it’s easier to do so when there’s nothing in sight to provide an alternative. To be honest, I don’t identify with Joe much on an ideological level, but I can identify completely with his plight of having your understanding of the world shaken up. I think many of us can. Joe’s not a bad guy. Joe’s not a perfect guy. He’s a guy reacting to change, and some reactions are worse than others. I tend to think we all have something we hold dear that,...

Jeanette Puhich on inhabiting KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

Jeanette Puhich has previously appeared in Plan-B’s CHRISTMAS WITH MISFITS, the first-ever SLAM and as Yitzak in the first two productions of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH. We started working on KINGDOM OF HEAVEN a little less than a year ago. I had no idea what a Drag King was. I didn’t know that they even existed. How is that possible? I kept calling them Man Kings. I guess that sort of works. Anyway, I know who they are now! So, I was hired to create this role. I am playing the Drag King. Well, it doesn’t start out that way, of course. My character MJ is asked by one of her friends to open for a group called “Drag Kingdom.” She is, of course, very hesitant to take the gig, especially since she’s only done high school musicals and sung in church, and because . . . well, hanging out with girls performing as boys?! But something inside prompts her to say yes. Through the process of rehearsing and performing, she remembers . . . She remembers that there is a part of herself that she has kept hidden for years. That part of herself? Her masculine side. She realizes that she needs to be able to express that side of herself in order to feel completely human. I’m not going to give the whole story here. I just wanted to sort of lay it out. What I want to say is this: I love MJ and all of the characters in this play. They’re all spiritual, broken, battered, loving, kind, searching . . . What I love about KINGDOM OF HEAVEN? I love that...

Dave Evanoff on composing KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

Dave Evanoff has partnered with Plan-B as musical director of three productions of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH and several installments of AND THE BANNED PLAYED ON, as well as the composer of six RADIO HOUR episodes. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is his first original musical. Owner of Sound Design Studios, David has produced and written award-winning music and soundtracks for film and television and special events including Disneyland, Universal Studios and the 2002 Winter Olympics. Jerry Rapier asked me if I would write a musical. “… …” I answered. “It won’t pay a lot of money, but it could be fun!” he said. I thought about his sales pitch for a minute. “Could the music come from iPads and iPhones?” I asked. “Sure,” he answered, “We can make our own rules.” I was almost convinced, but then I remembered, I’m a jingle writer! I don’t write musicals. How about a play with jingles? Jerry was not excited. Guess what? We are about to debut the first ever play with jingles. The first one I’m aware of anyway. I’ll explain. When I write jingles, I’m given copy points or sales information. My job is to put that information in rhyme and write original, catchy music that I hope will make people pay attention to something new or see something familiar in a new way. I’ve written hundreds of them in my career. And that’s exactly what I’ve done for KINGDOM OF HEAVEN . In Jenifer Nii’s play, MaryJane, the central character, has an iPad and Garage Band and has discovered a knack for writing music. So now, eight times during the play,...

Alex Florence on performing drag and connecting with KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

Alex Florence performed with the drag king troupe The Salt City Kings from 2004-2010 and with the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire from 2008-2014. He shares his thoughts on KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, which also appear in the April issue of QSaltLake Magazine. I recently had the pleasure of reading KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. The journey of the central character MJ is, in some ways, similar to my own. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN reminds me of my own adventure of finding my own inner drag king, an adventure that later helped me connect my brain, outside appearance and soul. My drag adventure started at the very young age of 14 when I put on my first “show” for my brother and mother. My debut consisted of whatever I could find to wear that was flannel to channel my inner pop star (via a song by Joey Lawrence). As it turns out, growing up in a very LDS home, with a mother who was and still is very strict on gender roles, my first performance was a flop. Thoughts of freeing the me inside were suppressed for the next decade. In KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, MJ is approached to perform, which sets her journey in motion. Just like MJ, my journey began when I was approached to try out for a drag troupe at the age of 24. MJ and I both experienced a very real moment when she first put herself in drag and the thoughts of “Well, there I am!” surfaced. I don’t want to give too much away other than KINGDOM OF HEAVEN isn’t about transitioning in the way you might think. We don’t know if...

Playwright Jenifer Nii on creating KINGDOM OF HEAVEN for the 2015/16 Season

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, with book & lyrics by Jenifer Nii and music & lyrics by Dave Evanoff, receives it world premiere March 31-April 10, 2016. Subscribe to the full season for only $70! Social media is a dangerous thing, and one never knows when the right/wrong people are watching. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is proof. In a moment of impulsiveness, after evening spent binge-watching a reality television show about drag queens, I posted on my Facebook page something to the effect that “I wanna write a musical.” There was something so joyful about the television show, something surprisingly captivating about its courageous, stunningly creative contestants; something incredibly inspiring about their stories of discovery, determination, pain, and strength. It made me happy, this show. I loved the spectacle, marveled at the way those men transformed themselves into such a heightened state of femininity, and was fascinated how that process helped fulfill the contestants in such personal, individual ways. It had a triumphant, celebratory, inclusive feel to it, which was so refreshing and invigorating and nearly the opposite of what I’d been seeing in the community I live in. Gender issues are still very hot to the touch here, the heartland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the last few years, women (and men) have been disciplined in an unprecedentedly-public arena for questioning their roles, for organizing to challenge everything from dress codes to women’s participation in leadership and religious rites. In January 2015, high-ranking leaders of the Church gave a rare press conference on gender identity. Elder Dallin H. Oaks acknowledged the Church is now striving to address the pantheon of...

Our 25th Anniversary Season

This blog post might read like a press release because, well, it’s a press release.  But don’t hold that against us! PLAN-B THEATRE COMPANY ANNOUNCES FIVE EXCITING WORLD PREMIERES FOR ITS 25TH ANNIVERSARY, 2015/2016 SEASON Award-winning theatre celebrates a quarter century of success with a rich lineup of world premieres celebrating music, diversity and human relationships. (Salt Lake City, UT) – Continuing our unique legacy of producing new plays by Utah playwrights, Plan-B Theatre Company announces its 25th season with a slate of world premieres. The season offers a peek into the mind of a madman and the music that created it, a haunting radio play, a humorous look at the dreariness of holiday retail, a journey through relationships past and future, and Plan-B’s first-ever new musical that features a housewife who dreams of something more. “Plan-B is committed to telling stories from a local point of view. Our 25th season takes that a step further, exploring how comfortable we feel inside our own narratives,“ says Jerry Rapier, Plan-B’s producing director. The season begins October 18, 2015, and runs through April 10, 2016. Season tickets, only $70 (a 20% savings) are available now at Plan-B’s website. THE KREUTZER SONATA by Eric Samuelsen October 18–November 9, 2015 (Also November 4, 2015, at New York’s United Solo Theatre Festival) The season opens with a harrowing exploration of the mind of a murderer, of a man driven mad by Beethoven’s music. “Music, like marriage, is but a violence and a falsehood,” says the madman (Robert Scott Smith) and both torment him to the point of no return. This cautionary tale is interwoven with a...

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