From its home base on Indiana Avenue, Stained Glass Playhouse has run a similar track to other area theater companies in the ill-fated days since March, 2020. It has held events and presented virtual productions online, but schedules have mostly required postponements and patience.
The company will revitalize three previously-scheduled programs and welcome audiences once more.
Stained Glass opens its 2021-22 season with “Smoke on the Mountain.” Maggie Gallagher directs.
With a book by Connie Ray and conceived by Alan Bailey, “Smoke on the Mountain” has musical arrangements by Mike Craver and Mark Hardwick.
The Sanders Family, a traveling bluegrass group returning to performing after a five-year hiatus, has been enlisted by the young and enthusiastic Pastor Mervin Oglethorpe of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. He wants to bring his tiny congregation into “the modern world” with a Saturday Night Gospel Sing.
Between songs, in an attempt to inspire the wary churchgoers, the family members tell stories about important events in their lives. However, as one thing after another goes awry, they reveal their true — and hilariously imperfect — natures.
Gallagher finds it a little challenging to describe “Smoke on the Mountain” because it doesn’t quite fit a simple category.
“I tell people repeatedly that ‘Smoke’ shows are not really musicals, they are not really plays,” she said. “They are a series of monologues held together with lots of music. They have a very unique space in theater, and many people come to see the shows multiple times.”
If anyone knows the ‘Smoke’ shows — there are two subsequent “monologues with music” as well — it would be Gallagher.
She first played the role of Vera in 2002 in High Point, then in Wytheville, Va. Additional performances include four other venues, plus the Town of Lewisville, where she both acted and directed.
“This is my first opportunity to direct the show without being in it,” she said.
“Being so familiar with the shows definitely helps me in knowing exactly how to block the production and create the best picture for the spaces,” she said.
“I also know how I want to music to sound, but I have to constantly remind myself that this show is so different from other shows in that I am asking each actor to act, sing, and play instruments. That’s a tough thing to do—like walking and talking and chewing gum,” she noted.
“If you haven’t seen ‘Smoke on the Mountain’ before, I can tell you it will be an evening full of fun, listening to old familiar gospel songs, and lots of laughter,” Gallagher said. “It is a couple of hours and entertainment without any of the many worries of today.”
The rest of the season
Stained Glass Artistic Director Gregg Vogelsmeier helms the Neil Simon classic comedy “Plaza Suite” for its February 2022 production.
Like many other companies seeking to emerge from the pandemic, Stained Glass has chosen for now to pursue lighter fare. “Plaza Suite” presents three chiefly-comic scenes that occur in the same Plaza Hotel suite.
“We knew that people wanted to go back to the theater and laugh,” Vogelsmeier said.
In some productions, two actors are present in all three stories. Vogelsmeier plans to expand the cast size, however, by using three separate couples for the pairs who center each tale.
Finally — assuming all goes well — Stained Glass plans to stage “Lend Me a Tenor” in May.
“We had already auditioned and cast ‘Tenor,’ and held two rehearsals, when we had to cancel in spring 2020,” Vogelsmeier said. A second effort later in 2020 proved impossible.
This freewheeling farce by Ken Ludwig will be directed by Stained Glass regular Mike Burke. It tells a lively tale of an ill-fated visit to Cleveland by a famous opera star who has some personal challenges. Confusion, mistaken identities and a lot of slamming doors happen before the final curtain.