BENTLEY’s playwright, Michael Wilhelm

BENTLEY poster for blog

We are three weeks into our rehearsal process, but it has been several years since Michael first approached me with a draft of this play. afO hosted a first read-through with some of our actor friends in July of 2016. However, I had no idea that the original idea was much older than that.  Here is playwright Michael Wilhelm with a tantalizing look at how Bentley came to be written.


“Many of the things I write have an excruciatingly long gestation period.  Bentley was no different.   The core of this story is a situation that I witnessed many years ago.  (I would go in to more details here but…spoilers…)  So I held on to this idea, often pondering in my idle time how the details would work out, plot-wise.  I didn’t know if it would end up being a movie script, novel or a stage play. I really needed to find the right vehicle to present it.  That proved to be a long search, over many decades, in fact.  Until some years ago I was browsing through a bargain bin of $1 DVD’s and I stumbled across the classic screwball comedy, My Man Godfrey.

At first I had not even considered putting the two together.  I was just thinking of possibly adapting the movie for the stage.  As I tinkered with adapting the film, I found more and more of it fell apart under scrutiny.  Then I got to thinking: why not reformulate the premise of this 80-year-old classic comedy to fit into the popular culture we live in today?  Thus,1930s high society and debutante balls give way to reality television and Twitter.

I would have to strip the original story down to its basic framework.  With a new setting and the elimination of the social satire of the 1930s, I needed to tell a new story.  This is where my original idea, the one I’d been holding onto for so long, came into play.  It could become the new premise of the story. As it turned out, it was a perfect fit.  Unlike the original film, Bentley has a spiritual curve that opens the humanness of its characters to the possibility that they can change their lives and the world around them.

How does this all play out?  Quite profoundly, I think.  You see, Bentley is an experiment.  Something new stuffed into something familiar, then blended together to create a new modern fable of redemption. I hope you’ll come and see it, and tell me what you think.”


Michael & Cindy Wilhelm

Michael with Cindy, his wife of 36 years

Michael Wilhelm (playwright) has been writing as far back as junior high school, where he penned fables from the Kingdom of Swoons. He was a writer on The Riverfront Radio Playhouse back in the late ‘70s over WIPU. He scripted and performed a one- man show based on C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.  Michael also wrote sketches for the Interseeding Ensemble, a Christian drama ministry. He’s authored a trilogy of novelettes chronicling the adventures of an aromatic super hero known as Skunk-Guy. Turtle Soup (2011), his first world premiere play, was produced by all for One, with Michael in the starring role of Gale Harris. (Michael has acted frequently with afO since 2003.) He is currently producing a radio comedy podcast titled The Temp.​ Michael is married to Cindy, and they have a lovely teenage daughter, Josette.

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Introducing…BENTLEY!

BENTLEY poster for blogThe 26th season of shows produced by local faith-driven theatre company, all for One productions, is soon to begin. But behind the scenes we’ve been hard at work all summer to ensure that our audiences will enjoy the same excellent, family-friendly, thought-provoking and values-rich fare they’ve come to expect.

To all those characteristics, one should add:  unusual.  Fully three-quarters of afO’s offerings are either area premieres (no other company locally has done it yet) or world premieres (no one else has EVER performed the work).  This is a fairly unusual category for any community theatre to boast of, but afO is producing its EIGHTH world premiere in the past ten years! In fact, our current season’s opener, Bentley, is the second premiere to grace afO’s stage this calendar year. (Sam Ward’s one-man musical, David, was performed just this past February.)

We will introduce Michael Wilhelm and give him a chance to tell you a bit about the inspiration for this delightful comedy-drama, in a later post. For now, here is a list of the cast members (who are already in rehearsal and having a blast getting ready for our September opening):

Nate Chen      as     BENTLEY
Bridget Bogdon     as     TASHA CARVER
Megan Speith     as     PAM CARVER
Connor Beer     as     SIMON CARVER
Kevin Keats     as     DRAKE CARVER
Teresa Bower     as     ELLEN CARVER
Jennifer Netting     as     MARGE
Matt Faley     as     HERSCHEL
J. Scott Kump     as     LT. BROOKS

Tickets are on sale now through the ArtsTix box office, (260) 422-4226 or at their website.

 

 

Some SECRET GARDEN FAQs

TSG-web-1-238x300Part of our mission at all for One is to educate as well as entertain and inspire. This blog and the dramaturgy in each program are among our efforts to enlighten and educate our audience.  We hope to deepen your understanding of the background and implications of the stories we present on stage.

Here are some topics which may raise questions in the minds of our audience:  Why India? What is cholera? Why are gardens walled at Misselthwaite? Are English and American robins the same? These are addressed  briefly in the program, but we hope you will take the time to “read more about it” on this page, and share what you learn with your children who have enjoyed The Secret GardenContinue reading

The Secret Garden and Kid-Lit’s Golden Age

The Golden Age of British children’s literature refers to a remarkable period during which a vast number of western literature’s best-loved books were written. Consider that between 1900 and 1930:

  • Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated her many picture books for young children, beginning with The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
  • A.A. Milne created Winnie the Pooh.
  • E. Nesbit wrote her wonderful children’s novels, including The Railway Children, Five Children and It, and The Enchanted Castle.
  • Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote A Little Princess, The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy.
  • J.M. Barrie created Peter Pan.

And this list is not exhaustive at all. There was also an explosion of American children’s literature at around the same time: The Wizard of Oz, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, The Call of the Wild and Pollyanna, to name a few.

The wonderful thing about all these books, to my mind, is that they are not written “down” to children, over-simplified and dripping with moral lessons. Rather, they are strong original stories which are amusing, engaging and often thought-provoking, but which are most appropriate to the genre (fairly new at the time) of children’s literature. Continue reading

Frances Hodgson Burnett, writer of classics

TSG-web-1-238x300The first in a series of posts on the background of all for One’s The Secret Garden, which opens April 20, 2018. For tickets, call (260) 422-4226.

Who was the woman who gave the world two of its most beloved children’s classics? She was not perhaps quite what you might have expected.

  • Her books were all set in the British Isles, but she left England as a teen and did not return for some years. In fact, the last years of her life were spent on Long Island, where she is buried.
  • She wrote famously of little girls, but she bore only sons.
  • Her books focus on comfortably wealthy families, but she experienced a “riches to rags” life and only regained financial stability by long years of perseverance as a writer.
  • Her stories are full of lively and optimistic characters, but she suffered from depression on and off throughout her life.

Continue reading

The cast of The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden

We are excited to announce the cast for the closing production of our 25th anniversary season, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (adapted by Sylvia Ashby):

MARY LENNOX–Violet Park*

COLIN CRAVEN–Micah Gilliom

DICKON SOWERBY–Jack Voirol*

MARTHA SOWERBY–Tori Beth Bowman*

ARCHIBALD CRAVEN–Nick Henney*

MRS. MEDLOCK–Michelle King

BEN WEATHERSTAFF–Dennis Nichols

MRS. SOWERBY–Lauren Nichols

DR. SPENCER–Eric Black

NURSE GREY–Angela Bougher*

*Denotes afO debut

As you can see, half of our cast are newcomers to all for One!  In the director’s chair for this production is Lorraine Knox, who directed Just So Stories for us two seasons ago.  The production team includes costumer Deanna Deturk, props mistress Christine Newman-Aumiller, and set design/construction by Lorraine, Lee and Sophie Knox.

Our guest lighting designer is Luke Holliger, who also designed the lighting for David. Luke is the technical director for Arts United. We are thrilled to have his expertise!

Also of note is the original music, which is being composed by Torilinn Cwanek, who also composed incidental music for afO’s production of A Little Princess (2013). Tori is a 15-year-old piano student of Lauren Nichols, afO’s Artistic Director.

Tickets are available now through the ArtsTix box office:  (260) 422-4226 or order online.

DAVID Synopsis, with photos

DAVID posterDAVID: the Giant-Killing, Song- Singing Chosen King  will receive its world premiere on afO’s stage in the ArtsLab theater at 300 E. Main Street, from February 16 through 25, 2018.  Here are some thoughts from playwright/composer/actor Sam Ward on this dynamic one-man show, a combination of theatrical story-telling and high-powered rock concert:

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by Sam Ward

March 10, 2017. The stage and the audience were both small. 60-70 people had gathered for a fundraising event.  all for One‘s artistic director introduced the show there was applause as I walked onstage to begin a 30-minute preview of my original one-man musical, DAVID.  I was a little nervous, but I was prepared and felt called to share this story.

It’s the story of a man who is known both as a singer/songwriter, and as a warrior and king.  It’s the story of a man who was known for his pure heart, and yet committed terrible sin against Uriah, Bathsheba and others.  But mostly, it’s a story of a powerful God and the man who tried to express his love for God in song.

As we move toward a polished production–with five “mighty men” musicians accompanying me–I wanted to share some photos from that first preview performance last year, along with a synopsis of the first half of the show:

At the top of the show, the prophet Samuel anoints David.  The Spirit of God enters David and empowers him for the rest of his life…

 

The Philistines gather their troops and attack Israel…

The Philistine champion, Goliath of Gath, steps out from the frontlines and issues his challenge, “Give me a man and let us fight it out together!”

David hits the giant hard in the head and Goliath falls, facedown in the dirt!

As the Israelite army heads home, the women come out from the villages to welcome King Saul.  For fun they sing, “Saul has killed his thousands, David his tens of thousands.”

Filled with jealousy, Saul tries to kill David.  David sings a song of justice to God.  “O Lord my God, I take refuge in you / Save me and deliver me, from all who would pursue…”

Saul discovers that Michal, his daughter, is in love with David.  Thinking the Philistines will get rid of David for him, Saul challenges David to kill 100 Philistines to get Michal as his wife.  David does it and Saul gives his daughter, Michal, to David in marriage…

Then God sends a dark mood to afflict Saul.  It takes control of him.  He is at home with his spear while David is (again!) playing music.  Saul tries to pin him to the wall…

David escapes and sings to God.  “Deliver me from my enemies, O God / Protect me from those who rise up against me…”

David runs to Nob and talks to Ahimelech the priest.  Ahimelech gives him the holy bread, taken from the presence of God, and also Goliath’s sword.  David escapes to Gath…

David is recognized by the Philistines.  Afraid for his life, David pretends to be insane.  When he escapes he sings his thanks to God, “In God, whose Word I praise / In God I trust, I will not be afraid / What can mortal man do to me?”

This is just the beginning of David’s life and only the first 30 minutes of a show which is now about 80 minutes long.  I’m excited to present these characters, these songs and THIS STORY, because I think it will help all of us see a man who was flawed, but who loved the Lord with his whole heart.