11th Hour Theatre Company closes it’s 2017-2018 season with it’s MainStage production, Big Red Sun. This World Premiere musical, which the company helped develop is set to run May 31-June 17. Written by John Jiler & Georgia Stitt this emotional new musical will open Monday June 4 at 7 p.m. It is directed by 11th Hour co-founder and Resident Director Megan Nicole O’Brien with Music Direction by 11th Hour regular Dan Kazemi. All Shows will be at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American Street. Tickets cost $15-$40 and are available online at www.11thhourtheatrecompany.org or by phone 267-987-9865.
In Big Red Sun, a young musician named Harry Daimler searches for a father he never knew. As he begins to uncover his father’s story, it leads him on an emotional journey of self-discovery. With a beautiful score which weaves from Klezmer, through 1940’s swing, to jazz and then on to rock and roll, Big Red Sun illustrates that in order to know who you truly are, you must first understand where you came from.
Kyle Segarra is cast as Harry Daimler. 11th Hour Producing Artistic Director and co-founder Michael Philip O’Brien is cast as Eddie Daimler. Marybeth Gorman returns to 11th Hour to play Helen Daimler, Harry’s mother. Rob Tucker, an 11th Hour regular, returns to play James L. Johnson. Hanna Gaffney is the Character Woman and Jamison Foreman is the Character Man.
Christopher Haig is designing the set. Mike Inwood is the Lighting Designer. Toby Pettit is the Sound Designer. Janus Stefanowicz is designing the costumes and Robin Stamey is the Production Manager.
Jiler and Stitt have been working on this piece for more than a decade. Jiler was inspired to write a story about the years after his father returned home from fighting the Germans in World War II. In the ten years following the war, the shift in society and popular music was dramatic. His father would say, “What’s all this dark, cacophonous modern jazz and Rock-and -Roll? What happened to Jerome Kern?”. The world had changed in his absence. Society went from Glen Miller in a powder blue tuxedo to Jimi Hendrix playing a guitar with his teeth in what felt like the blink of an eye. This time period when both music and the world were changing with lightning speed, interested both writers deeply.
Said Stitt, “John brought me a draft of the script and I got excited about how many styles of music I would get to write within this piece. The music comes authentically out of the characters who are making it. Through their experiences we get to explore klezmer, swing, jazz, and rock and roll, all within the boundaries of musical theater. Such fantastic territory for a composer!”
Jiler has only written one other musical, Avenue X which Stitt has music directed in many venues around the country. This is how the two met. Jiler admits that all of the definitive productions of Avenue X have been here in Philadelphia, The Wilma in 1997 and 11th Hour in 2009. “What so impressed me about 11th Hour was its fearlessness. Avenue X is entirely a cappella. Most theatre companies would be daunted by the prospect of holding an audience’s attention for two hours with nothing but the naked human voice. Not 11th Hour. They embraced the challenge with the same kind of pluck they’ve shown in taking on Big Red Sun — Characters hopping in time from World War II to the sixties at a moment’s notice? A daunting musical journey from Klezmer through Swing to Jazz to Folk to Rock-and –Roll? An ambitious look at the change in American culture and music through the eyes of one mid-20th century family? NO PROBLEM!!”
Jiler introduce Stitt to the company. She immediately connected to director Megan Nicole O’Brien. “I really wanted her eyes on this piece. I love the theater’s commitment to new musicals and I love the niche they’ve carved out for themselves in Philadelphia. The actors they’ve brought us at every step along the way (especially Michael O’Brien, who is one of our leads and is also Producing Artistic Director of the theater) have been fantastic, and music director Dan Kazemi is a real pro. When you turn over your baby to your collaborators, you want it to be a team of people you trust, and I have felt safe, challenged, and protected through the 11th Hour development process.”
Added O’Brien, when asked what drew her to this show, “Quite simply, the music and the story. John has created a story from scratch that leaves a lasting impact. Totally original musicals, without drawing from some sort of source material, are pretty rare. Georgia’s music is just gorgeous. Every time I’ve been away from the show for a while and I come back and hear the music again, I realize how much I missed it while I was away. It just fills your soul.”
She adds, “They are both so collaborative, supportive, creative as well as just generous and wonderful human beings. I’ve learned so much from them in such a short amount of time and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Both of the writers have big expectations for what they hope the audience gains from this production. Jiler hopes they gain a sense of how America has evolved sociologically and musically. “World War II was, in a way, the beginning of the modern world. Before it, the average American died about a mile from where they were born. After the War, that figure grew to about 200 miles. Society was changing at a dizzying speed. Returning World War II vets probably felt, “our children will always be grateful.” And we were—–to a point. But baby boomers felt their parents lost their way in the McCarthy-era red scares, and in the proliferation of the golf courses and the super-markets of the fifties. Many of them grew their hair long, swallowed drugs and made love-not-war, and the music changed—drastically. Our hope is that the story we’re telling—of a family fractured by the turmoil of that time—will feel are both historically important and as relevant as today’s headline,” said Jiler.
Stitt adds, “When we started writing this piece I regarded it as a slice of history in the way John describes it [above], but in recent years as we’ve been rewriting it, I’ve been thinking more and more that it’s about the importance of illuminating truth. I have enjoyed writing about a person’s quest for his own truth and living in a story that deals with the way one person’s truth affects everyone else’s. There’s something that feels both extremely historical and extremely contemporary about weaving that idea through the lives of these characters.”
Thursday, May 31 @ 7pm (Preview)
Friday, June 1 @ 8pm (Preview)
Saturday, June 2 @ 8pm (Preview)
Sunday, June 3 @ 3pm (Preview)
Monday, June 4 @ 7pm (Opening)
Thursday, June 7 @ 7pm (Talk back following the performance)
Friday, June 8 @ 8pm (ASL Interpreted Performance)
Saturday, June 9 @ 8pm
Sunday, June 10 @ 3pm
Thursday, June 14 @ 7pm (Talk Back following the performance)
Friday, June 15 @ 8pm
Saturday, June 16 @ 3pm
Saturday, June 16 @ 8pm
Sunday, June 17 @ 3pm
About 11th Hour Theatre Company
11th Hour Theatre Company is the only company in Philadelphia dedicated to producing all musicals, all the time. Intimate by design, 11th Hour creates a lasting experience with the audience by producing character-driven musical theatre.
11th Hour produces a broad spectrum of musicals that fill a niche in the diverse Philadelphia theatre landscape: musicals that spark the creativity of artists and the imaginations of audiences. Over the past eleven seasons, they have produced seventeen full-scale musicals, nine of which were Philadelphia premieres. In addition to the World Premiere of their first commission, Field Hockey Hot, the company has contributed to the development of several new musicals beginning with Angst, a ten-minute musical that premiered in the Spark Festival of 2005. 11th Hour produced the American premiere of Austentatious that went on to success at the New York Musical Theatre Festival; and a 29-hour reading of Fantasy Football, the Musical? before its production at New York University. Both Austentatious and Fantasy Football have since been published and are now professionally licensed. In the fall of 2014, 11th Hour partnered with University of the Arts to workshop Persephone Unplugged, a new twist on the classic Greek myth. With support from the Independence Foundation, 11th Hour recently commissioned their second musical from a local writing team, a Civil War-themed project currently titled Something Like a War.
11th Hour has received a total of fifty-five Barrymore Award nominations. Their work has been recognized with 15 awards, including five recently for last season’s Lizzie (including Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical), and several individual awards for their artists. Founding member Steve Pacek was also the proud recipient of the 2012 F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist. In 2013, 11th Hour became the first-ever recipient of the June and Steve Wolfson Award for an Evolving Theater.