by Eric Schmiedl, based on the book by Kent Haruf
directed by Kent Thompson
originally produced at Denver Center for the Performing Arts,
January 30, 2015
through March 1, 2015
Hailed a “masterful look at the end of life” by The Denver Post, this adaptation of Kent Haruf’s best-selling novel transports us to the high plains of Colorado. The final chapter of Haruf’s remarkable trilogy, Benediction is a powerful drama about a community searching for meaningful connections despite separation, loneliness and the race against time.
At the heart of my artistic vision for DCTC is relevance—making our theatre engaging, thrilling and thought-provoking theatre to audiences and artists. We seek to create theatre that evokes discussion, serves as a town hall of ideas and relevant issues while producing new plays that will advance the American Theatre. The world premiere production of Benediction will address these goals.
Benediction focuses on three major characters: an elderly man dying of cancer, a renegade pastor, and a young girl being raised by her grandmother. As in Plainsong and Eventide, Haruf explores the interdependence of lives in the small town of Holt. Each storyline paints a portrait of a broken family, biological or not, yearning to be made whole. As we learned at this year’s Summit reading, the emotional depths of Benediction causes audiences to identify with its characters and compels them to consider both the fragility and strength of the family unit. By completing the trilogy of Plainsong, Eventide and Benediction, playwright Eric Schmiedl and the Denver Center have created a truly unique set of plays rooted in the Eastern plains of Colorado.
Eric Schmiedl’s plays for adults and children have been produced widely by regional theatres, including the Denver Center Theatre Company, the Cleveland Play House, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Cleveland Public Theatre, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, New Stages Theatre, the Honolulu Theatre for Youth, the Oregon Children’s Theatre, Karamu House, Great Lakes Theater Company, and BackStage Theatre in Chicago. He is currently working on two commissions for the Denver Center Theatre Company and a new original play with his wife, Nigerian storyteller Adaora Nzelibe Schmiedl, developed through PlayhouseSquare’s innovative Launch program with the generous support of Cleveland Public Theatre. Eric is the recipient of a 2012 Creative Workforce Fellowship as well as an Aurand Harris Fellowship, two Edgerton Awards, and a Sloan Foundation Commission.
Having directed the workshop/reading at the 2014 Summit, I will be directing the world premiere of Benediction (as I did with Plainsong and Eventide). At DCTC I have directed many productions, both classical and contemporary, including world premieres of Plainsong, Eventide, and the upcoming premiere of Benediction, Karen Zacarias’ Just Like Us, Cusi Cram’s Dusty and the Big Bad World. Over my career I have a directed at many other theatres (Signature Theatre (NYC), Goodspeed Musicals, Cleveland Play House, among others).
--Kent Thompson, Producing Artistic Director
The Edgerton grant will be especially invaluable and timely adding rehearsal time for the world premiere of Benediction. As with the first two plays in the trilogy, Benediction tells three interwoven storylines with multiple characters and scenes. The added rehearsal time will be especially useful in helping bring the playwright, large cast, and creative team to Denver for an extra week of rehearsal will allow Eric to continue revising the script, turning this sprawling drama into a compelling play (enhancing the work done in the recent Summit). Our typical rehearsal period is 4 to 4½ weeks with one week of previews; this would increase that time to 5½ weeks.
Director: Kent Thompson
Set Design: Lisa Orzolek
Lighting Design: Don Darnutzer
Sound Design: Craig Breitenbach
Costume Design: Wade LaBoissonniere
Additional creative team: Gary Grundei (Original Music and Arrangements), Allison Horsley (Dramaturgy), Kathryn G. Maes (Voice and Dialect Coach), Jeff Gifford (Production Director), Kurt Van Raden (Stage Manager)
Cast: Benjamin Bonenfant, Joyce Cohen, Amelia Marie Corrada, Jonathon Crombie, Adrian Egolf, Mike Hartman, Lawrence Hecht, Nick LeMedica, Nancy Lemenager, Ed Martin, Billie McBride, Kathleen McCall, James Newcombe, Leslie O'Carroll, Tracy Shaffer, Zoe Delaney Stahlhut, Nance Williamson