It’s risky spending money on a production you know nothing about. Why spend your hard earned cash and time on something you’ve never heard of when there are plenty of tried and true productions playing around the corner?
Broadway touring shows sell tickets because people have heard of them, the hype is there, and if it was on Broadway, then it must be good! We go see shows like Wicked or even Death of a Salesman because they are tried and true. We frequent theaters like Pioneer because again, tried and true. So when a show pops up on the radar with the following strikes against them:
- Brand new theatre company based out of Seattle
- Touring to Salt Lake? (Who does that with a brand new company based out of another state?)
- One night engagement
- Inaugural production
- Playing at a lesser known theater
- Written by one of the two actors in the show (both founding members of the company)
- No director credit given
It’s a risk! And judging by the size of the audience, a risk most people were unwilling to take (kick yourself now). However, this (and a great PR photo by Alyson Sundal) is exactly why I jumped at the chance to see The Celtic Cross. In fact, I had tickets to another show the one night Wanderweg productions stopped in Salt Lake, so I paid the exchange fee to switch out the other show and bought tickets to the production of The Celtic Cross instead.
The Celtic Cross is written by Seattle resident and Wanderweg co-founder Matthew Jackson. A strong show with language that would make a sailor blush and an impossible friendship that defies social expectations. Set in the 1990’s, we enter the violence infested Ireland landscape. What happens when Protestant Jacob (Bryan Sullivan – the other Wanderweg co-founder) and Catholic Thomas (Matthew Jackson) cross the hatred filled boundaries set by two communities and challenge what it means to be a friend and an enemy?
Despite no director credits being given, the show was staged and presented well. Jackson’s ability to capture the language, culture and anger in his written word is only matched by his ability to convey the heartbreak, turmoil and humor with his acting abilities. Sullivan brings a softer role to the stage with more wide eyed optimism and gentleness which make his journey into the violent world of the IRA and UVF that much more devastating.
While there was something left to be desired with the set, sound and lighting, one can’t expect complete perfection from a touring station wagon production. The writing, acting and heart carried the message that resonated as loud as gunfire.
I see over 100 shows a year from Broadway to middle school productions. I can honestly say that I enjoy a majority of them and I really love a good handful. But what I love most is when I find a gem that exceeds my expectations. This show had a laundry list of strikes against it before I even walked in the door. At the end of the night, this show is why I attend theater! It is a diamond in the rough!
Was it Tennessee Williams? No. Did they have some lighting and sound issues? Yes? Was it polished into perfection? Certainly not! Was it what art and theater should be? Yes!!! It took risks, explored, was daring and it worked. It was raw and heartfelt, violent and rough, full of humanity and soul. One day, a guy wrote a play. This guy and his long time friend decided to start their own company and star in the show. From there, they packed up their station wagon and began touring (Okay, maybe I over simplified a little). Get rich quick scheme? Hardly! These guys love what they do and they have a story to tell. And if you listen, their story will touch you!
I went to The Celtic Cross not expecting much. I left with a story of two lives, a greater understanding of our world and that shared moment that only live theater can give you. I emptied my wallet into their donation bucket and bought a T-Shirt to prove that I knew them when….you will want to keep these guys on your radar!
Pictured: Matthew Jackson and Bryan Sullivan.
Next stop on Wanderweg’s tour is San Francisco! Followed by additional stops in California and Louisiana. For more information, check out their website.
First two photos (Hands and The Celtic Cross): Alyson Sundal
Final photo (Smoking): Jesse Baldridge