‘Spreading it Around’ opens next weekend
By Janelle Fisher
City Pages Editor
Actors with the Green Bay Community Theater (GBCT) have been hard at work preparing for the first show of GBCT’s 2023-24 season — a comedic drama called Spreading it Around, written by Londros D’Arrigo and directed by Craig Berken.
The show gets its title, Berken said, from the philanthropic efforts of its main character and its comedy from the misadventure that ensues when her family tries to thwart those efforts.
“The show is about an elderly woman — a widow — who has a little bit of money,” Berken said. “She gets tired of the fact that her son is always borrowing money from her and asking for money and never pays her back, so she starts to take on causes in her neighborhood and gives money towards them. She gets such a kick out of it, and she talks many of her neighbors into doing the same thing. Her son finds out that she’s getting rid of her investments and comes to visit to find out what’s going on, and his goal is to get her committed so that he can take over and stop her from giving all her money away.”
For Berken, this particular show is a family affair, with his wife, Kathy, playing the role of Angie, the wealthy widow.
“My wife plays Angie,” he said. “I met Kathy several years ago when she tried out for [a show]. She became my assistant director and I enjoyed that so much, and she did, too, and we decided to get married… This will be my second time directing Kathy. Kathy has a lot of experience in directing shows herself over at Lombardi Middle School, where she is retired from. She has been in several GBCT plays and other plays.”
Joining Kathy on stage for Spreading It Around are four other actors with varying degrees of experience in theater and with GBCT.
“We have Glenn Sellen, this will be his first time with Green Bay Community Theater, but I have directed him twice before at Evergreen Theater, and he’s been in several other shows in many other areas,” Berken said. “We have Ali Weaver. I’ve directed her once before at GBCT and she’s been in a couple of other GBCT shows. We have Brennan Christianson, and this is his first show since high school. And then we have Connor Heimerman. I directed Connor once before, last year in Rumors, and he has been in several shows since then. So we’ve got one completely brand new, one new to GBCT and three others that have been at GBCT.”
Working with a cast of only five, Berken said, allows opportunities to form much closer bonds.
“It’s definitely a lot easier,” he said. “There’s no two ways about it. First of all, you can get a lot closer to five people than you can to forty. For six or seven years in a row, I directed The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for Evergreen. We had eight adults and 40 kids in that show and it was very difficult to get to know everybody… It sure is a lot easier to get to know everybody when it’s a smaller cast.”
Berken said there are also some more logistical advantages of a small cast that many people might not realize.
“Something that the average person may not realize is it’s also a lot easier to fit five people on stage than when you’ve got 10 or 12 or 40 that you have to try and fit,” he said. “So blocking and telling them where they need to move on that stage is a lot easier with a smaller cast.”
Even with a smaller cast, Berken said there are some divided opinions among the group about some aspects of the show.
“The interesting thing is the ending,” he said. “I don’t like one part of the ending, some of the cast don’t like the other part of the ending… It’s been interesting to talk to the cast and see how the younger ones can relate to the son and the daughter-in-law and the older ones in the cast can relate to Angie and Martin.”
While the show’s humor is one thing many can agree on and the performance is sure to get lots of laughs out of audiences, Berken said there are also some more serious elements.
“I like it because it is a comedy,” he said, “It is funny, but there’s also some heavy-duty drama in it when Angie (the widow) finally confronts her son about what he’s doing.”
One of those more serious elements, and something Berken said he hopes people take away from the show, involves taking a hard look at how elders are treated.
“Pay attention to your elders,” he said. “Angie, the wealthy widow, mentions how she’s been down in Florida for several years and her son and daughter-in-law have never brought the kids down to see her home down there, and yet they made a trip to Disney World down there. Pay attention to your elders — to your parents. Visit them. Spend time with them. The younger generation can be the ‘I want it and I want it now’ generation, and I kind of hope that maybe some of them see themselves in [the show] and take a look at how they live their lives.”
Performances of Spreading it Around will take place at the Robert Lee Brault Playhouse on Sept. 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 9, 16 and 17 at 4 p.m.
More information about GBCT, Spreading it Around and upcoming shows can be found at gbcommunitytheater.com.