After a year and a half of Zoom performances, DePauw theatre returned with their first musical: “The Spitfire Grill.” The play was performed at Moore Theatre from September 23 through September 25 at 7:30 p.m. and on September 26 at 3 p.m.
According to the synopsis, the show “follows Percy Talbot, who travels to the small town of Gilead, Wisconsin, where she finds new meaning to her life and helps others do the same…‘The Spitfire Grill’ is a heartwarming and inspirational musical tale of redemption, perseverance and family.”
Kate Grimm ‘15, the co-director of the musical, believes that this message is relevant in that it concerns the community’s struggle during a frustrating and confusing time. “[In the pandemic] a lot of people lost a lot of hope,” she said, “and the story is about starting new despite everything that is happening to you.” Abigail Brodnick ‘22, who played Percy as the main character, also emphasized that hope “is such an important thing and what every character is striving for.”
Hope, along with excitement, has also been the central feeling of the crew. “It is really hard to act over a screen,” Grimm said. “Having that physical component [of directing and acting in-person] is so crucial and important to bringing production together.” The experience has been very special for her, not only because this was her first time directing a play at DePauw, but also because she used to act here. “We kind of took it for granted being able to have productions on stage,” Grimm said, remembering her time as a student. “And these students, now they know how special that gift is.”
Brodnick remarked that the role was significant to her Vocal Performance major since she had missed a lot of chances to get involved due to the pandemic. More importantly, it was meaningful “being able to do live theatre again when people wanted it so badly and didn’t get it,” Brodnick said. She has regained her energy with things she loved the most, and she hoped that the audience would feel the same way.
The biggest challenge leading up to the performance was masked practice. Brodnick admitted that masks made it harder for the cast to talk and sing the way they wanted, but it ended up benefiting them. She and her co-casts turned their attention to other aspects of their characters, such as physical expression, and when they took their masks off for the rehearsal, their dialogue was improved as well. Grimm compared this to “training with a higher weight when you are preparing for something, and then you take that weight away and it is a lot easier.”
For Brodnick, another challenge was her character. She described Percy as so intense and complicated that sometimes she felt emotionally burdened getting into her. But it is her favorite role at DePauw so far. Percy’s personality, hope, dream, even the way she talked and walked allowed Brodnick to “embody a character that is so rough and real.” Whatever difficulties they had, Grimm concluded, “We are all just so happy to be back, it’s worth it, it’s worth every sort of obstacle.”
Talking about her expectations for the show, Brodnick felt that everyone at DePauw had something heavy in their hearts, mostly because of the COVID-19 world. “I hope that our efforts and the characters in the story of hope and community can give back to DePauw campus in a truly beneficial way.” To summarize the journey that the crew had gone through, Grimm added: “It is just a triumph that we have gotten here.”