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October 26, 2017

Way Off Off Off Broadway Theater at The Cube : Margaret and The Arc

Margaret and The Arc is a new play by local playwright and co-founder of the Three Leaches Theatre Company, Melissa Leach. The show will premiere this November, 9th 10th and 11th at The Cube located in Stapleton.  It’s a touching play in two acts that will leave the audience wishing they could stay just a little bit longer. With our busy days, an evening of live theater can be a fantastic way to unplug from our phones and computers and like the actors;  be in the moment.

In the interest of highlighting great projects and community events that are happening in our area I sat down for a short interview with Melissa and Amber to get the inside scoop…for the Stapleton Scoop!

Melissa Leach will be playing the title role of Margaret and the production will be directed by actress and co-founder of the Three Leaches, Amber Irish.

Melissa Leach Left, Amber Irish Right

Some people in the area are familiar with your summer productions that are part of the Outdoor Theater Series that the MCA sponsors. How did Three Leaches get involved with bringing theater to Stapleton?

ML: We have had the pleasure of working with Eric Peterson, a Stapleton resident and talented director, and he introduced us to Community Director, Diane Deeter, with the idea that we could be a part of the summer theatre series. I think what made us gain popularity is that we wanted to bring the community into our performances.  So many of our actors are from Stapleton and many of the children in our musical are also from the neighborhood. It’s always exciting to see people you know onstage! Then once The Cube opened, Diane was kind enough to offer us a slot since we love working in the community and she is dedicated to bringing the arts to Stapleton year-round.

What do you like about working in Stapleton?

ML: We love the support that Stapleton has given us. The community has welcomed us with open arms and it is always exciting to see people engaged and invested in your work.  There is also a huge talent pool in Stapleton and we have really enjoyed working with so many new actors.

AI: Definitely. And the community has been very open to our more experimental shows as well. The last show we ran in The Cube was called, “3600” and was a show that was highly interactive with our audience. It was a collection of short scenes of varying genres and the performers and audiences had a great time working together to create a different experience for each performance.

Margaret and the Arc is a new play, can you talk about your inspiration for it?

ML: I wrote the very opening scene, which is a fight between a couple breaking up, and thought- this is good, but it isn’t unique. I needed to figure out what was going to make Margaret’s journey something that an audience would want to watch.  Then, for whatever reason, I kept seeing an ark in my head…. Yes, like a boat. And I couldn’t shake it. Slowly, I began to piece together what that might mean for Margaret and here we are!

Can you describe the creative process of how you are bringing your vision to the stage?

ML: This has been an amazing opportunity for me as a playwright.  The Three Leaches held a staged reading of Margaret and the Arc last year with a talk back/audience feedback session afterwards. I asked questions, took notes, and made some very big changes to the script. Hearing the story out loud, read by talented actors who try to bring that character to life, really helps me see what is working and where the gaps have formed.  After another rewrite, we decided to cast the show and get it on its feet. Amber is an intrical part of this because she is directing this piece.  She has navigated some of the harder aspects of the show (how do you get a school bus onstage?!?!?!) with a creative eye- this show will use set pieces and multimedia to convey ideas, setting, and images.  This, along with the stunning cast we managed to pull, is really bringing the story to the stage.

AI: What I’ve enjoyed about this show’s creative process is seeing how much thought our actors have given their characters. I think there’s something really exciting and empowering for an actor to bring a character to life onstage for the first time. The folks in this show have thought about their characters outside of the sliver we see onstage which means these fictional personalities are getting fleshed out and becoming well-rounded, relatable, and real. And this translates to natural and genuine connections onstage. It’s easily my favorite part of the process by far.

The Three Leaches motto is “Theater for Under $1000 that Doesn’t Suck” Why do you think it’s important to make theater accessible to people at an affordable rate?

ML: Art is for everyone. End of story. Recently, I think that the arts, but particularly theatre, has lost that ideal.  It has become about money to create these elaborate designs, stages and costumes, but we believe with a strong story and strong actors, the audience can fill in the rest. We want everyone, of all ages, of all backgrounds, to be able to sit in a theatre and be taken into a different world for awhile.

AI: I think it’s easy to disconnect these days, with the advent of smartphones and the internet and social media and all that. It’s become easy to be very insular. I think theatre and lots of storytelling art forms are important because they take you somewhere else, yes, but they also show you the world through different eyes. Theatre helps us become better listeners and more empathetic people. So yeah, everyone deserves the opportunity to be exposed to that. Our world could definitely benefit from more empathy.

Let’s talk about some of the themes in Margaret and the Arc, what’s really going on?

ML: I think a big theme of Margaret and the Arc is that the pressure we all feel as we get older, especially after 30, to do something amazing or to follow a normed path, is ridiculous. Everyone has problems, everyone has things they need to overcome, but it is important to realize that everyone handles these problems, and everyone heals differently.

Between you and Amber who usually directs your shows? Is it 50/50? What do you like about working together?

ML: I normally direct our shows. I love directing because I am a control freak!! And because I love the idea of taking all of these strong elements (the story, the actors, the space) and fusing them into a collaboration that is beautiful onstage.   I’d say though that even though Amber acts in more of our works (she is one of the most talented actresses I have ever known), she is definitely my dramaturg on set- always helping myself and others stay true to the character, to find those character arcs and relationships, so it stays genuine onstage. We are 100% a team. We are a partnership that works because our strengths and weaknesses complement each other.  And, coincidentally, we are best friends- and work is always more fun with your best friend around!

AI: Melissa. She does 90% of everything and I have no idea how she has the stamina or mental willpower to do it all. Being a director again means I’ve had a stomach ache for like two months straight and will probably have it until the show goes up. Just kidding – but it is a lot of responsibility. Being in this role is unusual for me and definitely makes me appreciate the work Melissa does regularly for the company. She’s amazing, thank God. And I gotta give a shoutout to the Assistant Director, Nicki Seefried for having some great insights and suggestions. I’m lucky to work with these wonderful women!

What do you want people to “take away” after the play?

ML: If people walk away with a sense that they related to some portion of the play, I will be happy. I want these characters to feel real to the audience.

AI: This show is about grief and the hard parts of life and how we rebuild. I want people to know that life can just really, really suck sometimes, and that’s OK. Take your time, give yourself permission to hurt then heal, and move forward when you’re ready.

What else are you working on?

ML: The next play in our season will be the classic No Exit. We really wanted to create a season that spotlights strong female roles.  We are also working on an idea for a fundraiser around Christmas time because we love variety shows and bringing new acts and talents to our stage.

You can purchase tickets online here. Tickets will also be available at the door as well. Wine and beer will be served on a donation basis. Supporting local businesses and artists is a great way to be an active member of your community! Hope to see you on opening night!

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