Among the tightly knit community of area high school–aged theater geeks, UpStage Left’s productions have gained a reputation for excitement, challenge, and an abundance of talent. Beginning with RENT and continuing with A Chorus Line and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, UpStage Left has established a pattern of staging contemporary classic musicals with casts who are all 20 and younger. This summer they have chosen 1776, the musical about the debate over the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence. It wouldn’t be an UpStage Left production without some kind of game-changing stroke of casting genius, and this time the decision is a historic one: For the first time anywhere (at least as far as anyone at MTI, the company that licenses the property, knows), the show will be performed with both men and women portraying the “Founding Fathers.”
In addition to speaking with director Cheri Steinkellner—who is fresh off of a 2011 Tony nomination for writing the book of the Broadway musical Sister Act alongside her husband, Bill—I also received plenty of fascinating answers from the cast to questions about what they were learning from rehearsing the play.
“If John Adams hadn’t made such a big fuss and kept at it for so long, America as we know it would not exist,” said Toby Tropper, who takes on Adams’s role. “To me, he is the Founding Father of Persistence, and we have to really thank him for that.”
Cameron Platt said of her character, “I feel exactly the way Roger Sherman did—for independence but cautious in committing to that decision. Rather than overzealously push for my instinctual opinion, I would have labored over the matter. I would have relentlessly and neurotically confirmed and reconfirmed that I was making the right choice in voting ‘Yea.’”
Performances of 1776 take place at Goleta Valley Junior High (6100 Stow Canyon Rd.) this Friday and Saturday, June 24 and 25, at 8 p.m., and on Sunday, June 26, at 2 p.m. Call 965-0880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve tickets.