In June, 2006, members of Lake Braddock’s International Thespian Society Troupe #4807 sat down at the International Thespian Festival (held annually in Lincoln, Ne.) to enjoy a production with a familiar (albeit backwards) title, and an unfamiliar script. After watching Jim Leonard Jr.’s “Anatomy of Gray,” presented by ITS Troupe #3161 of Owensboro, Ky., the LB students were so impressed with what they had seen that they could not get it out of their heads. “We spent the rest of the week quoting all the comedic lines from the show,” said Matt Tiemann. “We just fell in love with it.”
Fast forward to November and Lake Braddock Theatre will be performing “Anatomy of Gray” as their fall show Nov. 9-11. “When we saw the show in Nebraska, we talked about how we loved it so much — nonstop — that Mr. Mirabal considered it for this year,” said stage manager Tami Grossman.
The show centers on June Muldoon, a precocious 15-year-old girl living in Gray, Ind., and opens with the death of her father. June prays to God to send a healer so that no one she knows will ever be hurt again — and lo and behold, God does. At first everyone in town is fascinated with Dr. Galen P. Gray and his genius at healing their illnesses, but when a mysterious plague begins to spread across the population, the tide starts to turn and the townspeople are faced with some tough choices about the nature of their faith and their lives. Katie Baukin, who plays June, says this about her role: “I can relate to it because she’s very bubbly but has a lot of questions because her father has just died. She just wants to bring out the good in other people so other people won’t have to go through what she and her family have gone through, but she doesn’t yet understand her place in the world.”
The show has a unique appeal in that it focuses on tragic happenings while keeping a fresh, irreverent tone which is often comedic. The fact that a hysterically funny scene can be followed by a tearjerker is part of what made the cast fall in love with it. The dual nature of the show is nowhere more apparent than in its title character, Dr. Gray, played by Brandon Duncan. “It’s hard to put yourself in the mindset to say something funny, yet be completely serious at the same time. You have to step back and put yourself in the moment, put yourself in the life of the character and realize that in the life of Dr. Gray the scenes are taking place hours after other, not merely seconds,” said Duncan. The ensemble nature of the show also presents a challenge in pacing "because a lot of those scenes with the townspeople just wouldn’t work if people didn’t know all their lines," said Grossman.
Although not everyone in the cast saw the Thespian Festival production, those who did are faced with choosing how much of what they saw (if anything) to include in their various technical designs for the show. This is probably the most difficult for set designer Stephanie Ramsey. “I liked the old time feel of it [Owensboro’s performance], but the version we saw had to travel so I wanted to build up from their interpretation and make it my own while keeping the same theme,” Ramsey said.
After Lake Braddock finishes with “Anatomy of Gray” they will shift their focus to Scott McPherson’s “Marvin’s Room,” which is to be performed as a part of the LB Laboratory Theatre series performed in their Blackbox Theatre. “Marvin’s Room” follows Bessie, who, while caring for her invalid aunt and ailing father, discovers she has leukemia. It will be performed March 1-3, 2007. Following “Marvin’s Room,” LBT will close its season with William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” as its Cappies production. Shakespeare’s famous play will be re-imagined as set in a modern-day corporation, with CEOs competing for power in the place of kings. “Hamlet” will run May 3-5, 2007.
For now, however, Lake Braddock will continue to rehearse their beloved “Anatomy of Gray,” focusing intently on making the play uniquely theirs.