The Sauk Theatre will present the world premiere of “On Pine Knoll Street” on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. Executive Director of the Sauk, Trinity Bird said the Friday, Feb. 7 performance will be followed by a special reception with playwright Mark Cornell and the woman who inspired the character of Marilyn.
“We’re really excited about sharing a new piece of work with our community and that we have an audience in this county and in our theater that will come see this,” Bird said. “There are a lot of community theaters that would never produce a brand new work because they know their audience just wouldn’t come.”
Bird, who is the director and also plays Curtis, said the play’s central theme is “caretaking,” and the play is inspired by real events in the playwright’s life.
“We know that it’s inspired by a real experience he had, where he was asked to care for his neighbor’s mother,” Bird said. “And that’s sort of the same basic set-up of the play: My character is asked to watch the mother for the weekend. We also know that his son is on the autism spectrum, and the son in the play has autism, so that is also inspired by truth.”
Keegan Oxley is 12 years old and will be playing the son, Mitchell, in the play.
“Some of the best things about playing Mitchell is that I get to learn more about the physicality of kids who have autism and see more through what they do with that, which I think is interesting,” Oxley said.
Oxley has been acting for four years and said he enjoys portraying Mitchell’s joy for life.
“What I like most about Mitchell’s character is how much happiness he finds in absolutely nothing,” Oxley said. “I think it’s really cool that he can find something that wouldn’t be special to someone else but to him it is.”
Bird added that if he had to label the play, he would call it a “dramedy” –– a comedy-drama.
“I like to call it a ‘feel everything’ play, and Mark really liked that,” Bird said. “It’s not just drama and it’s not just comedy.”
Trinity said he is looking forward to opening night and seeing how an audience responds to the play.
“It’s often very funny, and then it’s equally very emotional,” Bird said. “Mark’s very good in his writing about balancing the emotion and the comedy. And sometimes you’re thankful there’s a joke or a giggle because otherwise it’d be really heavy.”
Bird said he hopes that people who have never been to the Sauk will come out and see the play’s debut.
“The craziest thing about our theater –– and I’ve been here a long time –– is that there are people who’ve lived in Hillsdale County their whole life who don’t know we’re here,” Bird said. “And I think if we can get them to come and see one show, they’ll want to come back.”