Audiences looking for entertainment and a heartfelt true story can find both with Theatre Wellesley’s upcoming production of Tuesdays with Morrie.
The autobiographical play follows Mitch Albom, an established sports reporter, and his relationship with his former sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz.
The play was written by Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher, and based on Albom’s book of the same name. The play first opened in 2002 at the Minetta Lane Theatre.
Dave McNorgan explains why Theatre Wellesley chose to bring Tuesdays with Morrie to life for their Wellesley audience.
“Tuesdays with Morrie, it’s so well known, for one thing. That would be an immediate attraction. But like with all our spring shows we’re looking for a script with a small cast for our smaller space here, and something with some dynamic characters – meaty, as we call it,” McNorgan said.
The show is being directed by Lori Hoelscher. Due to the small venue size at the Wellesley Library, she says it will be an intimate experience.
Figuring out how to make the scenes work in the smaller space without the technical equipment like pulleys they would have on a large stage has been a welcome challenge.
“Being able to add some creativity to it is the exciting part of it,” Hoelscher said.
Allan Strong has taken on the role of Morrie, and John Settle will play Mitch.
Settle just finished up a run of The Sting with Elora Community Theatre.
Strong has been found more often in the director’s chair for Theatre Wellesley, but was looking to get back on stage.
“And he’s been wondering why he did that,” Strong jokes.
“However this is a great script and a very powerful story,” Strong adds.
The production is billed as a “dramedy,” with both comedy and dramatic moments. Albom watches as Schwartz battles Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS).
“It’s very touching humour, warm humour and it’s incredibly profound. It’s based on a true story. Morrie Schwartz died in 1995 but here it’s just over 20 years later, all of Morrie’s many sayings they still hold true, his little pieces of wisdom,” McNorgan said.
For the crew, one of the biggest challenges has been finding era-appropriate props, like the large tape recorder Mitch uses in the play.
For the actors, it’s all about doing justice to their characters.
“For me, it’s capturing the decline of Morrie in a way that is true to that decline and still trying to keep his spirit there. He was a very engaging, dynamic, intelligent man. His brain was still working even though his body was failing,” Strong said.
Strong says both actors go through an emotional journey with these characters as Morrie is facing death and Mitch is facing the loss of his mentor.
“Mitch is having everything he ever believed in challenged. His whole life is being questioned,” Settle said.
They’ve been rehearsing since February and look forward to welcoming audiences into Morrie’s study, where they’ll only be a couple feet away from the actors.
The cast hopes to leave audiences with some of Morrie’s wisdom, which is sprinkled throughout the play, about the importance of living and friendship.
“I hope the audience in watching the play and feeling the emotions of the characters that they would feel a little bit more of what’s going on in their own lives,” McNorgan said.
Theatre Wellesley presents Tuesdays With Morrie from Apr. 21-23 and Apr. 28-30 at the Wellesley Library (1137 Henry Street). Tickets are $15 and available at Pym’s Village Market, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 519-573-2992. Space is limited. Show times are 8 p.m. on Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays.