They’re treading the boards in Elmira again

ETC is once again rehearsing Of Mice and Men with a cast that includes Christopher Wilson as Crooks, Robin Bennett as Slim and John Settle as George, with Mark Starratt as Whit. [Submitted]

Dark since the start of the pandemic, the stage at the Elmira Theatre Company will be lit again next month for a production of John Steinbeck’s classic tale Of Mice and Men.

Tickets are now on sale for the first post-lockdown presentation, which runs November 5-20.

Of Mice and Men, a long-time school staple, tells the tragic story of the friendship between two migrant workers, George and mentally challenged Lennie, and their dream of owning a farm. Filled with delusions of living off the “fat of the land,” the two drifters have just arrived at a ranch to work for enough money to buy their own place. Lennie is a man-child, a little boy in the body of a dangerously powerful man. It’s Lennie’s obsessions with things soft and cuddly that have made George cautious about with whom the gentle giant, with his brute strength, associates.

The unlikely and protective friendship between the two resonates as they strive for the American dream. Their dependence on one another is the strength and the weakness of the relationship, however.

Written in 1937 and set in Depression-era California, the story still resonates today, says Joe Brenner, director of the ETC production.

“This was during the Great Depression time, so a lot of migrant workers moved from ranch to ranch looking for work. And of course, as these men all worked for these not-well-paid jobs and had long days of work, they’re all hoping for the American dream as such, so that sort of gives them hope to keep going on,” said Brenner. “I think it’s very appropriate for today because we are always trying to better ourselves, get that bigger house – whatever it is you’re after, that’s what motivates you to keep going in life.”

Originally scheduled to run last year, the ETC production was put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic began – the stage had been transformed into the ranch setting, and all of the props and costumes were in place when the building was essentially shuttered.

“We did audition for it in the fall of 2019. We started rehearsing in March of 2020, and we shut down when everything shut down here. We were trying to get it up and ready this whole past year – we would try, and it would get postponed,” said Brenner. “Amazingly enough, all the actors but one have stayed with us for this whole almost two-year process now because they really love the play, they love the role, and the set is so surreal to come back to do rehearsals.”

Though back on set, the cast and crew continue to observe pandemic protocol. It’s been a unique experience for the actors staying six feet away and wearing masks while rehearsing in a set they designed pre-pandemic, but they’re delighted to be performing again alongside people they have known for many years but were forced to stay away from due to COVID safety guidelines, Brenner noted.

Back treading the boards, the ETC crew are already planning for shows in February and May of next year.

“It’s been very positive, and I think very positive for everybody involved because we just want to be back to do this hobby that we love and share this story with the audience,” said Brenner.

Tickets for the Elmira Theatre Company’s Of Mice and Men can be purchased online at For upcoming shows, COVID safety protocols are in place – anyone 12 and older must be fully vaccinated. Seating capacity will be limited. 

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