We met the playwrights of Ten Dollar House (Martha Meyer & Rick Kinnebrew) some six (or was it seven?) years ago., when they had just conceived of this project. On a vacation to the Driftless Region of Wisconsin, they happened to stop in at Mineral Point's Pendarvis, the state historic site rescued from the wrecking ball by two gay men in the 1930s. They smelled a story. They added an unscheduled stop at the Mineral Point Room in the Mineral Point Library where they started what was to become a fair amount of research into the story of these two men, and how they saved not only a few historic buildings, but an entire town, in the middle of what became known as the Great Depression.
The writers thought they had a making of a good, maybe great, movie. I think so too. And they wrote a compelling film script. When the realities of filming such an ambitious project hit them, they decided to re-write it as a stage play. After holding staged readings in Chicago and in Mineral Point, the play was produced by Madison's Broom Street Theatre in 2015.
Last night I attended a standing-room-only preview of a new production of the play in Chicago. The play won't officially open until this Saturday, January 9, but it's already getting a lot of buzz, and this weekend's opening is completely sold out.
Broom Street's 2015 production was compelling, but the new Pride Films and Plays production is even more so, largely due to the efforts of the playwrights who shrewdly fine-tuned and tightened the script. They now have a product which I hope goes on to see many more productions in many more cities. It's a worthy and moving story, eloquently told by Meyer and Kinnebrew.
Kudos also to the design staff, director and cast of the Chicago production, especially Joe Anderson and Scott Patrick Sawa (pictured above) who portray the two Mineral Point men, Bob Neal and Edgar Hellum. Also to Tom Chiola who turns is a performance as William Gundry that would make the historic Gundry himself proud.
I plan on returning to see the show again (it runs through the end of January). All productions benefit from runs in front of an audience, and this one will as well. The show was already in super-fine shape, and I only saw a preview. I look forward to seeing how Ten Dollar House ripens over the next few weeks,
And from one Mineral Pointer, to two delightful visitors to our town, thank you. You have done us proud.
Contributed by Coleman