OCT reveals upcoming season lineup in festive style
Planned as a casual get-together with friends, OCT’s season reveal party featured Pictionary and popcorn.
La Jolla Playhouse cast members perform in “Escape To Margaritaville.” The play will run at OCT May 2-9, 2024. [Supplied]
The team at the Ocala Civic Theatre (OCT) invited theatergoers to an April 17 “casual” fun-and-games celebration of its upcoming 73rd season—the first under the full supervision of Artistic Director Greg Thompson, who officially joined the staff in January this year.
The new season offers a mix of familiar titles and contemporary attention-grabbers.
Though he’s not a fan of season themes per se, Thompson did acknowledge that the productions in the new lineup convey ideas around “what’s old is new again.” “Sweeney Todd” (Sept. 7-24, 2023), he said, will be approached with a 1970s motif.
“Clue on Stage” (March 21-April 7, 2024) offers us the classic whodunnit tale without the song and dance of the musical version.
“The Velocity of Autumn” (Nov. 9-26, 2023) has been described as “bracing, honest, and often deliciously funny” by the “New York Times.” The story centers on Alexandra, an 80-year-old artist in a showdown with her family over where she’ll spend her remaining years.
“The Spitfire Grill” (Feb. 8-25, 2024) is inspired by a 1996 film that Thompson said he adored, almost as much as the show’s “beautiful bluegrassy” acoustic score.
And, of course, there’s the obligatory jukebox musical, “Escape to Margaritaville” (May 2-9, 2024), inspired by Jimmy Buffett’s hit song and the Parrothead/Buffet fan culture. “Newsday” called it a “delightful, energetic frothy drink of a show.”
The most exciting news of the night was the announcement of the new Rattlebox at the Reilly series at the NOMA Black Box theater space. OCT is partnering with the Reilly Arts Center to present the series, which will offer a chance to present more cutting-edge content.
“It’s a way to retain talent, too,” Thompson said. “Our actors say they don’t want to do another ‘Sound of Music.’ They want to act in plays that challenge them.”
Hence, the name of the series: Rattlebox. Thompson wants to appeal to theatergoers who don’t mind being “rattled” a little to enjoy plays that are relevant, raw and edgy. “Witch” (Oct. 5-23, 2023) and “Stage Kiss” (April 11-21, 2024) kick off the series and will run for two weeks between OCT’s regular runs.
During the reveal party, theater reps surprised the audience by revealing that they had to guess the new season’s shows through a game of Pictionary. They rolled a big whiteboard onto the stage, and the play selection committee took turns drawing the clues.
The first person in the audience to yell out the correct title for each show won a gift bag themed to the show. The prizes included items such as a chef’s knife for “Sweeney Todd,” a frying pan for “The Spitfire Grill,” a broom for “Witch,” breath mints and lip balm for “Stage Kiss,” and so on. The grand prize, for the person who guessed more than one show, was a complimentary season pass.
“The crowd really got into playing the game,” said Melody Murphy, director of marketing and communication at OCT. “The reveal was the fully interactive event we had hoped for. When there was a tie for the first two people to guess ‘Clue,’ we had the guys engage in a friendly round of arm-wrestling for the win. It was a wild, noisy night, full of laughter, cheers, and spirited participation.”
After the audience guessed each show, committee members told the audience more about each production.
Members of the Brick City Cabaret Company and a student from OCT’s Education & Enrichment program sang a song from each of the musicals, accompanied by an OCT actor who is also a talented pianist.
“The new projection system played a terrific part in the event,” Murphy added, “and our season reveal video has never looked better than it did on the amazing new screen.”
Because the theater conducted the reveal as a game of Pictionary, they wanted the event to feel like a game night with family and friends in someone’s living room. That’s why they told everyone to come dressed comfortably as they served popcorn and hot dogs.
“The vibe was casual and fun,” beamed Murphy. “I think everyone had a great time — and I know we did.”
OCT season No. 73 at a glance:
“Sweeney Todd,” Sept. 7-24, 2023
“The Velocity of Autumn,” Nov. 9-26, 2023
“The Spitfire Grill,” Feb. 8-25, 2024
“Clue on Stage,” March 21-April 7, 2024
“Escape to Margaritaville,” May 2-19, 2024
OCT Education & Enrichment Summer Stage
“Peter Pan,” Junior, July 28-30, 2023
Rattlebox at the Reilly
“Witch,” Oct 5-23, 2023
“Stage Kiss,” April 11-21, 2024