Answer to the Sphinx Riddle? Ages of Man?, illustration: Grantley Wells
In describing Taking My Turn, the producer, director, assistant director and a cast member initially focused on what it is not. The show is not a traditional musical or a musical review. It’s a series of vignettes, but more. Attempts at comparisons had a yes/no aspect: It’s kind of like Stud’s Terkel’s Working plus music, but not exactly. It’s sort of an Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten for adults, but, well no, maybe not so much.
All were emphatic about the fact that the show is not depressing. Having no preconception that it would be, I wondered why they were so concerned about getting that point across.
Then I looked at the promotional material on the Community Theatre of Terre Haute website, which says Taking My Turn is “a musical about aging [that reviews] some of the concerns and anxieties, the complaints and enjoyments peculiar to people ‘in their prime.'”
Ah, that explains it. “Aging,”anxieties,” and “in their prime.” They even had to put that last phrase in quotation marks to show it’s ironic or something. This is a work that deals with getting old. Whoa, scary!
A realistic discussion of aging seems to be the last taboo in polite American society. Maybe you are old enough to remember when sex, politics and religion were the topics to avoid. If those rules were still in effect, we would at least have been spared the fame of Kim Kardashian. Now there’s somebody who is unlikely to age gracefully.
Taking My Turn features musings on aging by people who have the common sense not to fight against the inevitable. They are attempting to thoughtfully examine their lives instead of investigating botox and other “cures.”
Assistant Director Ted Compton summed the point up nicely, saying, “Nobody is getting younger, so everybody should be able to relate to looking back on what you’ve done and looking forward to the rest of your life.”
Taking My Turn is the third musical CTTH has produced this season. Director Mark Frederick thinks it’s the perfect choice for a community theater because, unlike more well-known Andrew Lloyd Weber works, the vocal range required is doable for a non-professional cast.
“The music might be compared to something by Stephen Sondheim,” Frederick said. “The numbers all have the terrific sound that defined 70s and 80s Broadway musicals.”
The eight actors remain on stage all through the show, each in a little mini-set that the production crew calls their nests. Lighting designer A. J. Dinkel came up with six backdrops that look like sails, or possibly kite fragments. Various colors are projected on to these to set the mood for each musical number.
Producer Jean Shutt pointed out that the same play was done at CTTH back in 1991.
“For that production, our cast was too young for the roles,” she said. “This time they are just the right age.”
Karen Walker is reprising the role of Edna from that earlier production. John Wright and Shannon Orman are new to the CTTH stage, while Denise Collins and Marcia Lane-McGee were in previous production this season. Mick Mack and Jason Shingleton round out the cast.
Terre Haute Community Theater dress-rehearsal "Taking My Turn", May 8, 2014; photo: Sasha-K