Theater 101: Theater Lingo | "Banjo Boy" Premiere to Cap Off a Stellar Season of Musical Theater

When you come into the theater, you have to be willing to say, “We’re all here to undergo a communion, to find out what the hell is going on in this world.” If you’re not willing to say that, what you get is entertainment instead of art, and poor entertainment at that.   —David Mamet

Is it really August? It’s truly hard to get my head around this fact. Eight months ago the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts opened its inaugural season with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Thus began Fairfield’s dance with musical theater.

In any partnership, dancing included, there’s an essential spark involved. There is chemistry, skill, and a certain amount of fearlessness inherent in the process. In Fairfield this dance has been a cheek-to-cheek affair for some and more of a polka for others. Anyone who has stepped out on the dance floor has felt the rush of opening night, the thrill of live art playing out, and the communion of a shared experience. From my seat, I’ve observed seasoned musical theater fans rubbing elbows with those tasting this medium for the first time. The common themes witnessed as the performance rolls out: anticipation, presence, and satisfaction. As the audience departs, I have yet to see a downtrodden, grumpy-faced soul. This is a valuable asset here on the prairie and worthy of our stewardship.

Looking back to June when I began this series, Theatre 101, I was in league with many as I acquainted myself with this art form. The intention was to give out morsels of theater lore and nomenclature and to present an insider’s view. I hope it has filled in a few blanks, enriched your theater experiences, and allowed you to craft your story of what theater means to you, right here in Fairfield. And with that, I offer up a few more pieces to round out your education and a look at what’s next at the Sondheim Center.

Reprise: A repetition of an earlier musical number (in part or in whole).

Run: The number of performances of a particular production.

Run-through: A rehearsal of a part of the script (without interruption).

Scrim: A gauze or net curtain that becomes transparent when lit from behind.

Spike: Marking the stage with tape to indicate positions of props, furniture, etc. (Also referred to as marking out.)

Student Rush: A common practice offering discount tickets to students just prior to a performance. At the Sondheim Center, Student Rush starts 30 minutes prior for musical theater productions, $15. For rest of the summer season this discount is also offered to Iowa Course grant recipients and MUM/MSAE faculty and staff, with ID.

Strike: to remove a set piece or from the stage (“Strike that chair.”) To “strike the show” is to disassemble the entirety of the set, return all equipment to storage, and leave the venue as it was before the show was set up. May be used as a noun to refer to the event at which the show is struck.

Technical Rehearsal: A rehearsal where lighting, scene changes, sound cues, and special effects are rehearsed.

Wings: Space at the sides of the stage, just behind the curtains. Performers enter and exit from the wings.

The Banjo Boys: Meredith Willson (center) at age 16, with Cedric Willson and Harold Keidle.

Banjo Boy in August

On Friday, August 8, the Sondheim Center is overjoyed to finish out its stellar summer season of musical theater with a world premiere! Banjo Boy is a musical about Meredith Willson, who wrote The Music Man. It is a bio-musical about the youth of Meredith Willson, who also wrote The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Here’s Love. The twist to the story is that it takes place both in the present and in 1928. Half of the action takes place in Meredith Willson’s hometown, Mason City (the “River City” of The Music Man), and the other half in San Francisco.

The book, lyrics, and music are by Randolph Hobler, who knew Meredith Willson and has been working on the musical for over six years. The show’s original, hummable score is in the spirit of Willson’s work. Banjo Boy will be directed by Randal West, with musical direction by Justin Hill and choreography by Adam Cates. Performances will run August 8–17, including matinees on weekends.

Also coming to the Sondheim Center this month on August 23 at 7:30 p.m., Lynn Trefzger. Lynn is a ventriloquist/ comedienne with a trunk full of zany characters that have accompanied her to stages throughout the country—a guaranteed good laugh! This show contains adult content.

For tickets or more information, call the box office at 641-472-2787, open Monday to Friday, 12–6 p.m., or online For more event information visit   

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