When Twin City Theatre Company (or Twin City Squared as they have become more commonly known) announced their second season, I have to admit, I was a little mystified. Bleacher Bums is a play written by Joe Mantegna, Dennis Franz and a half-dozen other members of the Chicago Organic Theatre Company. It was set to be the season opener, scheduled near baseball’s opening day. So that makes sense, but the show is a little older and focuses on a group of die-hard Cubs fans who come back year after losing year… but we just won. We (and I say we) won everything just a few months ago! I was put in touch with director Wendy Galloway to talk about the motivation behind this choice, as well as other aspects of this production.
Smile Politely: Wendy Galloway… and the producer for this play is Mike Galloway… and one of the cast members is Evan Galloway. The family that plays together…?
Wendy Galloway: Yes, Michael Galloway is my husband and Evan Galloway is my son. We are a theater family and always have been. Our two daughters Chandra and AJ are also involved in theater. Some families play board games, we build sets and put on shows...
SP: I love that, it seems like a great thing to do together. I also love introducing our readers to new(ish) directors, and I know I haven’t interviewed you in these past two years. Where else might local audiences have seen your work?
Galloway: This is not my directing debut; I just don't direct very often – I am usually more comfortable in the role of Stage Manager or Crew. I directed a few shows at our theater company in Michigan before moving to Illinois. Here in Illinois, I directed Beauty and the Beast at Holy Cross back in 2011. Otherwise, I've been in the darkness working with CUTC, Bah Humbug, Twin City Squared, and helping with the kids' school productions.
SP: What drew you to this particular script?
Galloway: I directed Bleacher Bums in Michigan with the Cadillac Footliters and it was so much fun. The show is so unique and so well-received by audiences everywhere – even Cardinal Fans!
I've always loved this show because it's about faith and endurance. It makes us take a look at our own lives and know that it might not be today or even tomorrow, but someday – we’re gonna have that World Series moment. We just gotta have faith and keep on keepin’ on.
SP: Ok, it has to be asked because it's on everyone's mind – but why stage a play about the Cubs being terminal losers, a season after they win the World Series?
Galloway: The show isn't so much about the Cubs being terminal losers as it is about the fans who love the team no matter what. This particular version takes place in 1998. The characters – except Marvin –are there rooting on the Cubs, showing their team spirit, no matter what. They have faith that someday the Cubs will win it all. They'd rather lose money betting on the Cubs than win it betting on the Cards. The show is about loyalty and faith.
Back in 1969, the original Bleacher Bums were as much a part of Cubs history as the team themselves. They started the tradition of tossing back the opposing team’s home run balls. They were infamous for heckling the opposing team’s outfielders. They led cheers and sang songs in the bleachers. They were there to help the Cubs any way they could. They made the bleachers the coolest place to be at Wrigley Field. They made history – and Bleacher Bums is about their history.
SP: This is a pretty all-star cast, from theatre favorites like Dave Heckman and John Tilford, to local legend Don Gerard. Have you had any favorite cast or rehearsal moments so far?
Galloway: This cast is amazing. Every rehearsal someone discovers something new or looks at a line with a different perspective and they take off with it. Every rehearsal brings something to laugh about, something to bond over.
This is a difficult production for the actors because it's not your traditional type of play. The actors have to follow a fictional baseball game between the Cubs and Cards, all the while making and taking bets, solving life problems like how to eat a Frosty Malt without a spoon, and was it Andy Pfafko or Moose Moryn who got hit with the ball back in '59. This cast makes me proud every day; they have studied the original Bleacher Bums and the history behind the show. And they bring it.
SP: For people who may have seen the film – were you able to make any creative decisions that change this production significantly? Why or why not?
Galloway: The film is different from the script. In film, one is able to take a lot more "artistic" license, if you will. In the film, there is a rain delay—that doesn't happen in the script. We stick to the script as it was written—Joe Montegna and the others wrote the script the way they did for a reason. It's not ours to change. It's our calling to adapt ourselves and our characters to the script. We have changed only one word from the actual script...we changed "blonde" to "redhead"....And now you have to come see the show to find out why.
SP: What else would you like to share with readers about this production of Bleacher Bums?
Galloway: Bleacher Bums is a challenge for actors and directors alike, but it is also one of the most fun shows I've been a part of. This particular cast is comprised of seasoned actors, novice actors, and a couple of the actors are making their stage debut. This cast and crew has gone above and beyond my expectations with their passion and love for this show and I couldn't be more proud of them.
We would love to see all of the fans come out to join us in the bleachers—dress in your finest Cubs gear—or Cardinals gear. We have a special section just for Cards fans: waaaaaaaayyyyyyyy in the back! After all, it is a Cubs Game at Wrigley Field!
Bleacher Bums opens tonight, Thursday, July 6th at 7 p.m. and runs through Sunday, July 16th at 3 p.m. All performances will be held at the SoDo Theatre, 111 S. Walnut St., Champaign, inside the I4C. Tickets prices are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors or students, and can be purchased online or by calling ShowTix4U at 1-866-967-8167.
All images courtesy Twin City Theatre Company.