Spare Change Theatre expands SCT offerings

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

This is the final piece in a series of stories looking at Spare Change Theatre’s upcoming production of “Doubt, a Parable,” debuting Friday at Gary’s on the River. Spare Change Theatre is a program of Spencer Community Theatre.

With a shoestring budget and meaty subjects, the Spare Change Theatre provides a unique outlet for actors and directors to launch theatrical works that otherwise likely wouldn’t hit the Spencer Community Theatre main stage.

While main stage productions are selected through consensus of the SCT board, Spare Change Theatre works are often the realization of a dream of a director to produce a certain play, or take on an important issue that may not have broad-based appeal.

After a hiatus of a few years, the Spare Change Theatre is back this week, with the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Doubt, a Parable.”

“The Spare Change Theatre is really a second season,” said Connie Goeken, former SCT executive director. “Pieces that couldn’t hit the main stage can find a home here.”

Those “homes” aren’t necessarily the SCT stage. The latest production is being performed in the former Gary’s on the River location. With an elevator now in place, there are no limitations for those who want to attend.

One past production, staged at the former Legends event space, featured a dinner theater format. In 2014, a short play festival was held with five short plays packaged into one event. Those short plays gave new directors a perfect opportunity to jump into the craft, while the productions allowed for a more compressed rehearsal schedule, which appealed to actors and volunteers to whom time was at a premium.

According to SCT Executive Artistic Director Rusty Ruth, Spare Change Theatre fills an important role for the organization.

"As an arts organization, we feel it's important to, at times, challenge the community with plays that may not be what they are accustomed to seeing on our main stage," Ruth explained. "The shows can be edgier, and might deal with subject matter they wouldn't see in a regular production."

"Doubt," which touches on the issue of possible sexual abuse of a student, falls into that category. Ruth said the topic is very relevant today.

"It deals with very topical issues,” he said. “Even though it was set decades ago, it's very relevant today.”

With its meatier themes, the drama is intended for mature audiences.

Ruth said the Spare Change Theatre provides a platform for art and artists the main stage can’t.

“It affords artists the opportunity to express themselves in a safe environment,” Ruth added.

Wendy Van Tassell, director of the current Spare Change offering, has had “Doubt” on her mind for some time. Conditions were right this spring for her to approach the SCT board about staging the play.

“This production is timely, in light of the “Me Too” movement, our national conversation about race and racism, and the struggle for truth in the ‘fake news’ era,” Van Tassell said.

She said she approached the SCT board in January with her application to produce the play, with tryouts held Feb. 18-20, and rehearsals beginning on Feb. 27.

“Right from the beginning, it’s been fun seeing it fall into place,” she said.

Performance information

Dates: May 4-6

Times: Friday and Saturday, May 4-5 — 8 p.m.; Sunday, May 6 — 2 p.m.

Location: Gary’s on the River, 24 W. Park St.

Tickets: $8 general seating

(Ticket price includes light finger food. Cash bar opens one hour prior to the performance.)

Tickets may be purchased at the Spencer Community Theatre box office at 518 First Ave. E., by phone at 712-262-7336 or at The Bear Coffee House and Wine Bar. Tickets may be purchased at the door with cash, depending on availability.

“Doubt, a Parable” is recommended for mature audiences.

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