INSIDE THE RIGGI THEATER, the stage lights flare bright, illuminating a scatter of white paper scripts, clipboards and heavy binders strewn about the cherry-red seats. Actors mill about, waiting their turn to audition atop the stage.
“Can you do a cold scene?” an actor sporting a man bun is asked.
“Yes,” replies manbun. “Is it OK if I put you in a headlock?”
Inside the theater, it is the middle of the summer on a weekday afternoon. Onstage it is June 1967, the time of the Monterey International Pop Festival, where the Who famously blew up their instruments and Jimi Hendrix set his guitar ablaze.
“Let’s do The John Scene,” suggests Mary Jane Hansen, who scripted the play, titled “American Soup.” The actor quickly falls into character.
“I don’t want to go swimming!” he exclaims. “I want to go see the Jefferson Airplane!”
Four months later, multiple auditions have been held, rehearsals staged and the cast in place and ready to present the production, which will take place at the National Museum of Dance Dec. 14-23.
“American Soup” - presented by iTheatre Saratoga, a division of The Creative Place International - is a celebration of pop culture and the landmarks of history on the evolution of the American spirit, Hansen says. It features the adventures of two American families in Queens, N.Y. living through events at the time – the moon landing, Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination - juxtaposed with Andy Warhol’s philosophy. CPI founding member John McGuire portrays the role of Andy Warhol.
“You have three things going on at the same time. You’ve got Andy. You’ve got the family in the restaurant. And there’s a band - music plays a big role in the play - and they all weave together,” explains Hansen, who grew up in Whitestone, in the north section of Queens.
Live music from the 1960s to the turn of the millennium provokes a visit to where and who we were, say show organizers, and “American Soup” reminds that there is hope, even during our darkest times.