Both the subject matter and the viewing experience will be a close encounter when the Barton Theatre Department performs the two-person musical “The Last Five Years,” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday in the Barton Community College Fine Arts Auditorium.
Seating for the production will be arranged on the stage in a terraced manner (black box style). BCC Theatre Director Erin Renard said this will produce an intimate environment that will complement the personal elements of a story that ingeniously chronicles the five-year life of a marriage, from meeting to break-up, presenting both the man and woman’s point of view.
Female lead actress 24-year-old Great Bend student Ashley Dowgwillo said the subject matter is something the average person can relate to.
“I think love is what drives a lot of people to do the things that they do,” she said. “Everyone has experienced love in some form, whether it’s a relationship like this or a friendship.”
In keeping with the small-scale personal approach of the seating style and small cast, a minimal, five-piece orchestra will provide music for the production. Russell High School’s choral instructor Alex Underwood will serve as the musical director.
Dowgwillo said the close proximity of the audience seating to the on-stage action creates a unique dynamic for those performing as well as those spectating.
“The show almost requires it because it’s such an emotional show,” she said. “It allows the audience to feel involved, so much so that they may feel like they are watching their friends go through this relationship, and as an actress it’s challenging because they can see every minute expression, emotion and detail.”
“We are approaching this as a team in every sense from directing to design, so I think the unique thing about this show is the collaborative approach and how everyone has a role in the creative process,” she said. “It’s an exciting way to create a show.”
Dowgwillo has acted in several musical productions and agreed that the creative process has been more organic.
“Everyone involved is very skilled in their craft whether it be music or design, so we’re able to really collaborate and luckily have all had the same vision, which has made it really easy and enjoyable,” she said. “This is different than most musicals because it’s such an introspective story, and the audience will be so close. It’s just really contemporary,” she said.
Dowgwillo will be joined on stage by her fictional significant other, Hays resident Nic Naasz. He is a graduate of Fort Hays State University and works for High Plains Mental Health Center and as the Cheer Coach for FHSU.
Tickets are available in advance as well as the night of the show but are limited in number. All high school and college students will be admitted for free with an ID. Non-student tickets are $5. No one will be admitted after the show begins.
This production is for mature audiences.