Umpqua Actors Community Theatre has teamed up with the music and theatre departments at Umpqua Community College to bring rock musical “Tick, Tick... Boom!” to the outdoor stage next to the Umpqua Valley Arts Association building on West Harvard Avenue.
“Tick, Tick... Boom!” is an autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award–winning composer of “Rent.” The production follows Jon, an aspiring composer with the dream of writing a hit Broadway musical who finds himself nearing his 30th birthday and waiting tables rather than staging actors.
In the midst of dealing with this conundrum, Jon’s girlfriend wants to get married and move out of the city — though Jon is convinced he must live in New York City to achieve his dream — and his best friend, a former actor turned marketing executive, tries to tempt Jon from his aspirations with promises of a big payday in the corporate world.
Veteran actor Troy Pennington plays the role of Jon, which he said isn’t necessarily a hard character for him to embrace.
“Jon is in the middle of a personal and professional crossroads,” Pennington said. “He isn’t all that different from me. I think this probably goes for anyone who is creatively or artistically inclined — you go through multiple phases where you doubt yourself. That is incredibly relatable.”
Pennington said he has gone through a similar life crisis where he questioned following his dream. He has been acting since he was 14 years old and had varying degrees of production responsibilities — everything from ensemble to acting to directing. Pennington stuck with his dream, eventually attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles and is now working towards his masters in Portland.
Juan Martinez, who plays Jon’s best friend Michael, is somewhat new to acting. This is his first musical, but he is no stranger to music in general. He is a music major at Western Oregon University and jumped at the opportunity to join the cast.
“Michael is a very flamboyant character and very outspoken. I find a lot of Jonathan’s life lessons come from Michael. Michael is who Jonathan doesn’t want to be in life,” Martinez said. “I relate more to Jonathan, but I’m the type of person that likes to be very expressive and outgoing when I’m comfortable with people and I can definitely relate to that aspect of Michael.”
This production was originally scheduled as the Umpqua Community College Theatre Arts department’s spring musical, but was canceled when COVID-19 restrictions were imposed in March. But because the cast is so small — only three actors and a four person band — Director of Theatre Christina Allaback felt it was the perfect musical to perform even with incorporating social distancing.
“I felt that it would be alright to do a small cast performance,” Allaback said. “We remained masked through rehearsals, rehearsed outside and I asked actors to isolate and then they could unmask for the show. We are being very careful with it. I wouldn’t have done a show with a larger cast or wouldn’t have done it if we were in any of these other counties with large case numbers.”
Part of what makes this play doable is the partnership with UACT, which organized an outdoor stage area for the production. The stage is located next to the Umpqua Valley Arts building, and Executive Director Melody Schwegel has gone to great lengths to make seating optimal for patrons.
Schwegel said she measured the park area in front of the stage to create spaces where patrons can safely sit 6 feet to 8 feet away from each other in clearly marked 6-by-6 foot squares. The audience area starts 8 feet away from the stage and each square can accommodate up to four people. Though masks are not required if patrons are practicing proper social distancing, they are still highly encouraged.
Patrons should bring their own seating, such as a lawn chair or blanket, and are welcome to bring their own food and drink. This production is recommended for audiences 13 years and older.
“Tick, Tick... Boom!” opens 7 p.m. Friday with repeat performances at 7 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 23. Tickets are $10 per person and can be purchased both at the door or ahead of time by calling 541-673-2125.
“The biggest thing I hope the audience does is laugh,” Martinez said. “The show is full of so many jokes and so many moments that are intentionally funny and intentionally awkward and ridiculous.”