Marion Arts Center shifts ‘Good People’ to the grass

Aug 15, 2020

MARION — With a month left in rehearsals, “Good People,” the Marion Art Center’s current play, director Jacob Sherburne and the arts center decided to move it outdoors and turn it into an immersive experience in Bicentennial Park due to coronavirus guidelines.

Like the people, the results were also good.

“The challenges created opportunities,” said Sherburne. 

State guidelines for indoor gatherings made it a challenge to hold the play in the art center’s theater.

Cast and crew spent nine hours a week practicing the play outdoors, and spent the last week going over lines and scenes everyday. 

“If I didn’t have a group of people who took this adjustment as an opportunity rather than a challenge,” the play would have never come together, Sherburne said.

“Good People” is a mature comedy that follows the struggles of Margie (Margo Wilson Ruggiero), a single mom from the South End of Boston who was recently fired from her job and is trying to make ends meet. 

The play picks up when she has an encounter with an ex-boyfriend turned Doctor, Mikey (Paul Victor Walsh) to try and find work. 

Written by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire, “Good People” dives into the intersection of class, gender, and race in both low-income and well-off communities in Boston using snappy one-liners and fast commentary that makes it impactful as much as it is funny.

Karrie Szatec was in the crowd and was “really excited that we can see a play” and found it interesting how the play wasn’t restricted by a small stage.

Hanna Milhench of Marion was “very impressed” with how the cast and crew were able to take the play outdoors.

Theatergoers sat in designated boxes that were six feet apart and spray painted onto the ground. 

The “stage” included three miniature sets, a door for exits, and props that were set up by the gazebo in the park. 

During the play, the cast walked through the park as they delivered, taking advantage of the open space.

“It’s brilliant” that they were able to make the play happen, said Marion Arts Center Executive Director Jodi Stevens. 

What started out as auditions via Zoom in the beginning of June, turned into a sold out opening weekend in mid-August. 

The work behind that feat took a lot.

Kaylin Blaney, the stage manager for the show, said the cast and crew had to bring in and out all the props for rehearsals because they couldn’t get wet.

Because of the pandemic, Blaney’s job was also to make sure the cast was socially distant while delivering lines and moving around the set. 

During production, Sherburne had to replace three cast members in the middle of rehearsing (it’s unclear whether it was virus-related), and he played Dottie, one of the play’s characters, in drag.

The art center also reduced the number of performances from seven to four and changed the time to earlier in the afternoon to decrease the risk of Eastern Equine Encephalitis. 

Marion is currently not at high risk for the mosquito-borne virus, which is rare but serious and deadly when contracted. However other towns in Plymouth County are at high risk.

Though it presented many challenges, the show played a vital role for him in this pandemic.

“Just having something to focus on was just such a life raft,” Sherburne said. 

“Good People” is showing at Bicentennial Park on Aug. 16, 22 and 23 at 4 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here.