Featured photo by Jill Marie Schierbaum: (left to right) Derek Guy as Sam, Jessica Tanselle as Melanie, Kasen Meek as Jackson, Charlotte Hayden as Carly
Louisville’s only theater company dedicated to telling LGBTQ+ stories is opening a musical that tells the true story of a group of transgender friends living life on their own terms in the back hills of rural Georgia.
Pandora Productions announced a season extra for the 2020-2021 virtual season — Southern Comfort.
“At its core, it is a love story between patriarch, Robert Eads, and newcomer Lola Cola and the reaction to her arrival by the rest of the ‘chosen family’, Michael J. Drury, producing artistic director, said in a press release. “Through a unique folk inspired score, the musical chronicles a year in the lives of this unique American family as they courageously defy the odds by simply remaining on the land to which they were born, reminding us that home is where we find comfort in our skin.”
The musical is based on the documentary of the same name about the life of Robert Eads.
Drury said when COVID hit and everything shut down, Pandora postponed Southern Comfort because they didn’t know when or if things would open again.
“At the time we hadn’t discovered how to deliver shows virtually and of course we were holding out hope that we wouldn’t have to do that,” he said. “Ultimately though it was the best decision though it was one that was fraught with complications. Would the cast be available when we were able to bring it back? Would audiences stick with us? Would sponsors stick with us?”
Pandora is completed the season completely virtual with small cast productions in order to keep everyone safe. This kept them afloat throughout the pandemic and they plan to go in person for the 2021-2022 season.
“We’ll be back in person at the theatre in September when we open the season with Birds of a Feather by Marc Acito,” Drury said. “I’m very optimistic though that we are on our way to a robust theatre season once again, not only at Pandora Productions which I know will be wonderful but for the entire theatre community that has really suffered during this shut down. We are one of the last types of business to reopen since our product requires sitting close to a hundred or so other people to make it happen.”
The production features: Scout Larken as Robert, Erica Fields as Lola, Kasen Meek as Jackson, Charlotte Hayden as Carly, Derek Guy as Sam and Jessica Tanselle as Melanie. The virtual production will run for six days: June 24 – 29 on demand.
“As a cast member I think the opportunity to tell this story and create a character that has so many aspects that mirror my experience as a trans person is fantastic,” Fields said. “Pandora has done an incredible job of piecing together a cast that can truly portray the characters as they should be presented. Trans focused theatre is rare and to be able to authentically cast is difficult.”
Southern Comfort marks the first show to be played on Pandora’s mainstage that intimately details the lives of the trans community. For the leadership of the company it marks an important turning point and Drury said he hopes the frequency of seeing trans folx on stage, both in portrayal and as talent, increases.
The original production in New York was written for cis-gender actors playing trans characters and Pandora decided not to do that. They even postponed opening the show in 2018-2019 season because their trans outreach wasn’t fully developed.
“We decided to postpone the show into last season and did the work required to find the actors to bring it to life authentically,” Drury said.
Pandora, along with Fields and her cast members, decided that it was time to bring this production to life now that they can rehearse and film in close quarters.
“In any show the cast bonds during the process of putting the production together, but for this cast, from my perspective, five trans actors and one cis-gender actor have created a unique bond and the relationships that will play out couldn’t be more authentic,” Fields said.
Advanced tickets are $22 per screen and are available online at www.PandoraProds.org or by calling 502.216.5502. Queer Kentucky readers save $10 by using coupon code: “C-QueerKY” at direct ticketing link: https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/54009
More on Pandora from the producer: Pandora Productions is the only theatre company in the Louisville Metro region exclusively dedicated and most trusted to tell the stories of the LGBTQ+ community. We just celebrated our 25th anniversary with a big celebration to come in October now that pandemic restrictions are being lifted. We produce comedies, dramas, musicals and new works that enlighten and educate the broader population on issues relevant to the LGBTQ+ community. We were founded by three gentlemen who wanted to write a musical based on the myth of Pandora. To fund that project they decided to do some shows to make money. I’ll not offer an opinion about making money in theatre… but all of the shows they did in the meantime had a gay theme except one. When the company was offered to me in 2001 I formed a board and incorporated the company with its current mission to serve and tell the stories of the LGBTQ+ community.