Into the Breeches Opens Friday at Arena
The pandemic and subsequent lockdown was hard for everyone, but it especially knocked the legs out from our talented arts community, ending performances and closing venues. But if one thing came out of those dark days, it was that most of us embraced the opportunity to stay home and focus on creative activities. For director and actor Reuben Allbaugh, he discovered a piece of theatre which he is now directing for Arena Dinner Theatre.
“I was interested in finding a play to direct, and Gloria Minnich showed me Into the Breeches in summer 2020,” Allbaugh recalled. “I just fell in love with it the minute I read it, and I asked Arena’s artistic committee if they’d be interested in doing it and said that I was interested in directing it.”
Now Allbaugh is in fact directing Minnich in the production which runs for three weekends (with one Sunday matinee) at Arena. In a backstage play, Allbaugh found the story of a Shakespeare theatre group sustained by women when the men are fighting World War II a “love letter to theatre.”
“It’s about this small community theatre company who do Shakespeare plays in the 40s,” Allbaugh said. “It’s set against the men going to war, and the women come together and find each other and find their tribe and love of the theatre. The women come together to put on this production. The show has a lot of things going on. It’s Shakespeare, it has combat scenes, and from an acting standpoint it even has a musical number so they’re singing and dancing a bit. There’s even a sword fight. It’s been fun to put together and fun to watch the actors bring so much to their characters and bring them to life.”
With a relatively small cast – six women and two men – Allbaugh is in a comfortable situation as a director, one which he relishes.
“I tend to like shows with smaller casts so that we can explore the characters and find those relationships. And I think that even though this is set in the 1940s during the war effort, there are a lot of things that the audience will see are similar between then and today. There are things that’ll speak to women and also to Blacks and the LGBTQ community. But even though there are a lot of things to think about, it’s a comedy. The audience will have a great time and a lot of laughs.”
Allbaugh also said a comparison can be made between Into the Breeches and an iconic 1992 film.
“One of the ladies in our cast said this story is a lot like A League of Their Own in the way that women were picking up the mantle when the men were away fighting the war.”
The show is only part of what is included in the ticket price. There is also a winning meal which includes English Pea Salad, Bangers & Mash with Onion Gravy, Vegetarian Banger (Vegetarian Option), Braised Red Cabbage, Buttermilk Biscuit & Butter, and Strawberries & Cream Fluff.
Evening performances are Oct. 28, 29, Nov. 4, 5, 11, 12 at 8 p.m. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. with dinner served at 7 p.m. There is a Sunday matinee on November 6, with the doors opening at 12:15 p.m. and dinner service at 1 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are available at artstix.org.