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New York Hit The Play That Goes Wrong Comes to First Presbyterian Theater


During the year when First Presbyterian Theater was searching for its new executive director, they presented their “Unseason,” an eclectic series of productions which allowed them to return from the scattered offerings of the pandemic. Upon his arrival back in Fort Wayne to helm First Presbyterian, Todd Sandman Cruz sought input from the board and the congregation about what shows they would like to see in the coming year.

“First Presbyterian had polled audiences at the end of their ‘Unseason’ to see what plays they’d like to see, and one that came up repeatedly was The Play That Goes Wrong,” said Christopher Murphy, associate director and director of outreach at Fort Wayne Youtheatre. “Todd Sandman submitted the application not expecting to be given the rights, but he got back word within 30 minutes of submitting the application.”

Murphy, a big fan of the show since seeing it performed in New York, was at First Presbyterian Theatre during rehearsals of its March production of Making Little Women, and brought up the choice with Sandman Cruz one evening.

Christopher J. Murphy and Todd Sandman Cruz at rehearsals

“I told him ‘I assume you’re directing it, and I’d like to audition for it.’ And he said ‘Actually, I hear you’re the farce guy in town.’ I paused and didn’t say yes right away. I waited until I could meet with Todd and Rae (Surface, FPT’s production manager) and talk about it. I saw it in New York and loved it. I thought it was great. But I thought no one on Fort Wayne could pull this off. I wasn’t sure if it could be pulled off with a community theatre budget. But after meeting with Todd and Rae, I agreed to do it.”

The play, which tells the story of a fictional theatre group from London which visits a community – in this case Fort Wayne – to stage a play wherein if it can go wrong, it does go wrong. Or as Murphy said “If Monty Python and Carol Burnett had a baby, it would be this play. Expect the unexpected.”

Part of what made Murphy skeptical is the need for a set which allows for all the farcical antics to happen.

Rae Surface

“The set is definitely the ninth character in the show,” Murphy said. “This set is unlike any I’ve ever seen on a Fort Wayne stage. There are things that have to go the right way to keep things safe and consistent.”

Fortunately for Murphy, the eight actors in the cast are top notch and very familiar to him, allowing him to focus on that pesky ninth character.

“I have been very lucky because from Day One the cast has been so solid. They know what their jobs are, and we have the right people for those jobs which does allow me to focus on the other things.”

Having directed or performed in several plays this year (including a wonderful performance in Arena Dinner Theatre’s recent hit, Bright Star), Murphy looks forward to a brief break after The Play That Goes Wrong wraps August 21. In September he returns for another semester of Fort Wayne Youtheatre’s classes, and in December he’ll return to his directorial duties with their holiday production of Frozen, Jr.

The Play That Goes Wrong runs August 12-21 at First Presbyterian Theater. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling (260) 422-4226.

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