JANESVILLE—Mindy Curtis will return to Janesville from Utah to watch her play, which is set in Utah, performed on stage at the Janesville Performing Arts Center.
Some might consider it ironic the Utah-centered play will make its world debut in Janesville, but stick with us for a minute; there is some sense to it.
“The Great Plan of Happiness,” presented by Stage One theater company, will debut Friday, June 21, at JPAC, 408 S. Main St.
Curtis started writing the play about three years ago. It took her only a few days to write, but it took about three years to make all of the edits and tweaks she got based on feedback, she said.
The play is about a woman named Cassie who returns home to Utah after having lived in Chicago for some years, Curtis said. Upon her return, Cassie finds she views her family and her Mormon religion through a different lens, allowing her to connect to her family and religion in a new way, Curtis said.
Curtis, who teaches drama at Brighton High School in Utah and has vast experience in theater on and off the stage, completed the play when she moved back to Utah after having lived in Janesville for three years, she said.
Some of the friends Curtis made in the Janesville theater scene—including the show’s producer, Michael Stalsberg—knew she was writing a play and asked her for permission to produce it once it was ready, she said.
Curtis served as education and outreach director at JPAC from January 2014 to July 2015. A JPAC news release from 2015 said Curtis was instrumental in the launch and success of the center’s education and outreach program.
Stage One’s production of Curtis’ play will be the show’s first full-stage performance, Curtis said. There have been two stage readings of the show in Utah.
This won’t be the first time Stage One director Rob Brown has led a never-before-seen show, he said. He directed a musical two years ago that Stage One debuted.
Brown said he enjoys directing plays that are new and never before seen because people cannot compare them to other performances or come in with predetermined ideas of what the show should look like, he said.
Curtis spoke highly of the cast and crew members, many of whom she worked with when she lived in Janesville. She said she plans to return to Janesville for opening night.
Inspiration for the play came from a culmination of Curtis’ own experiences and experiences her friends and family members have had, she said, calling the play a story from her “heart and soul.”
“I am honestly a little surprised a theater outside Utah is excited for this story,” she said, adding she did not think many people outside the Mormon culture would be interested in it.
The playwright hopes the play will challenge the audience to think, see and understand the themes and experiences shown on stage from a new perspective. The show includes some fun characters and calls for a little laughter, but it is mostly meant to be thought-provoking, Curtis said.
“I love the story,” Brown said. “Theater should make you think and get a reaction from you, and this show will do that. You will have people who look at it and think the family is right; some will think the daughter is right.”
Brown wants people to walk away from the show understanding that family members or friends can have differing opinions but still love each other, a theme that is relevant in today’s increasingly divided world.
As Janesville audience members are challenged to think from their seats, Curtis expects she will be scribbling notes or thinking about adjustments as she watches the opening night show, she said.
Curtis said she is excited to see how her idea is transformed onstage. She hopes one day it will be published, but that would likely come after the Janesville performance—and once Curtis has the opportunity to make some more tweaks, she said.