McBride’s ‘Boo This Play’ gets world premiere, Aug. 19-20

The ghost of Gerry Giles (Jeff Courts), right, watches as Genevieve Vallenger (Bryanne Tyler) and Harry (Patrick Anderson) interact during rehearsal for “Boo This Play.” Photo by Andy Coughlan

Theater often serves up grand existential questions aimed at forcing us to ponder the meaning of existence. Playwright Sean McBride’s “Boo This Play” is not one of those plays.

“It’s a lot of silly pratfalls and puns, and it’s just meant to be a fun little farce,” he said. “I don’t want to make you think, I just want to make you laugh.”

“Boo This Play” will have its world premiere, Aug. 19-20 at Beaumont Community Players’ Jerry McMillan black box theater. Admission is free.

The plot revolves around a theatrical troupe mourning the death of one of their members. When they find out he was being subsidized to write a play, which is unfinished, they decide to mount a production to honor him — and to be able to cash the checks. When the egotistical actor’s ghost returns to make sure they don’t ruin his play, hilarious mayhem ensues.

“It’s one of those things that is inspired by doing community theater in Beaumont, (and) all over the place for a quarter century,” McBride said. “All the funny things that happened when you put on a play, I just kind of kept a running total of them and slotted them all into this silly little farce.”

The ghost of Gerry Giles (Jeff Courts), right, watches as Kaleigh (Kim Blanchard) and Larry (Russell Smith) canoodle during rehearsal for “Boo This Play.”

McBride said the idea for the story goes back to the beginning of the century when he was directing a BCP show at the Jefferson Theatre and one of the actors had to drop out.

“Unfortunately, he passed away,” McBride said. “On opening night, I looked upstairs, and I thought I saw someone up there. I’m not saying I believe in ghosts, but this guy would totally come back and watch the show and judge us. And I thought, well, that’s a fun little idea for a play. It’s done with love for that guy, but also with a little bit of a, ‘Yeah, we remember the things you did that were kind of silly, too.’”

This is McBride’s third attempt to put on the play. The Omicron COVID variant postponed the play from Fall 2021 to January 2022, only for the Delta variant to force another cancelation. McBride saidhehashisfingerscrossed that third time’s a charm.

The 10-person cast includes Melanie Rollins, Jeff Courts, Barri Hoffman, Carrie Wilson, Haleigh Courts-Riviera, Victoria LeBlanc, Andrea Garcia, Patrick Anderson, Kim Blanchard, Russell Smith, Bryanne Tyler and McBride.

“When I wrote this thing, I specifically wrote it knowing what I know about community theaters that we have so many more women than men. So, I wrote it with seven women and three guys,” McBride said. “I also know that a lot of community leaders don’t have the ability to do a lot of really interesting stagecraft. So, I made it where the set can be built out of a bunch of pickle boxes.

“I literally purchased, like, 200 boxes, and it’s been plugging up my house for the last year and a half. So, I need to put this play on if only to get the boxes out of my house.”

The ghost of Gerry Giles (Jeff Courts), left, reacts as Larry (Russell Smith) works on some special effects during rehearsal for “Boo This Play.” Photo by Andy Coughlan

Pickle boxes? The play-within-the-play is underwritten by the heiress to the Vallenger fortune — the Texarkana Pickle King, who doesn’t actually send checks but sends cases of pickles.

“They end up with so many pickle boxes that they can’t get on stage anymore,” McBride said. “The stage is literally filled to overflowing with them.”

Tyler plays Genevieve Vallenger, the heiress.

“She’s kind of over the top, just loud over the top, doesn’t let anybody speak when she’s speaking — kind of like myself,” Tyler said, with a hearty laugh. “Sean contacted me and said, ‘I have a great role for you. I think you could really do this role. Just think of yourself as a 70-year-old drag queen and I think you’ll do fine.’

“It’sjustsoit’ssuchafunny story about community theater, and anybody that comes to see it will enjoy it.”

The ghost of Gerry Giles (Jeff Courts), right, watches Harry (Patrick Anderson) during rehearsal for “Boo This Play.” Photo by Andy Coughlan

Jeff Courts plays Gerry Giles, the recently deceased. He said the character is an amalgam of various diva actors and directors — “It pays homage to so many.” He said people should come and be prepared to laugh.

“We need a laugh right now,” he said. “We’ve been, like, in a sensory deprivation tank the past few years, from doing theater all the time to doing nothing. It’s a funny script, man. It really is.”

When McBride is not writing, directing and acting, he does marketing for KFDM Channel 6, and is also a syndicated film reviewer underthetitleSeantheMovie Guy.

While this is his first play, McBride earned a degree in film studies with a writing emphasis and originally wanted to be a screenwriter. McBride said he doesn’t often have time to write because his spare time is spent rehearsing for plays, but the pandemic gave him the time.

“It’s daunting task to say I’m going to write a play, but if you’ve done a weekly column for the last 23 years, at some point it’s not quite as problematic. Suddenly, it’s like, well, I write every week, I can just get it done.”

Anyone who has ever been in a play or supported theater will recognize characters and situations, but it is more than an inside joke, McBride said.

“I suspect that the ‘insider baseball’ moment of it will appeal more to actors, but I do try and keep everything nice and broad,” he said. “I want to have fun with both the pratfalls that will appeal to the basic common denominator, but also with the wit and the puns that might appeal to someone with a more elevated sense of humor, but also to the people just out there to have a good time.”

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis by calling or visiting the BCP box office. BCP is located at BCP is located at 4155 Laurel Ave. in Beaumont.

This story first ran in the Aug. 12, 2022 Art of Living section of the Beaumont Enterprise.

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