"Write Me a Comedy" is an apt title for Curtis Treat's newest play. After a string of thought-provoking dramas, his wife, Candy, was ready for a change.
"I told him, 'We've dealt with grief and trauma, and it's time to laugh!'" she said.
Set in the fictional Cotton Ellis Queen Theatre -- a nod to Curtis and Candy's college professors -- the protagonist, Donna (Amiyah Fitzsimmons), is tasked with producing something humorous, lest she lose her position as resident playwright. More accustomed to writing drama in the wake of personal strife, Curtis hopes to give audiences a glimpse into the sometimes grueling nature of writing.
"Quite honestly, Candy and I have been through quite a bit of trauma in the past several years," Curtis said. "It's really kind of hard to get into that framework of writing a comedy, so that's what you see through Donna."
And what you see is vivid. As Donna mulls over productions past, she is visited by her characters -- who may or may not be the most helpful guides.
"Her characters are giving her advice on what she needs to do," Curtis explained. "Even though Donna is on stage almost all the time, a lot of what you see is her writing ... they do a lot of talking for her."
Candy, who is directing the show alongside her husband, praised the visionary costume designer, Krystin Keim.
"(Donna) can't decide which time period to put her (characters) in, so they go through about five," Curtis said.
"They travel across the decades," Candy added. "They're in Greek gowns, southern belle (dresses) with hoop skirts, Rosie the Riveter outfits, disco and modern dress."
Spurring Donna's imagination are three fates -- instead of haggard old women, it's three beautiful teenagers, played by Eliza Blaha, Lydia Haller and Natalie Haller. With a marked lack of life experience, the girls take to their roles with hilarious frivolity.
"That obviously ensues comedy when you have teenagers trying to be the fates," Curtis said.
Intended to mentor the young actresses is Jean (Jeanie Ruth), a stage veteran who is oftentimes no wiser than her successors.
"She's hysterical," Candy said, chuckling.
"She definitely provides (a bulk) of the comic relief," Curtis echoed.
The ensemble cast -- made up of 14 actors -- runs the gamut from waitresses to stage technicians, and all aid Donna in her quest to find the funny side of existence.
At its heart a story of triumph over tragedy, Curtis wrote the show not only for his wife but as a reminder to himself: "Sometimes we get under the pressure of life and we forget: God gave us laughter for a reason," he said. "There are times you look at the world and think, 'How could anybody laugh?' At the same time, the only way we're going to get through it is to laugh."
"Write Me a Comedy" opens Oct. 20 with 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday showtimes and 2 p.m. Saturday matinees through Oct. 29. It will be performed at Stained Glass Theatre, located at 830 E. High St. in Jefferson City. Tickets are $8 on opening night and $12 for subsequent performances. For more information, visit sgtmidmo.org.