By Carole Howard | Thingamajig Theatre Company
Dennis Elkins is returning to the Thingamajig Theatre Company stage for a one-man performance of “blood(line)” (pronounced bloodline), the concluding play of the actor/director/playwright’s autobiographical trilogy, at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts this Sunday, July 2, at 7 p.m.
This special event is free for the theater’s summer season ticket holders, but you are advised to reserve your place quickly by emailing email@example.com before all the seats are taken.
This final version of “blood(line)” incorporates input to Elkins’ script from Friends of the Theatre and season ticket holders who participated in a mini-Thingamajig Playwrights Festival two-day collaborative process in November 2021.
At that time Elkins said his play was in draft form and he wanted suggestions and guidance from theater lovers in Pagosa, whom he has come to admire from directing and performing in so many Thingamajig productions. He read his play from the stage and solicited feedback from the audience on where the show needed rewriting to improve the flow of the story and to clarify the purpose of a scene or character.
“Thingamajig audiences are some of the most intelligent and discerning in the theater world,” Elkins said. “They’re also not afraid to express their opinions and ask good questions. Their input was invaluable to making ‘blood(line)’ a better play.”
Three one-man shows
The three plays in this autobiographical series are written, produced and performed as one-man shows by Elkins, who is a master storyteller.
The first, “box.,” originally was performed in Pagosa to standing ovations and rave reviews at Thingamajig’s Playwrights Festival in 2018. It focuses on the psychological trials in our lives associated with packing and unpacking boxes — literally and figuratively. We follow Elkins through major events in his adult life including his mother’s death, his son’s overdose, coming out of the closet and leaving academia at Fort Lewis College in Durango.
The second installment is “bag—” (pronounced bag dash), which debuted at Thingamajig in July 2021. It is based on Elkins’ trip to India in the winter of 2017 as he approached his 60th birthday. In this poignant comedy of travel and identity, Elkins crisscrosses India via buses, tuk-tuks and taxis in hopes of uncovering the mysteries of life and middle age.
Now “blood(line)” rounds out the trilogy. This play expands our knowledge of the Elkins’ family on his mother’s side that we initially met in the trilogy’s first show, “box.,” and explores their influence — good and bad — on his life. We also meet others who have impacted his experiences over the years including friends, academics, mentors and lovers.
After being showcased in Pagosa, “blood(line)” will head to Scotland, where Elkins will perform all three shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.
Songs added to ‘blood(line)’
In addition to responding to Thingamajig patrons’ advice regarding the script, Elkins has added six songs to the show in partnership with Brandon Scott Grayson, a composer, lyricist, music director and arranger originally from Las Vegas.
Highlights of Grayson’s career include more than a dozen productions with the Utah Shakespeare Festival as well as music directing multiple world and U.S. musicals and writing music for other shows.
Elkins wrote the lyrics for the “blood(line)” songs and Grayson wrote the music.
“One of the most powerful times I’ve experienced as an artist is when Brandon and I are in the same room — he at the piano and I with my script — and the magic is happening faster than either of us can write the ideas down,” Elkins said.
The audience will meet Grayson at this Pagosa performance, where he will be on stage playing keyboard.
Impressive history at Thingamajig
Elkins, the former head of the Fort Lewis College theater department and a veteran performer on stages around the world, is well-known to Thingamajig audiences. Over the years, he has impressed both locals and out-of-town visitors with his brilliant acting, keen directing and remarkable versatility.
He starred in significant dramas including “Red,” “A Picasso,” “A Few Good Men” and “Proof”; played major roles in musicals like “Cabaret,” “Hairspray” and “Sister Act”; earned laughs in comedies like “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Tuna Christmas”; and directed hits like “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Little Women, the Musical.”
This summer he returned to the Thingamajig stage from his home in New York City not only for “blood(line)” but also to direct “Jersey Boys,” which opened June 16 to standing ovations. The musical became an international phenomenon as it dramatized the story of the formation, success, eventual breakup and great music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the iconic ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll group.
This summer’s musicals
In addition to “Jersey Boys,” Thingamajig is producing two more musicals in this summer’s Broadway in the Mountains season.
“The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” which opened June 2, is a heartwarming musical comedy about complicated relationships between a group of misfits living at a trailer park in Florida. It is directed by Ann Evans Watson in her first appearance at Thingamajig. She is associate professor of musical theater at the University of Michigan, an Equity actor, vocal instructor and coach.
Four musicians make up the live band for “Trailer Park.” They are Dale Scrivener on keyboard, Will Spears on guitar, Joan Knab on drums and James Kiker on bass.
“Godspell,” which opens tomorrow, Friday, June 30, is structured as a series of parables based on the Gospel of St. Matthew, interspersed with multiple music styles. It is directed by Andrew Barratt Lewis, associate professor of musical theater at Weber State University in Utah. He is a Thingamajig favorite for previously directing “Bright Star” and past Christmas shows “Grand Night for Singing” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”
The three musicals are running in rotation until late August. Boni McIntyre is music director, JD Madsen is scenic designer, Mackenzie Lowe is lighting designer, Elly Hunt and Lexi Saeger are costume designers, and Jill Fives is the scenic artist for the shows.
As well, “Newsies Jr.,” playing July 15 and 16, will be the theater’s Whatchamawhozits children’s summer camp show.
This year’s fundraising Broadway Gala will take place the evening of July 25.
Tickets available now
Tickets for the Elkins show are free for the theater’s summer season ticket holders, but you are advised to reserve your place quickly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org before all the seats are taken.
Season tickets for all three summer musicals are available on the theater’s website at pagosacenter.org or by phoning the box office at (970) 731-SHOW (7469).
Individual tickets for the musicals also are available on the website — $42 for adults for all three shows and $25 for kids 12 and under for “Godspell.” “Trailer Park” and “Jersey Boys” are recommended for mature audiences. Evening performances are at 7 p.m. and matinees are at 3 p.m.