Members of Monroe Actors Stage Company had the idea in March to put on a second production of “The Flood.”
The play was created by Peter Mills and Cara Reichel after visiting Valmeyer following the Flood of 1993. It is based on the experience of Valmeyer being destroyed and relocating to higher ground.
This year marked the 25th anniversary of the flood and the 2007 production was so successful that MASC had to add two extra shows, so the group thought it might be a good idea.
The plan was solidified when MASC contacted Mills and Reichel and the duo decided to stage a choral presentation of the play in New York City.
But MASC did not just add it to their schedule. Some went to The Big Apple to perform the show with such professionals as Ben Fankhauser and Simone Zamore.
Monroe County Clerk Dennis Knobloch was among the group of 36 local performers who went to New York City as part of the Monroe County Arts Alliance.
“It was just a incredible experience for all of us to be able to work with the professionals out there,” said Knobloch, who plays one of the townsfolk in the upcoming local production. “We were awestruck with the talent of the folks we were able to share the stage with.”
Knobloch said the experience also had its difficult moments.
“I know there were many folks who went on the trip from our end who had a little bit of trouble getting through some of the numbers we had to do because it brought back a lot of memories of the things we experienced in ’93,” said Knobloch, who was Valmeyer’s mayor in 1993. “But just to be a part of that whole experience was incredible.”
The local performers, 10 of whom will sing in the local production later this month, had to pay their own way to New York, working with Heartland Travel in Waterloo to get a package deal.
The local singers traveled to New York City last Tuesday. They rehearsed the show every day until Saturday.
Amber Dillard, who will direct the local production of “The Flood,” said the practice paid off.
“I think the show was phenomenal,” she said. “The people from the Prospect Theater Company… were very welcoming and enthusiastic when it came time to perform with us. They were impressed that we knew the music as well as we did.”
The show, which took place Saturday night at TheTimesCenter, was put together by the Prospect Theater Company. It was an Off-Broadway performance.
Ticket sales from the NYC performance benefit Puerto Rican victims of Hurricane Maria. Mills and Reichel have family in the U.S. territory.
Knobloch said the Puerto Rico connection was part of the reason many of the performers wanted to participate.
“We have had the opportunity many times to use our experiences to help other people who have been affected by disaster,” Knobloch said. “It always means a lot to know that the time and efforts we were involved in when trying to put our community back together eventually went to help out other folks. It was very rewarding to have that as part of the New York experience.”
Dillard did not know how much the show raised, but she said the approximately 350-seat theater was almost sold out.
Now, people in this area will have an opportunity to see “The Flood,” as MASC performs its latest production of “The Flood” at the Capitol Theater in Waterloo Sept. 20-23 and 27-30.
Those performances were designated an official Illinois Bicentennial Event.
“That is pretty special,” Dillard said. “We don’t take that honor lightly.”
MASC applied for that honor and received support from the governments of Waterloo and Valmeyer.
The cast includes people from across the area, several of whom lived through the flood.
Though they eventually chose to participate, some of these individuals were initially hesitant.
“They didn’t want to celebrate the tragedy of the flood,” Dillard said. “But what we’re doing is we’re celebrating the community and the bonding together to rebuild the community. It’s been emotional at times for them, but they see the good in the show.”
Mark Sochowski, who has built sets for the local production and has a small acting role, did not go to New York City. He also did not live through the flood, but he said meeting people who did as part of this production has impacted him.
“It makes me think ‘what if I were to lose my home? What would it take for me to come back and rebuild?’” he said. “I would need so much help. Just the idea of how the community rallied around each other is really amazing.”
Knobloch said the story of “The Flood” will prove inspirational for that very reason.
“I think that’s the message that we want to see go out, that no matter what happens in a community you can work together to make good things happen,” he said.
Similarly, Sochowski said the musical will serve as an educational tool for those like him who did not experience the flood.
“You have a jumping off point to talk to people, especially those who were not there, not old enough to remember or not even born at that point,” he said. “It gives you just a little bit of goosebumps thinking this is what Americans do. We rally around tragedies and then we come back.”
Dillard said the play itself will also bring audiences together.
“It has moving music that will touch you no matter what situation you are in life,” she said. “It deals with everyday living events that happened. It brings people together in a way that I think everyone can relate to.”
Tickets for MASC’s “The Flood” are on sale now. They cost $14 for general admission and $12 for seniors and students. They can be bought at masctheatre.org/tickets or by calling 618-939-7469.