It was a dream come true. When Nick Blaemire and his half-brother, James Gardiner, were only 22, they opened a play on the Great White Way.
“We wrote a show called ‘Glory Days,’ which Eric Schaeffer was kind enough to produce at Signature Theatre,” said Blaemire. “The next year the show went to Broadway.”
Although “Glory Days” closed on opening night, he called the experience “one hell of a ride.”
Since then, the theatrical jack-of-all-trades has appeared in a few Broadway shows, and in the off-Broadway revival of the musical “Tick Tock Boom!”
When Signature presented his musical “Soon” – for which Blaemire had written the book, lyrics, and music – It “was among the most joyous times of my life,” he said. “Signature has been my home away from home.”
“Soon” is now coming to The Highwood Theatre, reflecting the season’s theme of “Off Your Rocker.” The play also constitutes Highwood’s fifth annual Open Source Festival – redefining the conception of traditional nights at the theater, said Matthew Nicola, artistic director.
Highwood presents plays with adult professional casts and with student casts, sometimes in combination. But “Soon” will have two different casts – one made up of “talented high school students and one of adult professionals,” Nicola explained. “They’ll rehearse together, but perform in repertory.”
Blaemire said it was the global warming scare that moved him to write this dystopian musical.
“I was looking for a vessel to tell the story, so I started thinking about the way we shut information out we don’t want to hear, like ‘We’re killing the world, stop polluting,’” Blaemire said.
From there, the playwright envisioned a 20-something woman who pushes people away – and whose best friend is a goldfish named Herschel.
“‘Soon’ is a tricky play, in that it takes place out of order, so it’s a lot to track,” the playwright said. “The world has to end in it, which can be tricky for a chamber musical-sized budget”
Cate Caplin, in her Highwood directorial debut, found other challenges, but is undaunted.
A theater veteran, Caplin grew up in D.C. and studied at Washington School of Ballet and Metropolitan Ballet, as well as on stage. One major highlight of her career was winning a role as a “swing” – learning and covering all the Sharks and Jets choreography in a Broadway revival of “West Side Story” and working with its composer Leonard Bernstein and director/choreographer Jerome Robbins.
But “Soon” had particular appeal.
“I like the idea of a smaller group to work with, so I could spend more time with each of the performers and have more coaching and one-on-one time,” Caplin said.
Even though staging plays is her “real love,” directing two casts can be tough.
“If a play was going to be double-cast, I usually read a script before I commit to a project, but for some reason, I took a leap of faith with this one,” Caplin said. “Then when I read it, I thought, oh, my God! This is a very challenging little show.”
Another one of the challenges was the multimedia elements and scenes with apocalyptic descriptions, which require extensive sound design combined with projected images to create a certain illusion. Then there is the “very contemporary music.”
Fortunately, Caplin said, Highwood offered a “very talented” cast and crew.
To the “eternal question” of the play – What do you do when you know you only have a few months to live – Blaemire’s answer is: To use our time on Earth well while we have it.
“Soon” runs April 12 through April 29, with the schedule of student and adult performances varying each week. Highwood Theatre is located at 914 Silver Spring Avenue, Suite 102, in Silver Spring. For information and tickets, visit: www.thehighwoodtheatre.org.