Garage Door Theater presents production of ‘Educating Rita’
By Abigail Allen
The full range of human emotion will take the stage on Friday as the Garage Door Theater opens it production of “Educating Rita.”
A tale that seems simple—a 26-year-old woman wanting to improve herself and an alcoholic academic who questions why he’s working with college students—shows the ability of people to learn and change based on the way their relationships with others influence them.
“The play that was originally scheduled for this slot … had 13 actors running around, chasing each other,” Director John Rodgers said. “I wasn’t comfortable doing that. Maybe we will someday, but not right now. And I knew of this show. In fact, I had harbored hopes of someday playing Frank myself.”
Rita, played by Molly Bower, starts out boisterous but self-conscious, spouting insights based on her experiences and perspective.
Frank, portrayed by Joseph Horst, begins the play by questioning why he would take on the role of tutoring someone like Rita.
The pair have roughly inverse experiences throughout the course of the play, Horst said, which is displayed as they share conversations about life’s complexities between discussions of literary giants.
“I love that she has a story of, almost, self-redemption,” Bower said. “… She recognizes the situation that she’s in, and she knows that she hates it, she knows what she doesn’t like, she sees all the obstacles against her. And she just up and decides at this point, I’m not doing this anymore. ‘I need to make a change. I need to do something.’ And I respect her for that.”
She added that she connects with Rita because she tends to be “a disrupter.”
Horst, who has worked as an instructor as well, said he enjoys the progression Frank takes throughout the play.
“He’s very physically attracted to Rita, but he’s blown away by the fact that she has so much insight and so much depth that he didn’t expect,” Horst said. “And he doesn’t know how to handle that.”
Written by Willy Russell and set in Liverpool, England, in the 1980s, the play features just two characters on a single set.
The dynamic emotions expressed by Bower and Horst paired with their facial expressions provides the audience with a look into what it is to be going through a transformative and deeply personal experience.
Having a stationary and unchanging set occupied by only two players has the potential to get tiresome, but Bower and Horst keep “Educating Rita” flowing smoothly and entertainingly, earning the audience’s attention with every step and syllable.
“We were … very aware of our spacing and physical contact or lack thereof and still making it look natural,” Rodgers said about the way the characters in his production move.
The play opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. It will play at the same time on Saturday, Oct. 23 and Oct. 24. On Oct. 25, there will be a final matinee performance at 2:30 p.m.
Attendance is limited to 30 people per show, and masks are required.
To purchase tickets, go to garagedoortheater.com. For more information, contact Production Manager Monica David at 940-489-2064 or Assistant Director Amy Maxey at 580-238-3083.