After its successful inaugural season, which included the play Small Mouth Sounds, new theatre company Southern Plains Productions has announced its second season.
Founded by Artistic Director Jackson Gifford, Southern Plains Productions focuses on providing professional work experience for early-career artists and aims to provide meaningful art for Oklahomans, create accessible and affordable productions and enhance the quality of life for their audience.
After attending college in Michigan, Gifford — a native Oklahoman — returned home and started Southern Plains in the middle of the pandemic. Determined to find a way to produce theatre in its midst, he and the company produced their kickoff production Small Mouth Sounds outdoors in a socially distanced setting. This understated outdoor show ran at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage in May 2021, and the company received recognition for the unique presentation of the challenging, dialogue-less play. In it, six strangers leave the noise of everyday life and embark on a silent retreat, ultimately learning about themselves and their relationships by listening to the world around them.
The first show of season two, Duncan Macmillan’s dramatic play Lungs, runs at Factory Obscura this month. Lungs debuted in Washington, D.C. in 2011 and tells the story of a young couple who are considering starting a family. As they grapple with what bringing a child into this broken world really means, they must also face their changing relationship. Lungs is strikingly relevant to today’s world, and audiences will relate to the questions the couple must answer for themselves and each other. Climate change, senseless wars and pandemics are central themes to the couple’s thought process as they weigh their future. Southern Plains brings back award-winning director Jacob Musgrove to direct.
“I’m excited to bring Lungs to Oklahoma audiences as I feel it poses vital questions about the future of our planet through the characters’ ethical and moral hang-ups about bringing a child into the world,” Musgrove said.
The play is touted as being “smart and funny” and brings up questions about the future of the world we are leaving to the next generation.
In August, Southern Plains Productions pivots to their highly-anticipated second production of the season. Oklahoma City’s Tower Theatre serves as the venue for their presentation of the sleeper hit rock musical Lizzie. Yes, that Lizzie. The play tells the mostly true story of Lizzie Borden, a socialite in early 1900s Massachusetts who was acquitted of murder following the brutal murders of her father and stepmother. Notorious in American lore, this cerebral rock musical tells her story in prose with anger and a side of vitriol.
Borden was acquitted of murder. That part you know. But what really happened that hot August day in 1892? Set to a blistering, rock-infused score, Lizzie takes up the case for one of America’s most notorious and “unsolved” murder mysteries. Four powerful female leads front a five-piece rock band to sing of betrayal, rage and feminine liberation. The sound is less song than revelation.
Lizzie is an unapologetic, hard-hitting rock opera that has all but been forgotten by the musical theatre world. Lizzie never saw a Broadway house, but it has maintained a cult following of rock musical and girl-band lovers. Rarely produced, the last time it was saw a stage here was 2018 in Tulsa. Lizzie is characterized as “the chain-smoking, motorcycle-riding, daredevil, kicked-off-the-cheerleading-squad-for-fighting-on-the-first-day-of-school third cousin to the rock opera.” In short, it’s punk rock and hardcore.
Lizzie stands out and makes its own rules, and Southern Plains is seeking to celebrate the weird and eccentric side of musical theatre.
“At Southern Plains Productions we’re challenging the conventions of traditional live theatre,” Gifford said. “We want to expand society’s idea of what theatre is and can be. Lizzie fits with this vision because it’s explosive and completely unconventional.”
For this production, Southern Plains is bringing in NYC-based director and Carnegie Mellon School of Drama alum Cameron King. Choreography is by Oklahoma City dance legend Hui Cha Poos and Jude Caminos serves as music director. Casting information is forthcoming.
Lizzie promises an adrenaline-fueled escape from the ordinary. It’s musical theatre, but with a sharp edge. This show is right up the weird little alley of fans of rock musicals, and it follows in the footsteps of legendary, unconventional musicals like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Rent, and Hair. Lizzie explores themes of entitlement, sexuality, abuse, revenge and consequence.
“Lizzie is a rebellious, shameless, sucker-punch of a show,” King said. “It provokes us with questions. Is it wrong to sacrifice a life to live a life without sacrifice? When we musicalize murders, do we trivialize tragedy? Did she do it? Probably. But we’re celebrating anyway.”
This larger-scale musical will appeal to the non-traditional crowd. If you enjoy a rock concert, but aren’t the biggest fan of theatre, Lizzie may be the show for you. Lungs is intimate and thought-provoking and the unique backdrop of Factory Obscura is a reason to check out the space and the show. Southern Plains is producing out-of-the box theatre and appealing to audiences that are younger and more experimental in their viewing tastes. The young company is exciting and adventurous, and they promise works that you won’t find in your typical theatre house.
Southern Plains Productions’ Lungs runs May 19 through 21 at Factory Obscura. Their second and final show of the season, Lizzie, runs August 18 and 19 at Tower Theatre. Tickets for both productions are available at southernplainsproductions.org.