Where Every Family Matters

Laemmel on “Showmance”

The Theater Bug's artistic director talks about the revival of its original musical featuring an all-youth cast.

“The kids in this production are just outstanding!” says Cori Anne Laemmel, founder and artistic director of The Theater Bug, regarding this weekend’s run of Showmance, a joint production with Studio Tenn taking place March 11 – 13 at Jamison Hall inside The Factory at Franklin.

This weekend marks the second time Showmance will hit a live stage, and it’s the first time for an all-youth cast to be on the Studio Tenn stage. Laemmel co-write Showmance with composer Eric Fritsch, and the production premiered on The Theater Bug’s stage in 2013. The show features 45 local kids ranging in age from 6 – 17, and Laemmel says she’s excited about this new mounting of the show and the partnership with Studio Tenn.

“As of last July, we are Studio Tenn’s official children’s theater partner, and that has meant a lot of different things,” says Laemmel. “They want to provide opportunities to young people, and we are there to offer our knowledge, staff and material to be able to do that in a cool, unique way. It’s a solid partnership, and Studio Tenn has been a huge supporter of The Theater Bug ever since Matt [Logan, Studio Tenn’s artistic director] saw Showmance in 2013,” she adds. For this production, Studio Tenn is producing the show while Theater Bug staff executes it.

Showmance Group

The 2013 cast of “Showmance.”

In case you missed its 2013 debut, Showmance is a musical boasting 13 songs that Laemmel fondly says is a love letter to her theater kids. “It’s about kids who have struggled finding their place and their peer group and their sense of belonging — and finding that through theater,” says Laemmel.

The show also explores “showmances.” As Laemmel puts it, “that thing that happens when you’re in a show together, and you fall epically in love, and then when the show ends you kind of forget about it!” But what the characters in the show really discover, Laemmel points out, is that the experience has been about falling in love with theater and falling in love with a group of people that they haven’t had before.

Working with such a large cast of kids within an 11 year age span of each other — and considering how busy and scheduled kids are these days — certainly comes with a few challenges, but Laemmel puts a spotlight on the overall experience for the kids who are participating in the show.

“Limited time is definitely the biggest challenge. For me, I feel strongly that at this point in a kids’ journey through theater so much of it is about the experience, and there’s a lot I like to do that is time consuming,” says Laemmel, adding, “I want to make sure that they’re not just rehearsing a great product, but that the experience itself is meaningful.”

The enthusiastic director says she enjoys working with kids of varying ages in the same show because of the dynamic that happens among the cast members. “The little ones really look up to the older ones and feel like they need to hold a standard for themselves because there are older kids around. The older kids understand they are in a position of being a mentor, and they hold themselves to a different kind of standard at the same time,” Laemmel reflects.

If you’ve got youngsters eager to be bitten by the “theater bug,” be sure to get on The Theater Bug’s mailing list (sign up at thetheaterbug.org) for audition announcements for upcoming shows. The next big production is opening in mid-July, and it’s another brand-new original titled Selfie the Instagram Musical. “It’s a different world that kids are growing up in; so much of their social lives is online now,” says Laemmel. “It seems like a good topic to talk about. I like to find material that feels relevant without being too heavy handed,” she adds.

Laemmel plans to announce audition info for Selfie during the Showmance run, and the summer show will be another all-ages production.

If You Go This Weekend:

The Theater Bug & Studio Tenn present:
Showmance (March 11 – 13; All ages)
Jamison Hall at The Factory
230 Franklin Road, Franklin
615-541-8200 • studiotenn.com
Times: Fri 7 p.m., Sat 2 & 7 p.m., Sun 2 p.m.
Tickets: $5 – $15

About the Author