Change underwear, improve mental stability

Laura Lucas

Laura Lucas

The world premiere of the new musical, Group, is on Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Fishback Studio Theatre.

Group was created by Aaron Toronto and Heidi Grimsley. Toronto, who is a mental health counselor, first thought of the idea while leading a group therapy session. According to the Web site, “The process of creating Group was much like what Aaron does as a group therapist. The idea began as a simple melodic phrase coupled with a single image: an overly anxious young woman, sitting alone and spotlighted on the stage. ‘I got problems, I got problems,’ she wails.” Shortly after, he teamed up with composer Grimsley.

The story is of a troubled therapy group attempting to conquer one of life’s greatest anxieties: anxiety itself, says the Web site. The tale is a journey through the minds of six panic-attack riddled clients as they struggle to overcome their problems.

“The show handles the material in a good manner,” said Christina Harty, a sophomore communications studies and theater major, who plays Alex.

“She’s very excentric. She tries hard to hide her true emotions,” Harty said.

Other characters include Dr. Bloom, played by Nick Castillo, a senior communications major, who is the leader of the therapy group. Dr. Bloom, who comes off as sane, has some issues of his own. Through him, the audience meets his mother, played by Meg Lee- a junior communications studies major- and Sigmund Freud, played by Wes Haskell- a junior communications studies major.

His clients include Alex, Trent, Marta, Harry, Ben and Mel. Trent, played by Nolan Hayes – a senior speech communications major – is the tough guy of the group and Marta, played by senior music education major Kate Wismer, is the tough girl. Their personalities make for some conflict during the sessions. Harry, played by Will Reinbold – a junior visual and performing arts major – is “a sweet, nervous, caring and awkward type of guy,” said Reinbold. “Ben, played by Gavin Nachitgall, a senior communications major, is self-conscious, witty and depressed.”

Last is Mel, played by senior music education major Emily Humke. “She is the newest member to the group with the most anxiety,” said Humke. “I worked with Aaron a lot on the character. It’s not an in-your-face musical; it’s more realistic acting. It’s a challenge to make the acting real and not showy,” Humke said.

According to the Web site, Toronto has other projects, including two theater pieces: The Perfect Kiss, a musical comedy, and Restless Miracles, a play. He lives in Brookings with his wife and son. He also won a $3,000 South Dakota Arts Council Artist Grant for the development and world premiere production of Group.

Grimsley also lives in Brookings with her husband and daughter. She has also directed the music for and accompanied 40-plus stage productions for South Dakota State University, Prairie Repertory Theatre and for the Midwest 4-H Performing Arts Troupe.

The show runs Feb. 27 through March 8 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee on March 1 at 2 p.m.

As the Web site says, “When you’re one step away from crazy, sometimes all you can do is sing.”

#1.882775:75027804.jpg:group_mg.jpg:Senior music education major Emily Womke, sophomore communications studies and theater major Christina Harty, senior music education major Kate Wismer, senior communications major Gavin Nachtigall and junior visual and performing arts major Will Reinbold rehearse for the world premiere of the new musical Group on Feb. 27.:Mike Goetz