Corn Stock will 'bare' social issues in winter season opener

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A musical with the title of “bare” is tantalizing enough, but the fact it is being presented in Corn Stock Theatre’s Winter Playhouse, where edgy is the norm, may tip the curiosity scale for many.

At least Deric Kimler hopes it does.

Kimler, making his Corn Stock directorial debut with “bare: The Musical,” said there is so much to the message this show presents to its audiences that he wants as many to see it as possible. It is, he added, “a show that everybody needs to see, one that every theatre needs to do. I’m just happy Corn Stock is doing it.”

“bare: The Musical” is the opening show of Corn Stock’s winter season and it opens Friday at the Winter Playhouse in Upper Bradley Park. It will play six performances; Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., then Oct. 2, 3 and 4 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 5 at 2:30 p.m.

The briefest of synopses about “bare” say it is a pop opera that centers on two gay high school students and their struggles at a private, Catholic boarding school. But Kimler said it is much more than that as it looks at issues of obesity, teen pregnancy, drug use, interracial relationships and other issues that tend to test the tolerance of many parents and those with a conservative lean.

“Its message is one that really should have been done here 20 years ago. It talks more about adults and how they put their kids into a box when they are in their prime learning age. It’s sort of like the Disney effect and how we all eventually grow up and find out it just isn’t true. Corn Stock is the perfect place to do this show,” Kimler said.

While the play is about high schoolers, the leads are portrayed by adults. Kimler said the sex scenes in the play, while not revealing in any way, are challenging and heavy. The play itself can be viewed as a downer, which may turn some potential audience members away.

“I know some in our cast are a little nervous about their family members seeing the show. But I challenged the cast to discuss it with the person they are most nervous about and invite them specifically to come to the show. Many have and I think they will be surprised,” Kimler said.

As has become somewhat customary at CST’s Winter Playhouse with controversial plays, there will be a talkback after each performance of “bare,” led by Dr. Lori Russell-Chapin, associate dean at Bradley University and head of its psychology master’s degree program. “I think this show will dig up a lot of skeletons and if people don’t want to bare their souls at the talkback, we will have brochures with tips on how to reach somebody who can help,” he said.

There are 17 in the “bare” cast, headed by Austin Gruber as Jason and Jeremy Kelly as Peter, the students who secretly date. One is a sports star; hence, the secrecy. Other leads are Bree Carroll as the popular and misunderstood Ivy, Beth Ann Evers as Nadia and Farris Abou-Hanna as Matt.

The school officials are headed by Jasmyne Providence portraying the nun Sister Chantelle and Scott Moore as the priest.

Gruber and Kelly agreed that while Corn Stock has done edgy productions at its Winter Playhouse before, they think this show will be unique. “It’s a musical, but it is heartbreaking. It gets to you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything done here like it. I hope people will be excited to see it,” he said.

Kelly said the challenge for him in “bare” is that he is playing a character unlike those he normally plays. This character is quiet, more reserved than, say, the role of the hippie Berger is Corn Stock’s production of “Hair” two years ago. “But it’s a role I really enjoy getting to dive into and it’s a deep story. It’s a story people should see,” he said.

Added Gruber, “It’s not a story about gay and straight. It’s a love story at heart that deals with image issues and how people are perceived.”

Kimler praised the entire cast for taking the dynamic of their character, working with it and turning it into their own. “There is now a weak link in this show,” he said.

Maggie Sloter directs the five-man rock group that accompanies the cast.

Tickets for “bare” are $15 for adults and $10 for students. They can be reserved by calling (309) 676-2196 or online at

The rest of the winter season includes “November,” the political comedy written by David Mamet, which will be performed Oct. 17, 18, 23-26; “The Shape of Things,” a comedy that looks at seduction as an art, scheduled for Nov. 14 , 15, and 20-23; the drama “Other Desert Cities” scheduled Jan. 23, 24, 29. 30 and 31 and Feb. 1; “Humanity Stew,” a series of short comedies written by a local playwright, set for Feb. 13, 14, and 19-22; and the bloody comedy “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” March 20, 21  and 26-29.

Winter season tickets are on sale for $50.


About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).