“Oh man – I lived this! I was this kid’s age during World War II – it really affected me. I was 15 years old in 1945, like Charlie,” muses Ron Newell, the director of Clague Playhouse’s “What I Did Last Summer.” Opening Friday, September 23, 2016, “What I Did Last Summer” is a memory play, or a flashback that takes place near the end of World War II at a summer cottage on Canadian side Lake Erie, outside of Buffalo, NY.
With a cast of six, it’s about young teenagers growing up during the war, and how military men being far away affected their families. It also challenges social ideas about class and differing philosophies.
“I can vividly see and remember that time, how it was when we were watching the Movie Tones or listing on the radio… and I can see these kids, and I can see their parents,” says Newell, explaining how he can place himself directly into the story through his own life. Newell identifies most with the character of Charlie (played by Alex Cummiskey).
The story unfolds. Charlie and his mom Grace (Micki McNiece-Yackin) are at their summer cabin. His dad is in the Navy, away fighting the war. The family members become an example of how people take on extra responsibilities like paying the bills, doing extra chores, and trying to keeping up with life in the absence of a male head-of-household. Wives get lonely, kids get bored, the world is different.
Down the road and through the woods is an artist woman called Anna Trumbell (Bernice Bolek). Although she comes from the same upper class “WASP” society as Charlie’s family, she’s turned away from that “leisurely” cotillion life and has her own rebellious kind of existence.
When Charlie needs a summer job, Anna is the one to hire him, as she needs help taking care of her land. Suddenly, Charlie is exposed to a different kind of view on life: a life that’s more outspoken, more socially and environmentally conscious, more philosophical and creative.
Newell has taken a cinematic in my approach to the production, making little scenes that are connected in some way, but that can each can stand on their own.
Letters, posters, photographs and the American flag set up the sights of the war. The sound effects of planes, bombings, and political speeches attune the ears to the era. Songs of the decade play throughout the show – “Don’t Sit Under Apple Tree,” “Accentuate the Positive,” “Moonlight Serenade,” “Pistol Packin’ Mama” and more give the soundtrack.
“There are a lot of monologues in this show. And each character gets a chance to break the fourth wall, each starting with the line “this should be a play about me”,” says Newell.
Share the journey with Newell, the cast and the crew. “What I Did Last Summer” opens Friday, September 23, 2016 at the Clague Playhouse, located at 1371 Clague Road in Westlake, Ohio.
Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 P.M. and Sundays at 2 P.M. Tickets will be $16 for adults, $15 for seniors (60+), and $10 for students (any age with a valid ID.) Season Subscriptions and individual tickets can be purchased by visiting or calling the box office at 440-331-0403 Wednesday through Saturday from 1–6 P.M. Also, for the first time, Clague Playhouse tickets are available to the general public 24/7 on line through our web site (www.clagueplayhouse.org) or the Facebook page.