Bluff City Theater's 2019 season – from February to August - offers six productions carrying out this year's theme: The American Experience.

Bluff City Theater's 2019 season – from February to August - offers six productions carrying out this year's theme: The American Experience.

The theater, at 212 Broadway in Hannibal, is coordinating its season with Hannibal's Bicentennial, according to Joe Anderson, artistic producer and executive director.

The season will open Feb. 9, with the “Tom Chapin Family Concert” from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and “An Evening with Tom Chapin” from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The next production, opening March 21, will be “The Interrogation of Nathan Hale” by Captain John Montressor of HRH Expeditionary Forces, directed by A.C. Freeman.

Anderson explained, “We’re looking at the motivations that led a group of people to rebel against the greatest and most powerful country in the world. What is the country Nathan Hale believed he was helping to build?  Why did he believe so powerfully in it that he was willing to give his life freely to make it happen?”

The April play will be “Shame The Devil, An Audience with Fanny Kemble.”

Play dates begin April 18. Anderson described it as a “powerful story of how one woman helped to emancipate both herself from an abusive and controlling husband and America from the evil institution of slavery. … “Shame The Devil”gives us an important insight into one of the people who continued to shape America almost 100 years after independence.”

A special production – based on a true Hannibal story - will open June 20 with seven dates in June. This is “The Insane Sisters OR the Price Paid for Challenging a Company Town.” It will be performed on June 20 to 22 and June 26 to 29.

Calling it the world premiere of “an exciting new play based on actual Hannibal history,” Anderson reported Clark Cruikshank wrote the script, based on the book by Gregg Andrews of Hannibal.

“It tells the story of how two sisters lost everything, including their freedom, when they challenged the trinity of corporate interests, community leaders and the unstoppable power of social progress,” Anderson said.

The story began in 1903, when Atlas Portland Cement Company built a plant in the small community of Ilasco, south of Hannibal. In 1910, when Mollie Heinbach inherited her husband’s tract of land that formed much of the proposed town-site, political leaders and others sought to overturn the will on the grounds that she had exerted undue influence on her husband while he was in the advanced stages of alcoholism. The play chronicles the seven-year legal battle between Mollie, her sister Euphemia, and those who sought control of the land and traces the dire consequences the sisters suffered at the intersection of gender, class and the law.

The July production, opening July 18, is a comedy, Anderson said, “based on a little-known novel by Herman Melville.”This is “The Almost True and Truly Remarkable Adventures of Israel Potter,” which Anderson described as “a satirical romp through history as seen through the eyes of poor Israel Potter.

“Featuring a talented cast of improvisational actors, you’ll meet an array of historical characters as Potter is thrust from one improbable situation into another.” It will be directed by BCT regular and Second City Toronto Alum Herbie Barnes and stars 2018 Princess Grace Foundation Honorarium winner Erick Lindsey in the lead role.

“We’ll close the season with a brand-new musical by BCT Music Director Colin Healy,” Anderson said. It opens Aug. 15. “Set to the strains of St. Louis-style jazz and blues, 'Madam!'is based on a real person and real-life events as it explores misogyny, class-structure and morality in post-civil-war St. Louis. This is Colin’s fifth original musical.”

“Madam!”will be directed by NYC and St. Louis-based Sydnie Grosberg Ronga as she returns to Hannibal.

The theater offers season tickets online at eventshannibal.com or by phone at 573-719-3226.

bev.darr@courierpost.com.