Stealing the Stage
UWEC alum returns to produce original comedy in Eau Claire
Playwright, director, and UW-Eau Claire alum Logan Toftness is bringing her original comedy work back for a new run on the Eau Claire stage. Thieves and Bad, Bad Lies tells the madcap, antics-filled story of two thieves who rob a liquor store then seek shelter in an abandoned, taxidermy-filled, plaid-strewn house in the woods. But when the house’s owner appears – a tea-crazy elderly lady – suspicions run wild and hilarity and madness ensue. “All of the characters are definitely a little bit nuts,” explained Toftness. “They’re all suspicious of each other, and part of the fun is trying to figure out everyone’s secrets.”
Toftness first grew Thieves and Bad, Bad Lies from a single scene created for a directing class into a full, student-run production in 2013. The diverse cast and snappy dialogue routinely pulled in strong crowds during its original run at the Haas Fine Arts Center’s Riverside Theatre.
“I think there’s a desire out there to see theater that’s a little different. We see the same shows being performed over and over and there’s a hunger for new stories to both see and to perform.” – playwright and director Logan Toftness, on staging her original play, Thieves and Bad, Bad Lies, in Eau Claire
The decision to remount the play was a joint one between Toftness and Tabitha Tatro, the only returning cast member from the original production. “Katie is a quick-witted, occasionally cold person who rarely lets people know the real her,” Tatro said of her character, one of the two thieves. “It’s her idea to stay in the house, but she becomes very suspicious of the other characters when she find out that it isn’t abandoned.”
The look and feel of Thieves and Bad, Bad Lies was designed specifically for Eau Claire. The set features a lot of hard wood, plaid fabric, a taxidermy deer head, and woodworking equipment. “You could say the set is its own character,” Toftness said. Designer Cade M. Sikora, who also returned from the original production, designed an even more expansive set for its new run. “Because I wrote it here, it took on the feeling and look of the Eau Claire character that we all know.”
According to Toftness, Eau Claire is proving an effective place to remount the show. The rising artistic culture in Eau Claire is giving new life to Eau Claire’s theater scene. Independent and black-box style performances are becoming more commonplace, and the university is dabbling in more experimental, modern forms of theater. “Eau Claire is very welcoming to new art and artists. Getting a rehearsal space is considerably easier here than in the (Twin) Cities and working with the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild has been extremely helpful,” she said. “We had a lot of younger people audition, which I think shows that Eau Claire has a strong and rising independent theatre scene.”
Toftness also expects that the play’s themes will go over well with Eau Claire audiences. “The play contains some LGBT characters, topics, and subject matter,” she explained. “One of the play’s major themes is love. The relationships you see may not be what you expect.”
“I think there’s a desire out there to see theater that’s a little different,” Toftness said. “We see the same shows being performed over and over and there’s a hunger for new stories to both see and to perform.” Because Thieves is mostly unknown to Eau Claire audiences, and to encourage people to see an original work, it was important to Toftness to keep ticket prices lower than the area average.
Thieves and Bad, Bad Lies is presented by Toftness’ theater company, Speck of Dust. If this run is successful, Toftness expects that there will be another production of Thieves in the future.
Thieves and Bad, Bad Lies • Aug. 11-12, 7:30pm; Aug. 13, 1:30pm • The Grand Theatre • $15 general admission, $10 for kids • Find it on Facebook