the only fun part of being in jail
By Reader Staff
Lesbian heroin addicts, jilted wives-turned-convicts, bipolar identity thieves: Just about every character in “The Clink” is carrying some serious baggage.
Even the lead character Fifi, an average 25-year-old cheesecake enthusiast, is transitioning from youthful immaturity into adulthood. To top it off, she and her husband are struggling with infertility. A DUI conviction and two days of jail time don’t help matters.
For Kristin Cooper Herby, the hardships mirror her own as a young adult. But even the worst circumstances have a silver lining. Her 48 hours of hard time inspired “The Clink,” a musical drama-comedy that crystallizes laughs, pathos and life lessons into an evening of entertainment. Already a hit in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane, the play makes its Sandpoint debut at the Panida Theater in early February.
For Herby, inspiration came in staggered bursts. From the beginning, she recognized its potential as an art project.
“I just kept thinking, ‘Gosh, that would be a great concept for a musical play,” she said.
It didn’t hurt that her father, Tom Cooper, had about 40 years of musical theater experience under his belt. He started in the 1970s on a series of historical operas and musicals, most prominently a dramatization of the Lewis and Clark expedition. When Herby begged Cooper to help develop her concept for a musical, he eventually agreed. The play materialized in bits and pieces—a lyrical phrase here, a dramatic exchange there—until there was enough material to perform one scene at a time.
One of those performances caught the eye of John Allred. A man with extensive theater production and management experience, he immediately offered his help in shaping the production. Eventually he came on board as director and contributed a keen visual sense to the set design and overall aesthetic.
“I don’t think we would have brought the play to full production as early as we did without him,” Cooper said.
One of Herby’s primary goals was to leave audiences with memorable characters simultaneously eccentric and familiar.
“All these women are struggling with different things in life as we all do,” Herby said.
Stacia Bruner plays Deana Lacoco, a woman awaiting trial for the attempted murder of her husband after she discovers with another woman. Lacoco was particularly tough role to cast for the creative team until Bruner sang a few lines over the phone with perfect pitch, Cooper said.
Faith Mitchell is Norma Rae Strong, a heroin addict nabbed for buying drugs from an undercover cop. Strong is a closeted lesbian who hasn’t yet come out to her parents.
Morgan Keller plays Lula, jailed for an identity theft scheme gone awry. As a sufferer of bipolar disorder, she struggles with her lack of friends and family connections.
Anika Bryceson rounds out the primary cast as the main character Fifi. Cooper said they were quickly won over by the actress’ perfect mix of naivety and enthusiasm.
Finally, Martin Sanks contributes a smattering of supporting parts, including Fifi’s husband Dan, the booking officer and Judge Crawford.
Herby and Cooper hope Sandpoint audiences find a little piece of themselves as they follow the cast through moments of humor and tragedy. A production fueled entirely by passion and a love for art, “The Clink” fills its tiny jail cell with big heart.
“It’s like holding a mirror up to people, and they’re seeing aspects of their lives in one form or another,” said Cooper. “You know, the play ends with good news and hope, and I think those are compelling themes.”
“The Clink” is scheduled for performances at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7. Tickets are available at Eichardt’s, Pend Oreille Arts Council, at the door and online.
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