The world premiere performance of a riveting romantic comedy, “Back Porch,” will debut at the Victory Theatre Center on Friday, June 2.
The production, which was written by Eric Anderson, is set in a small town in central Kansas where portions of the classic 1955 movie “Picnic” are being filmed. An impactful series of events unfold after “Picnic” star William Holden’s stunt double, Bill Holman, (Jordan Morgan), encounters the local Opat family: a widowed father named Barney (Karl Maschek) and his sons, 18-year-old Gary (Isaac W. Jay) and 13-year-old Del Wayne (Cody Lemmon). Also starring in the play are Jonathan Fishman as Millard Goff, a neighbor of the Opats, and Eric Zak as singing teacher and boarder Myron Uhrig.
Bluestem Productions is the media production company behind “Back Porch.” David Willis and Kelie McIver are producers of the project, and McIver is also its director.
“Back Porch” was in part inspired by real-life occurrences, as certain scenes of “Picnic” were shot near Anderson’s hometown when he was 4 years old. “Picnic” is a film adaptation of the story by playwright William Inge, who was a Kansas native. Aside from “Picnic,” Inge’s celebrated works include “Bus Stop,” “Come Back, Little Sheba” and the 1961 film “Splendor in the Grass.” Like Inge, Anderson is originally from Kansas, and he has paid homage to Inge’s enduring legacy with “Back Porch.”
“I’d always liked Inge’s plays, especially because they were set in my home state of Kansas,” Anderson said. “Around the time of his 100th birthday — although he died in 1973 — I devised a way to honor him by writing ‘Back Porch’ — a sort of funhouse mirror of ‘Picnic.’”
Throughout the course of his career, Inge was closeted. Anderson, who is an openly gay playwright, noted how the plot of “Back Porch” explores themes that were taboo during Inge’s lifetime.
“I like to think —and I’d like the audience to think — that in ‘Back Porch’ I wrote the kind of play [Inge] might have written had he lived in another time and place,” Anderson said.
Maschek is a Burbank local who has resided in the area for over two decades. “Back Porch” is his fourth time appearing in the world premiere of a stage production. He calls the process of developing a character for an initial performance “a thrilling and creatively fulfilling experience.”
When taking on the part of Barney, Maschek utilized knowledge from his own life as a father, as well as someone who was raised by a single parent. Additionally, he carefully built a detailed account of Barney’s life to portray the character with authenticity.
“What I enjoy most about creating a character includes imagining and inventing their history, which colors who they are: where they came from, their education, dreams, goals, family history, previous relationships, and personal points of view,” Maschek said. “All of that helps create an understanding of who Barney Opat is, considering when the story takes place — the 1950s — what Barney wants, both out of life, and from the others in the story, and what’s at stake for his family.”
Leading up to this appearance, Maschek has acted in shows and films such as “Saved by the Bell: The New Class,” “Men at Work,” “No Other Way” and, most recently, “Missing Person Finders.” The actor says he’s found it “an honor and a privilege” to be carrying out a major role in Anderson’s play before the Burbank community.
“It’s an incredibly exciting creative and collaborative experience, and I’m grateful to be a part of it,” Maschek said.
He added, “… This production opening in Burbank at the Victory Theatre Center is extra special for me because for the first time, I’m able to work on stage in the community I love.”
Showings of “Back Porch” will take place on Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 4 p.m. beginning June 2 through July 9.