“Blemished” musical opens in Bend

Local playwright sees her contest-winning work come to life

By David Jasper / The Bulletin

If you go

What: “Blemished, a Musical”

When: Opens at 7:30 tonight (6:30 p.m. champagne reception); additional performances 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Thursday and May 9-10; matinee at 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: 2nd Street Theater, 220 N.E. Lafayette Ave., Bend

Cost: $19, $16 for students and seniors

Contact: www.2ndstreettheater.com or 541-312-9626

Katelyn Alexander was about four years into writing her first musical when she got wind of Playwrights Platform, an exciting competition for emerging theater scribes launched last year by Stage Right Productions.

The contest sought new plays for possible production at 2nd Street Theater in Bend, which is run by Stage Right. A panel of playwrights, actors and directors pared entries down to four finalists, and in October, two scenes from each of the final four were presented at the theater.

Based on combined voting by judges and audience, Alexander emerged as the victor.

The 24-year-old Bend native wrote the book, lyrics and music for “Blemished, a Musical,” which includes 11 songs exploring the sounds of the 1920s — jazz tunes, torch songs, Latin rhythms and more.

The play follows the story, and heartache, of Meredith “Mer” Carmichael, a former cabaret star who marries a pastor named Hosea, a kind of clueless man.

The seeds of doubt in her marriage and faith are planted in Mer’s mind when someone from her past comes back into her life.

“We enter the story in the middle of their marriage, where she’s very unhappy in her marriage and her husband is very busy with the church,” Alexander told GO! Magazine last week during a rehearsal break. “She runs into an old fling and sparks fly. And so it’s kind of the story of (her) being pulled between two separate worlds.”

Alicia Wood stars as the young Meredith Carmichael, and Janelle DeCelles as an older version of Carmichael. Jason Jones is Hosea.

Alexander, who earned her Associate of Arts degree in music in 2011 from Central Oregon Community College, said she was inspired by the biblical book of Hosea, though “Blemished” does not directly follow Hosea’s storyline.

“The premise of that story is there’s this prophet in the Bible, and he marries a prostitute. I was so fascinated with this idea of the combined worlds and really wanted to explore that. Biblically, what the story represents is redemption, unfailing love,” Alexander said.

“My goal with this was to kind of explore this concept without making it heavy-handed,” she said. “I don’t want people to leave feeling like there’s a message being shoved down their throats.”

The show’s ambiguous conclusion should enable the audience to draw their own.

“I feel like the ending gives the audience that,” she said. “They get to decide, because the show ends on a question. And I want the audience to have the freedom to go, ‘What happens next?’”

As for what happens next with Alexander and her musical, a discretionary grant awarded by the Deschutes County Commission to Stage Right and 2nd Street Theater will help promote “Blemished” with marketing materials and a professional-quality video of the show, and will also be applied to future world premieres at the theater. For those keeping count, this is 2nd Street’s seventh world premiere.

Playwrights Platform will likely be returning, and may focus on 10-minute one-act plays, according to Sandy Klein of Stage Right Productions.

“Blemished” is being directed by David DaCosta, whose idea it was to start Playwrights Platform. Ben Larson serves as musical director and will lead a four-piece band through the show’s two-weekend run, which begins tonight (see “If you go”).

Larson also helped orchestrate and arrange music, Alexander said.

“He’s been a pivotal part of this. He’s actually the person who encouraged me to start writing and mentored me along the way, so it’s really fun that he now gets to be the music director for the show,” she said.

It’s been “kind of surreal” seeing her work come alive on stage, Alexander added. “It’s like ‘Whoa. This is crazy. I can’t believe this is actually happening.’”

— Reporter: 541-383-0349, djasper@bendbulletin.com