The Playhouse on the Square in Jacksonville is set to debut a new play in October that was written, and is being directed, by Jacksonville resident Allen Stare. The show, “Monster Millions,” will open on October 6 with a six-performance run. Show dates are October 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. with matinees at 2 p.m. on October 8 and 15. The run is sponsored in part by the First National Bank of Arenzville.
“Monster Millions” follows the lives of a 40-something couple from Ohio who win a Powerball-style lotto jackpot in the fall of 1994. The couple is fictional, but everything that happens to them leading up to, and following, their big win is based on real stories of Lotto winners from the past three decades. The play is a comedy, but as Stare says, “for most people, there’s nothing funny about winning the lottery.”
Stare said the inspiration for writing the show was fueled by his fascination with stories about bad decisions made by Lotto winners. “Every time a big jackpot rolls around, news outlets will do a story about the ‘lotto curse.’ Most winners of a major prize go bankrupt within five years … it’s a huge number, over 70 percent.” But, as Stare says, losing it all is just a small part of the problem. “Something seems to break in a big winner’s brain … they start gambling, they get involved with drugs or crime … they make monumentally bad money management decisions … they get ripped off constantly … and a lot of them wind up either dead or in prison.”
Stare says the show is a comedy, but it explores some of the darker aspects of winning a huge jackpot. “You really can’t tell this story without bad things happening to good people. Everything that happens in the show has really happened in some way to a winner. I tried not to get too dark … but our happy couple does wind up in some really awful situations because of their big win. We also touch on the social and economic impacts of winning … what happens when you instantly go from being a middle-class everyman to one of the richest people in your state? It can be overwhelming!”
Stare says Rich McCoy, owner of the Playhouse on the Square, has been very supportive of the new show. “Rich literally handed me the keys to the place and said, ‘What do you need?’ He is incredibly supportive of theater in this area and, to say thanks, I would love to sell out every performance. He doesn’t do this for profit. He does it because he loves theater…and most months he’s just paying the bills. If we can sell out our run, he said we could cover his expenses through the end of the year.”
Stare says he has assembled a great cast for the ‘world-wide debut’ of “Monster Millions.” Kevin Klein and Sissy Brown are the winning couple. Darin Gehrke is the winner’s best friend who just might have a couple of “business ideas.” Nick Hester plays the winner’s son and Julian Evans is his best friend … who also has some ideas for the money. Katie McDannald, Brad Besson, Donna Stare and Chris Proffitt round out the cast of friends and associates. Barb Gatlin is working as assistant director and stage manager.
Stare says tickets are on sale now. “They’re $10 each, all shows. You can get them at Our Town Books on the square next to the theater, or reserve by calling 217-491-3977. We will also have them at the door … but I don’t recommend waiting. Reserve them now. We can seat 80 at a show and some performances are already half sold. I don’t see many tickets being left by the time we open.” Due to some language and content, this show is not recommended for patrons under 12 years of age.