Hands on a Dream
- By gentleguide
- On Sat 02 Jun 2018
Hands on a Hardbody, presented beginning June 8 up in Jefferson, is truly the American Dream in action: the musical is about ten people trying to win a brand new truck. The truck in question represents different things to each contestant, and winning would make their dreams come true. Like those Texas residents in the contest, History Boy Theatre Company has big dreams in the most unusual of places.
There’s another dream at work here besides the story of Hands on a Hardbody and Robby Pederson is the dreamer trying to make it come true. He’s lovingly crafted his business of handmade furniture creation and restoration in Jefferson, and filled his shop and warehouse with amazing and authentically accurate furniture creations from various eras. But he’s also a huge theatre buff, and in addition to furniture, there are a large number of theatre seats found in the back of the warehouse… and, of course, a stage to perform on for the patrons in those seats. History Boy Theatre Company is Robby’s baby, Robby’s dream. He presents shows often not found in the area… and certainly not in rural Iowa.
Starting the Engine
Robby has gathered together a number of friends and family to help make his dreams come true. Samantha Schmidt is one of the producers of Hands on a Hardbody (after having been everything from onstage performer to general gopher for previous productions). “I love all the ‘hats’ that I wear here at History Boy,” says Schmidt. “I began my journey here behind the scenes doing sound, somehow I found myself on the stage, then finally under certain circumstances I began filling the roles of producer. Any more everything just seems to flow together. I absolutely love being on stage, but I am always happy to help anywhere around the theatre.”
“For many things Robby and I work hand in hand to fulfill all the needs for a production. In the case of Hands on a Hardbody we of course held auditions doing what we could to get the word out there. Of course we aren’t always able to fill all the roles just from auditions. When this is the case we begin making calls to people we think would be a good fit for the role and put out notifications that we are looking to fill roles.”
“As for the truck, we did that in true History Boy fashion. We first had to flatten our stage from the 2 levels we typically have to one level by basically building an entirely new temporary stage right over top of it. This gives us the room to move the truck around. The truck itself has been our biggest project. After much contemplation and researching we decided to build the truck ourselves, out of wood!”
Ready to Ride
Kat Buttler is another of the people who have become wrapped up in the History Boy dream. Starting as a marketing director for their production of the western musical Johnny Guitar last summer, she became a co-producer and caterer for their holiday show Don’t Hug Me last December. With Hands on a Hardbody, it was time to venture onstage. The stories of each of the characters simply touched her heart.
Kat tells us why. “Each character wants to win the truck for different reasons. Transportation, money for college, mending a marriage, forgetting a marriage, a new life in a different state. The truck itself isn't just a truck, it's a new life for each one in the contest. The contest itself is a ray of hope in each of the contestants' lives, hope for a better life.” The video below shows each of the characters and gives a look at their individual dreams.
“When we decided to produce Hands on a Hardbody for this year's June production, I knew right away I was going to audition for the role of Norma. Norma's character drew me in with her faith and kindness and I just had to play her. Hardbody, to me, is about faith, not just Norma's. All of the characters are having personal struggles, jobs, marriages, etc. and many of the characters are struggling with their faith or have lost it completely and they end up facing their doubts and fears during the competition. I see a little bit of myself in each character as I have been in similar situations in my own life; however, Benny's story is especially surprising to me. I don't want to ruin it for anyone, but his end story makes me cry.”
“My previous knowledge of the show was pretty limited,” say producer Schmidt. “And by limited I mean I had listened to the cast recording probably about 100 times and watched every clip that was available on YouTube! I instantly knew this show was something special and knew it was something we just had to do here. It’s truly a History Boy show. We are able to make this show our own by the design of the set, the choreography, and by asking each actor to fully develop their character. We definitely have some awesome things going on with this show.”
“The music to Hands is AMAZING! It is such a great variety, the flow through it fits perfectly. People need to know that this isn’t just a show about winning a truck. It’s real, it’s things people can truly relate to. It’s about having faith, losing faith, restoring faith, and finding God. It’s a beautiful story.”
“Hands on a Hardbody is such a unique show, the ups and downs and the realness of it all makes it a must-see. You are guaranteed to get goosebumps. It fits with what History Boy does and is all about. Putting in the work is beyond worth it to give people who may not normally get to go to a theatre a great piece of art.”
Hands on History Boy
You can feel the love the performers and others associated with this production have for their craft, and for the others they have discovered in working with the group. This is the real result of the dream, and why they all keep coming back for more. Kat Buttler loves being a part of it all.
“I think History Boy has so many repeat performers,” says Kat, “because 1) it's fun!, 2) Robby's love of the theatre is contagious and 3) I think spreading a little joy and hope to others, even only for a couple hours, gives the performers a sense of accomplishment. It gives the audience something to think about, to take a night off from all the chaos in their own life to enjoy a little love and laughter, even if it is only on a stage. Hopefully, they take a piece of the show home and work on making their own life a little better.”
“I wish more people knew about History Boy Theatre. I know it's not a big venue, but that's what makes it special. It's up close and personal. You become part of the show whether you intend to or not. You come to the theatre a member of the audience and leave a member of the family and you can't wait to come back for the next 'reunion.'”
So, hop in your truck (if you’ve already got one) and head over to see the History Boy production of Hands on a Hardbody. You’ll win a terrific experience, become a part of a new family, and discover a gem hidden in the middle of small-town Iowa. Shows run Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm and Sunday matinees at 2pm from June 8 - 17, and the theatre is part of the Historical Furniture Shop and Museum located at 115 S. Wilson Ave. in Jefferson. Tickets are available through their website or by calling 515-370-5369.