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Shawnee Theatre Steps Into The 'Ring Of Fire'

Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson has a long list of stage, film and television credits. During the fall and winter he and his wife Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson are at the center of the University of Illinois Springfield's theatre and drama program. In the summer, the Thibodeaux-Thompsons look for other opportunities. The last two summer seasons have found them at Shawnee.

Meeting In The Middle

"We're very happy to be back at Shawnee-to both be acting and directing in the same place and even at the same time. There have been times when we had to work at separate locations and even some when we were both at the same place, but at different times," says Eric. He is directing Shawnee's opening production, Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Musical Show. "Richard Maltby, Jr. has put together a program of thirty-nine numbers. They're traditional pieces-pieces that Cash wrote-as well as pieces by other composers. But they all have his stamp."

Eric describes the show. "Act One is loosely the front half of his life. It traces his lineage and early history from Arkansas through his marriage. In the second half we explore together the second half of his life. After being married for the second time, vices start to tempt him and other challenges as well. But he does continue to make outstanding music."

Capturing Place And Time

"It's not so much a plot as it is a celebration of the things going on in and around Johnny's life that prompted him to write the songs that he did," he goes on. "They're songs which came from a specific place and time, but ended up being very universally appreciated."

That universal appreciation is enhanced by the production details. "The production stays true to the script, with a concert-style staging that invites the audience to join in with us in sharing the songs-the tough ones, and the fun ones as well."

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