A dusted-off, 20-year-old script is about to become a world premiere production at Rochester Repertory Theatre.
“Three Hots and a Cot,” developed two decades ago by Debbie Fuehrer and Theo St. Mane along with inmates at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, will debut Jan 11 at the Rep.
Fuehrer said she came across the script last year. “I called Theo and said, ‘Hey, remember when we were going to do that on the outside sometime?’” she said.
Yes, St. Mane did remember, and he was only too anxious to get to work on a public production of “Three Hots” outside the walls of the prison. The play has only previously been performed in a workshop version by inmates at the FMC.
Now, with a cast of local actors, some script refinements and new music written by Greg Hintermeister, “Three Hots and a Cot” is ready for an ‘outside’ audience.
The play came out of a counseling program Fuehrer ran at the prison for 12 years. But it wasn’t easy. “I had to convince the Bureau of Prisons why this would have therapeutic value,” she said.
Once approval was obtained, the script was built upon suggestions from inmates about their daily life.
“We took all these stories and experiences and put them together in the script,” St. Mane said. “Right from the start, these guys though it should be told more with humor than drama.”
It would have to be in order to be palatable to a general audience, one suspects.
“We want audiences to see these people, to see that we share humanity with them,” Fuehrer said. “To see what they go through. I can tell you I’m still haunted by what I saw there.”
The idea, St. Mane said, is that “People are people.”
The all-male cast consists of Jake Dreher, Sean Lundberg, Mitch Gibson and Alexandro Rox as four main inmates, backed by a chorus of Luke Langseth, Theo and Chuck St. Mane, Dominique Jones and Raymond Festen. Dylon Starr is an inmate balladeer.
Despite the subject matter, Theo St. Mane said, “People aren’t going to come out of this depressed.”
“We have enough humor in it,” Fuehrer said.
The staging of the play, so long after it was originally developed, has been rewarding, St. Mane said.
“I’ve been doing theater in this town for a long time, and this is one of the most exciting projects I’ve been involved in,” he said. “This is a career highlight for me.”
The Rep is advising that this show is not appropriate for ages 16 and younger.