The Jubilee Theatre aims to define its voice in the Waco theater community this weekend with a production of “The Last Five Years” beginning at 7:30 tonight. The musical by Jason Robert Brown explores the failed relationship between Cathy, a struggling actress, and Jamie, a recently successful author.
Both characters share their side of the story with the audience, but with a twist. Jaime recounts the relationship from beginning to end, while Cathy begins with the couple’s divorce and works her way backward. The two characters interact only once onstage, singing a duet when their timelines meet in the middle.
Cameron Dinkens, who plays Jamie, said he thinks most audience members will cast blame on one character or the other as the plot develops.
“The challenge has been to find a way to portray Jamie so that the audience doesn’t completely antagonize him,” Dinkens said. “I’m trying to show his vulnerability and his motivation for why he does what he does.”
Dinkens said there’s a lesson to be learned from Cathy and Jamie’s story. When people allow life to get in the way of nurturing their relationships, they tend to suffer.
Although he had to commute two and a half hours for each rehearsal, Dinkens said the commute was worth it to perform in a show written by one of his favorite composers.
“It is absolutely breathtaking and wonderful to listen to,” Dinkens said. “[Jason Robert Brown] is so skilled at capturing human emotion and what the mind is going through at a given moment.”
Lauren Weber, a lecturer in Baylor’s department of theater arts, plays the role of Cathy. She said the show captures the kind of heartbreak that everyone goes through.
For this show, the Jubilee Theatre partnered with Therapy CenterStage, an organization that uses the fine arts to talk about mental health issues. Weber said that a counselor from Therapy CenterStage helped her better understand Cathy’s emotional state.
“‘The Last Five Years’ is a really beautiful story about humanity,” Weber said.
Before starring in this show, Weber composed and directed several children’s plays as a part of the theater’s community service. She said the Jubilee holds a special place in her heart.
The theater itself used to screen adult films before the nonprofit organization Mission Waco acquired it in 1994. Mission Waco now leads children’s theater programs in the renovated space and uses theater as a way to discuss social issues.
Waco first year graduate student Trent Sutton, who is pursuing a dual degree in divinity and social work, has been the Jubilee Theatre director since November. He began volunteering at the Jubilee as a sophomore teaching children’s theater classes.
Sutton said theater is an extremely useful tool for ministry, although most people never see it as anything but entertainment.
Sutton said he intentionally cast Jamie and Cathy as an interracial couple because the Jubilee puts an emphasis on the importance of diversity. Sutton said every theater in Waco has its own voice, and diversity it an important part of the Jubilee’s.
“We want to be known for a certain intentionality in regards to diversity and issues that need to be discussed,” Sutton said.
Sutton felt that “The Last Five Years” was an ideal spring show because a cast of only two characters was easy to manage. This gave Sutton the freedom to focus on developing future projects like revamping the theater’s technology and expanding the reach of their children’s programs.
The Jubilee Theatre will put on its first full season of shows in the fall, which Sutton said will include at least five productions.
“We’re trying to carve out a space for ourselves within the Waco community,” Sutton said. “The Jubilee Theatre, for me, is a really unique place.”