In a room above a daycare center on a Wednesday evening in Norman, two kings, two knights, a duchess and a lion meet to argue about whether they should wear spots or stripes.
The group is the lead cast of “Spots and Stripes,” an original musical that will premiere in Norman on March 29. The show is about two medieval cities so divided by their choice of emblem they become enemies. Knights are then sent by each city in an attempt to unite the two and prevent imminent war.
OU communications professor Pat Meirick plays King Zutan of Spotsburg in the show after learning about it from friends at St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in Norman. He said the show’s central theme is one of empathy.
“These are people who have demonized each other for so long and been out of contact with each other for so long that they really have no idea how similar they really are,” Meirick said.
In June 2017, a public reading of “Spots and Stripes” drew an audience of over 100 people in Norman, according to a press release. The show received funding from the Norman Arts Council and an Indiegogo campaign later that year, and rehearsals began this February. Those involved in the musical rehearse wherever they can. The room above the daycare center is one of only three places the cast meets throughout the week.
Local musicians Gregg Standridge and Brian Eads co-wrote “Spots and Stripes,” originally intending for it to be performed as a rock opera. The support of the Namron Players, a local theater organization, enabled them to rewrite the show as a musical. Standridge said the show was inspired by the prejudice and harshness of the modern political environment, and he wanted to create something that encouraged people to listen to one another.
“I think what we’re trying to do is just really present how ridiculous it is to not like somebody just because they wear stripes — or not like somebody because they’re of a different race,” Standridge said.
Although the show was inspired in part by those political and racial tensions, its cast is more homogeneous than its themes would suggest.
“We have a lot of different ages, but it is mostly a white cast,” Standridge said. “Honestly, we didn’t get as much diversity as we wanted to.”
Even so, Standridge said he still hopes the musical and its message will have a positive impact on audiences.
“It’s probably not going to shake the world,” he said. “But maybe some little kid will see it and think, ‘You know, it’s really silly they don’t like each other because they’re wearing spots or stripes.’”
Charles Reeves, who plays King Mollus in the show, said he appreciates the musical’s greater message but remains focused on producing a high-quality show that people of all ages can enjoy. It is, after all, a show with animals that talk and sing.
“It’s like a fable,” Reeves said. “Kids love them, but there’s a point that we can all learn from.”
“Spots and Stripes” will be performed at 7 p.m. March 29 through 31, with an additional matinee performance at 2 p.m. March 31. All performances will be held at Longfellow Middle School, located on 215 N. Ponca Ave. in Norman. Tickets for the show are $10 for all ages and will be available for cash at the door or in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.