On the bus with '21A'

One-man show highlights eight characters
By Stina Sieg | Jan 14, 2013
Photo by: Stina Sieg Tim Stoeckel plays Gladys — and many others — in the one-man show "21A," starting this Friday at the Feichter Studio.

As we go about our daily lives — with all our mistakes, revelations and lessons learned — it’s easy to feel like many people live in our heads. Doesn’t everyone have an inner old lady, drunk and socially awkward youngster? Tim Stoeckel certainly does — especially as he nears the end of the rehearsal process for “21A.” In the one-man show, the 25-year-old plays no less than eight characters, all of whom happen to be riding the same bus.
In a recent conversation, Stoeckel, who just graduated from Western Carolina University with a major in theater, explained that he first fell hard for this show when he saw it as a teenager. Now, a decade on, he’s getting ready to tackle it for the first time in Haywood Arts Regional Theatre’s Feichter Studio.

When you First saw this show, what touched you about it?
The diversity of the characters, first off, which is what’s so compelling about it. And I’m very much of a character-based actor, over the top.

Can you describe this play in a sentence?
It’s a play that’s all about tolerance — yeah, tolerance — and the diversity of people is what it’s about. We wouldn’t contribute to society unless we were all different.

Do you have a favorite character?
I love them all equally. They’re all just beautiful — beautifully written … I do love playing Chairman Francis a lot. He’s a young missionary from Boston who comes on the bus trying to sell his product.

Does doing this show make you feel a little schizophrenic?
Definitely. There’s absolutely no way to sugarcoat that at all, and especially during this rehearsal process.

This being a one-man show, has it been hard not having anyone to, you know, play with onstage?
It’s been a struggle. It’s been great to have the freedom to explore characters on their own terms. It’s been fun being able to explore the actions I think the characters should take … on the other hand, it’s been difficult not having any feedback at all. Then again, having this whole place for an hour just to make people laugh is a dream.

Which of these characters do you most resemble in real life?

Probably Gladys (an old woman), in a weird sense. She’s just as entertained talking to herself as anybody else … When she’s not talking to herself, she’s always looking for some kind of audience, so I can look to that as well.

What do you think this show brings to this area, to HART?
I hope it will — I don’t know how to say it without saying it — I hope it will allow people to realize they can be as creative as they want, especially in a space like this (Feichter Studio), that they have that freedom.

Does it feel kind of delicious to have this show all to yourself?
Yeah, delicious but scary … and you know that some jokes will land and some won’t. No, I take that back. They’re all going to land, and it’s all going to be perfect (laughing).

The Feichter Studio’s premier show this season, “21A,” runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan.18 and 19, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20. Productions are often held over for a second weekend. For tickets, call the box office at 456-6322 and leave a message on the theater’s answering machine or visit www.harttheatre.com. Be forewarned that “21A” does have some adult themes and language.

Feichter Studio at a glance

This is just the beginning of the Feichter’s season. There is plenty more intimate theater to come, often including productions that are a little riskier and with more of a niche audience than the large-scale productions HART puts on during its regular season.

Feb. 1-3 — “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenaged Blockhead”: A tale of the Peanuts gang all grown up. The show follows the cartoon crew as teens and highlights all the pain, joys — and substances — they might be experiencing 10 years after their comic life.

Feb. 14-17 — “I Do! I Do!: A classic Broadway musical that illustrates the ups and downs of a couple who has been together 50 years.

March 1-3 — “Falsettoland”: A modern musical about a bar mitzvah and a life-threatening illness, both of which happen to be hitting a family at the same time.

March 15-17 — “Purgatorio”: A two-person play full of drama, anger and the quest for redemption — not to mention a relationship that isn’t fully explained for many scenes.

April 6-7 —”The Medium”: A family-friendly, hour-long opera with singers from Western Carolina University and music and works from Gian Carlo Menotti.