Tinley Park Performing Arts Center explores the ‘Tailgate’

Mike Gandy has more than 40 years of experience acting in, writing and directing plays, many of which have been performed at the Tinley Park Performing Arts Center. His latest original work takes on a topic he’s very familiar with — hanging out with the guys.

“Tailgate,” which runs from Oct. 1 to 9, is a humorous look at a group of six friends and their trip to a Notre Dame football game, based largely on an Adventure Gandy had with his own group of friends.

“I don’t care how old you are, when you get together with a group of guys, you revert to being that 10-year-old kid,” Gandy said. “You’re just having fun, joking, teasing, arguing and laughing.

“So it’s about six guys having a great time going to a Notre Dame football game, but it’s really about friendship and what that means as you get older,” he said.

This is the third play Gandy has written and directed — the other two were also based on personal experiences and produced at the Tinley Park Performing Arts Center. He’s found success Mining his own life for stories with universal appeal.

“When I started writing plays, I asked experienced writers whether or not I should embellish this or that, and they would tell me not to,” he said. “Just tell them the truth. That is the funniest. That is what people can relate to, and that’s what you want to do as a writer. I’ve always remembered that, and it’s served me well.”

“Tailgate” tells the day in the life of a group of friends starting at 7 am and ending at 3 am the next day, as they travel to the football game and spend time together. It Highlights how men behave differently when they’re in a group alone.

“Men talk and act differently when they’re in a group,” Gandy said. “I’m sure some women will ask their boyfriends or husbands, ‘Do you act like that?’ There’s adult language and insulting each other and talking about topics that aren’t done in front of the kids or their spouses. But it’s the way that men communicate.”

“Tailgate” was initially scheduled to debut in 2020, but the pandemic-caused pause gave Gandy more time to refine the work.

“I’m very happy with where it’s at right now,” he said. “Getting the cast just right is a worry in a play like this, and we’ve got a group that’s pulling it off. There’s a lot of freedom in doing a show that’s never been done before — nobody has any expectations of what to expect. Nobody’s thinking, ‘I originally saw Gregory Peck in this role.’ It’s a blank slate for everyone in the audience.”

Directing a play he wrote has also been a fun part of the process for Gandy.

“When you write a play, you think what you’re writing sounds good on the page, but you don’t know it until it goes to an actor,” he said. “An actor actually puts life into the words. And then it’s, ‘oh my gosh, that’s even better than I thought it would be’ — or, ‘boy, I’ve got to change that.’ It’s what makes creating a play so unique.”

The characters in the play — and on Gandy’s original trip to Notre Dame — are all in their 50s and 60s.

“Aging is one of the big themes of the work,” he said. “They talk about what’s going on in their lives, whether it’s work, marriage, children. But they’re also still a bunch of guys who still want to be a kid and have a few Beers and enjoy a football game.

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“I hope I’ve captured the humor and the enjoyment of just getting together and enjoying those friendships,” he said.


When: 7 p.m. Oct. 1 and Oct. 8; 3 p.m.Oct. 2 and Oct. 9

Where: Tinley Park Performing Arts Center, 16801 S. 80th Ave., Tinley Park

Tickets: $12

Information: 708-342-4200; tinleyparkdistrict.org

Jeff Banowetz is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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