Sunday, March 25, 2012

Why do we do this?

Who would choose on purpose to skip or rush through dinners for weeks on end, get home after 10 p.m. every night exhausted and ready to flop in bed, collect so many bruises that you don’t know where they start and end or where they came from, ask your spouse to do all the childcare for a month, miss your loved ones, throw family dinners out the window, abandon the laundry and the housekeeping, and feel exhausted most of the time? And then when it is over, subject yourself to the blues where you feel malaise and exhaustion for days to come?  The answer:  your neighbors and friends who love community theater.  Putting on a production takes an inordinate amount of work, but it’s worth it. 

Having just finished Saline Area Players’ production of The Carol Burnett Show, I asked myself, and my fellow castmates and crew…. Why in the world do we do this?  I mean there must be a reason that we put ourselves through this incredible ordeal.   The answers I got were rich and thoughtful.

One says “I have found that I am rarely happier, more comfortable, more truly myself than when I get to sing, act, and (only when necessary) dance on stage. There is something akin to magic when cast and crew come together, bringing a piece of their hearts and souls to the stage. Something comes alive among us - and having the audience there magnifies it. It is as though a whole world is created there, and having a hand in bringing that about feels like nothing else I've ever done. And when it is finished, we each get to take a tiny piece of that world - and of each other - home with us. My life is immeasurably enriched by those I've met. I wouldn't trade such a treasure for any amount of mere earthly wealth.”

Another says “I find theater folk to be incredibly generous people. We give of ourselves emotionally and physically to people we hardly know, or don’t know at all, in order to truly bring our characters and their stories to life. We have to put every bit of ourselves in front of people…We give our audience and fellow cast members whatever we can to tell the story and make ‘em laugh (or cry, whatever the case may be.) So, I’ve always found it a pleasure to work with theater types, present company, especially, included! … Working together on a production, while often exhausting, is a worthwhile way to spend one’s time when the outcome means that [many people] get to be taken away from whatever life is throwing at them into a place of joy!”

In answering the question, “why do I act?”, another says… “Some people pretend to be someone they're not for at most a few hours a day…And they bound it by saying, ‘Rehearsal or performance happen at this time and the stage is in this place.’  Other people live almost all of their waking hours pretending to be someone they're not. Which of these is more healthy?”

And another says… “For me it gives me the opportunity to use skills that I have little opportunity to employ at home.  It allows me to spend time with some people that I know and enjoy, and to meet new ones that I never would have met otherwise.  I enjoy the camaraderie, the gatherings after, the parties - it all adds spice to my normal mom/wife role.  …. I grow as a person through the course of a production - I am able to be more of an individual instead of a person filling a role (mom, etc.), no matter how important the role may be, and I can take pride in what is accomplished.  I enjoy being part of something that gives so many people pleasure.”

Another comment…. “Being a part of these theater shows (on or off stage) feeds a part of me that nothing else can.  It's not the attention or applause (which are great), but the whole process, constant changes, quick thinking, and immense creativity that physically and mentally can be a drain or a stimulant!  Now that the show itself is complete, there is an emptiness that can only be filled by the next opportunity.”

These responses were amazing…  And, finally, I asked myself my own answer to the question I posed?   From the behind-the scenes angle, I like bringing people together…perhaps it is my social worker background or my age in life or my upbringing, I like mentoring people and watching those individuals who have an interest, develop new skills, grow, and find a niche.  It excites me.  And I love the closeness that comes with many people working together for the same goal.  And there is a thrill for me in seeing my publicity efforts go out and create a buzz.  And for the onstage part, I love the challenge of taking on a totally different character, which is more interested than my real self.  And, I’ll willingly admit that I love making people laugh… it gives me a high that nothing else can.

Another reason … “It’s fun!”  There are many reasons that we do theater.  There have to be, to balance the huge time commitment, the bruises, and the suspension of “real life” for awhile.   But it is worth it!

If anyone is interested in seeing what opportunities are available for you in Saline, check out the Saline Area Players website at  And, if you’re so inclined, leave a comment on this blogpost about why you do community theater.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jr. Theater presents The Marvelous Misadventures of the Munchkinland Mayor

I popped into the rehearsal for the upcoming Saline Community Education’s Junior Theater production of The Marvelous Misadventures of the Munchkinland Mayor and experienced a fun twist on the Wizard of Oz written by Saline’s own Brian Cox. The show is directed by Rebecca Groeb-Driskill, with choreography by Kristen Hall, and music direction by Linda West Klepacyzk.  Leo Babcock created the sets.  The junior theater is comprised of kids from grades 1-8 and does one show per year, a winter musical.  I’ve caught many of them and am always struck by the talent of the kids in this town.   The show is March 23-25.

The rehearsal I saw was a “rough run” in which that they were going through some of the show in a short time, putting the pieces together, which is always a bit rugged since all the transitions haven’t yet been worked out.  I saw a snapshot of what will be the full production.

Meredith Zehnder plays Dorothy.  At one point, a new line was added for her character, which she said with such beautiful expression the first time that she is clearly a natural.  I don’t want to give away one of the twists of the story, but suffice it to say that in this version “Hollywood got it wrong”.  The Mayor of Oz, Jon-Michael Taylor, plays a prominent role in the show and he demonstrates ease on stage along with great diction and fine expression in his portrayal.  The lion to be played by William Kiningham is appropriately cowardly and faints extremely well, and the Tinman, played by Gregory Pool, portrays his character with tenderness and some good scared shaking.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the scarecrow who was sick that day, but I loved watching one of his stand-ins, Mackenzie Piche, who is normally cast as a guard and played her role with great enthusiasm & expression, tweaking her performance each time she was on stage.

The choreography is lively, with lots of fun steps, jumps, and creative hand movements.  You could tell that all of the kids felt ownership with their parts and played them with gusto.  The flying monkeys were some of my favorites that day.  Even though some of them are smaller than the lion, tinman and scarecrow, they bounded on stage with their noisy, menacing, peskiness that all but made up for their size.  The monkeys are being played by Jeff Blair, Drew Denlinger, Jimmy Lancaster, and Collin Wagner.  Munchkin Edwina, played by Miranda Patterson, delivered her only line with so much energy and animation that she shone!  I didn’t get to see the costumes except for a glimpse of a “tree,” but it was very creative and green!

During a certain part, the witch is scheming among the poppies, trying to figure out whether to squash Dorothy and her cohorts like bugs or perhaps to poison them.  Elaina Veasey, who will play the Wicked Witch of the West, was crafting her witchy-ness during the rehearsal.  To my delight, Rebecca asked me to come up and give them a demonstration of some witchy cackles and dialogue.  I had the honor of playing the witch in 2006 under her direction when Saline Area Players produced it.  I cannot tell a lie…there’s nothing like being put on the spot and, uh…well…loving it…. and the kids seemed to too.  Who doesn’t like an appreciative audience?  Interestingly, I talked to Sara Foley, who is playing a lovely and graceful version of the good witch Glinda in this production, who happened to be a munchkin in the 2006 production.  She remembered me and said that I scared her back then.  Ahhhh ha ha ha ha ha haaaaa! 

In my short time at the rehearsal, I was struck by the huge amount of energy that the kids showed, their naturalness on stage, which is telling considering that for many this is a first experience, their willingness to try new things, and their devotion to the production and working hard in whatever part they played.  The little moments were divine and will make the show.  Also, the voices are beautiful and, I won’t give away the finale, but will tell you that I’ll be bringing my tissues to the show.

Performances are March 23 & 24 at 7:30 p.m. and March 25 at 2:00 p.m. at Liberty School Auditorium.  Tickets are $5 and are available at the door.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Opening NIght

"Joyce" and "Marion" ... from As the Stomach Turns

Opening night of The Carol Burnett Show: Your Favorite Sketches was a success.  I can't write a review since I was in it... but I can tell you that it was great to hear hearty laughs and an overwhelming wonderful response from audience members afterwards.  

Some of the comments I heard.....

"The dentist put me in stitches."
"I saw those mutton chops and I lost control" from the man who literally fell out of his chair laughing last night
"It was super funny" from a SHS student
"Everything was great"

Enjoy some of the pictures from backstage!  For more information, go to

The Insurance Adjustor
The Prison Nudge
Rat and Melody

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Show Week in Saline

For those not actively involved in community theater, tech week is the term used for the week leading up to opening night of a show when the theater group moves into the actual performing space.  This is TECH WEEK for The Carol Burnett Show: Your Favorite Sketches with the Saline Area Players.  Excitement and nervousness are in the air.  Up until now, we’ve all been working on pieces of our production and this is the week when all those pieces come together as planned and that overall vision of what the show will look like happens…. hopefully.  It is the week when tempers are at the ready and everyone is working overtime trying to put finishing touches on things and scrambling to find alternatives when plans don’t work quite as predicted.

In this show, most of us have a collection of costumes that we’ve been collecting to wear in the show.  I have 5 different outfits, at least 4 pairs of shoes, one wig, 8 pieces of jewelry, and one interesting headpiece.  Others have more.  We’ll be sharing the basement of Stone Arch Arts and Events for our dressing room and finding private nooks and crannies where we can change and keep our costumes, make-up, wigs, and accessories all together.

We’ve also been collecting props… a few of the interesting ones include:  two office intercoms, a hypodermic needle, a variety of cigars, jewel-studded fly swatter, a stethoscope that points out, a videocamera, a tacky velvet painting, a birthday party hat, a “how to be a dentist” book, fresh linens, and barbells.  Sooner or later, all these props will all be in the same place and make their appearance in the show.  Some of them appear in more than one scene so will have to migrate from one set to another and hopefully find their way back to where they started.    Some of the props are referred to as “personal props,” ones the actors bring with them on stage.  Stage managers remind cast again and again during tech week to check their personal props before going on stage. Others are pre-set on the stage before the action, like the coffee pot with the matching cups and saucers.  Some will be kept in little tubs denoting which scene they are for.

Then, there is the furniture for the show.  How do you find furniture for 11 scenes and 5 commercials and keep it all straight?  And how can you find ways to use something more than once so that you don’t have so much extra stuff hanging around.  For example, in a 1860-era scene the audience will see the back of the period-appropriate couch.  In another scene, it will be turned forward and covered with a tacky afghan to depict a home in the 1970s.  Same couch, but totally different uses… and looks!  See my blogpost “transforming sets” for pix of other set pieces that will perform dual functions.

Then there is the set itself.  Performing 11 scenes consecutively is quite a challenge.  In this show, the audience is in essence the “studio audience” of a television show.  As on a TV set, there will be more than one stage, so the audience will be directed to the current stage where the action is going on, while the others remain dark.  Each set will have walls behind them that are a neutral color.  To change the scene, the set decoration will change.  For example, there is a photograph of a grandpa-looking man with a long beard, rather scary really.  One set will have pictures from the 1970s.  Another will be an office and have the appropriate pictures on the wall. A desk may be switched out for an easy chair and a bookcase.  The stage crew will re-dress each stage to give the right look. 

Did I forget to mention the lights and the sound?  The lights will be mounted onto two lights poles with some additional lights added as needed.  The sound system will include all the multiple sound effects used in the show… let’s see there is a fly buzzing, a horn honking, so many doorbells I can’t keep track, a carriage coming down the road, and lots of funky music to match the action or the mood of the scene.

This is an exciting week for the cast and crew of The Carol Burnett Show: Your Favorite Sketches performed by Saline Area Players as we prepare for opening night on Thursday, March 8.  The only element that we can’t prepare for is the audience that is also a part of the action.  No performance is the same because the audience is always different.  You can be part of the action too… tickets are available at