It takes a lot to be a good actor. Many acting techniques, such as voice projection and movement on stage, can be learned and finessed, but extraordinary natural talent comes, well, naturally, and cannot be taught. It is what makes great actors stand out.
However, every actor has to start somewhere. Recently, two grandchildren were cast in a high school production of “Sound of Music.” The granddaughter has always been interested in acting. She talked her younger brother into also trying out, though he had never performed before. The lad got the lead role of Captain Von Trapp and his sister one of the Von Trapp children.
It was somewhat in awe that we watched the production on its final day. The singing, dancing, costumes and set were all impressive for a high school production. What was most surprising was the confidence with which the grandson portrayed Captain Von Trapp when he had never done anything like that before. Singing “Edelweiss” solo was the crown jewel of his role.
As we all know, there is a robust presence of theater here in the Methow Valley. The next Merc Playhouse production is the Christmas classic, “The Nutcracker,” which will run from Dec. 2-11. (Tickets available at mercplayhouse.org.) Every performance such as this requires memorization skills, persistence and stamina in order to put in the time and effort to make the play the best it can be. The roles in this spoken adaptation of the holiday story are played primarily by children who, along with directors Jane Orme and Missi Smith and the technical crew, have put in hours and hours of hard work.
One of the actors, 12-year-old Edelweiss resident Rowan Kelley, will be playing the role of Candy Cane. This is her second role in a Merc play. I asked Rowan what she likes about acting. “It feels good to make the audience laugh,” she begins. “When I’m on stage pretending to be someone else, it almost feels like a superpower.” Way to go, Rowan; it is a superpower in my book!
There are opportunities to give acting a try by auditioning for parts in upcoming plays. Auditions will be held for “Beauty and the Beast” on Dec. 5 and 6 from 4-5:30 p.m. for performers age 8 to 18. This will be a presentation of The Tom Zbyszewski Children’s Theater in March 2023, again directed by Jane Orme.
Tom Zbyszewski had roles in nearly a dozen Merc productions from 2010-13. The date Aug. 19, 2015, is memorialized every year in the valley as the date Tom and two other firefighters perished while fighting the Twisp River wildfire. Tom was one month shy of his 21st birthday. To honor his memory The Merc established the Tom Zbyszewski Children’s Program Fund in his name. Donations to the fund support children’s theater, scholarships and other youth programs at The Merc.
For 45 years, Methow Valley Theater has been producing live theater in the Twisp Community Center. Founded in 1978 by my horseback riding friend Susan Lagsdin, this theater group has produced a wide variety of well-known plays such as “Oklahoma!” and “The Seven Year Itch,” to lesser-known plays such as “Artichoke” and “Pump Boys and Dinettes.”
In 1995, the play for the year was “Wizard of Oz.” By all accounts, under the direction of Theresa Miller with the help of “Methow Valley as a Classroom,” the community center was filled with “an amazing cast of all ages from our community.”
The board decided to bring the play back for a 25th anniversary in 2020. Guess what? Yes, another pandemic casualty. Now they are back on track for late spring 2023.
Methow Valley Theater board President Nadine Van Nees and Secretary Maggie Wicken will be directing the play. Nadine commented that the difficult part of casting a play in the valley is the overabundance of talent and enthusiasm for theater. “It’s difficult when you have to select just one person for a role from such a deep talent pool,” she said. Now that’s a problem a director should like having!
There are many other opportunities for helping with the production from costume and set builders, stage manager, light design and technicians as well as a children’s director/assistant. Call the director at (509) 429-0454 for information.