If you're thinking about becoming a producer for a local community theater, you might want to visit the GE Theatre at Proctors or The Linda in Albany to see just what can go wrong.
At Proctors, the folks at the Classic Theater Guild are doing "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," and at WAMC's The Linda, a production of "Scrooge in Rouge" is being mounted by Confetti Stage. Both are Christmas shows with themes focusing on the trials and tribulations of putting on a community theater production. The CTG production began Wednesday and will run through Sunday, while at the Linda, Confetti Stage is putting on just two shows Friday and Saturday.
"You have a lot of church groups and communities putting on Christmas plays, and it seems like no one really wants to be in them," said Glenn Read, who is directing "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" for the Classic Theater Guild. "And the kids you do get aren't really excited about being in the play. They'd all like to be someplace else."
To be sure, Read is talking about the plot of the show, not his own personal experience. Classic Theater Guild as well as Confetti Stage have both been honored by the Theatre Association of New York and both turn out classy productions. Read, however, does admit he did have a few second thoughts before taking on the role of director for "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."
"I'm used to dealing with adults and haven't done too many shows dominated by kids," said Read. "And, I'm usually doing courtroom dramas or something like that. I haven't done a lot of comedies so I knew that would be a challenge."
Fortunately, Read says, his experience with children working on this show will keep him coming back for more.
"Kids are like sponges; they pick up stuff very quickly," he said. "When you're directing an adult, you'll ask them to try something different and you'll get the same thing. You ask one of these kids, and they're really ready to try something different. When we started this project it was a bit like a summer camp, but the kids have done very well. I'm very excited to see how the whole thing is coming together."
At The Linda, "Scrooge in Rouge" is about a production of "A Christmas Carol" that goes wrong. First produced in New Orleans in 2007, the play was written by Ricky Graham with help from Jeffery Roberson, Yvette Hargis and Jefferson Turner. Disaster strikes a small theater company preparing to do its annual Christmas classic when 20 members of the cast - leaving just three - are struck with food poisoning.
"It's set in an English music hall in the 1890s," said Robin Leary, who plays Vesta Virile, a male impersonator who must handle the role of Scrooge and others in this show within a show. "There's a note in the script that says any gender could play Vesta. I wanted to do it because I haven't had much of an opportunity to do a show like this. It's a comedy, a very broad acting style that allows you to go over the top a little bit and engage the audience and that sort of thing. It's a very funny show."
The show is being directed by Sean T. Baldwin and joining Leary on stage are Adele Costa, Kyle Johnson and Brett Jordan. The music director - there is some singing and dancing in the show - is Emily Scimeca and Marissa Reimer handled the choreography.
"The supposed audience has come to see their annual production of 'A Christmas Carol,' but they find out right away that's there's only three actors instead of the 20 or so," said Leary. "Apparently, male impersonators were a big thing back in the 1890s, and my character is named after a real person, Vesta Tilley, who became a big star in both the U.S. and United Kingdom. My character ends up playing Scrooge, and like I said, I haven't had this kind of opportunity before.
"I really appreciate Confetti Stage doing a show like this," added Leary. "It's a wonderful show, but it's one that a lot of the bigger community theaters might not try."
At the GE Theatre, sharing the stage with a bunch of very young actors will be Kendon Brown as Mr. Herdman, Mary Kirsten as Grace Bradley, Seana Munson as Mrs. McCarthy and John Reheuser as Rev. Hopkins. Harper Donnelly, a seventh grader at the Bethlehem Middle School who played Scout in a CTG production of "To Kill a Mockingbird" last year, plays Beth Bradley.
"The woman who normally runs the Christmas Pageant has had an accident, so its' Grace Bradley, the mother of Beth, who takes over the show," said Read. "The Herdman family has gotten involved and nobody likes them so that creates more problems. Some of the kids are actually afraid of them so that makes them more reluctant to be in the show."
Read doesn't want to give away too much, but as you might expect with a Christmas play dominated by children, all things end well.
"Everyone is eventually transformed by the play," said Read. "All these poor kids end up doing their part, and the show gets to the true meaning of Christmas, redemption."
'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever'
WHERE: Classic Theater Guild, at the GE Theatre at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $20-$18
MORE INFO: Visit www.proctors.org
'Scrooge in Rouge'
WHERE: Confetti Stage, at The Linda, 339 Central Ave., Albany
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
HOW MUCH: $15-$10
MORE INFO: Visit www.confettistage.org