Behind the Scenes at the Lima Region Community Theater

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LIMA – When we buy tickets to see the latest show at a community theater, we have the pleasure of just showing up and enjoying the show. We usually don’t think about the time and effort that goes into it.

An average community theater production takes four to eight weeks to put together. From lead roles learning their lines to sets and costumes being designed, it takes almost the time of a full-time job to get ready for the show.

Speaking of time …

Barry Blake first joined the cast of Encore when his daughter, Hannah, wanted to be part of Encore Theater’s July production of the musical “The Little Mermaid”. He had been heavily involved in productions when he was younger, but he was shocked at how much time he had to devote to playing Grimsby.

“I think that’s just the challenge we all have to do – it kinda sounds like the old story, but we work and go to school and do everything and still coming here and doing the rehearsals and learning the lines on. the side, ”he said of the hardest part of being involved. “I think people should realize how much effort the average Joe puts in to get there, all on a voluntary basis.”

Madison Downing, a senior at Shawnee High School, is running Encore’s “The Jungle Book Kids” this weekend, while maintaining her schoolwork and school play.

“Right now I go to school, then 3 to 5 p.m. train at school, then 5:30 to 7 p.m. I come here,” Downing said of his timetable. “The rehearsal ends at 7 am, but I didn’t finish until 8 or 9 pm before each child left. Then at home for about half an hour to an hour, I finish stuff.

Downing started performing with Encore at the age of 9 and has appeared in 27 productions with the company. She has already participated in the co-production and staged her first play last year with Encore’s “Aristocats Kids”.

“My mom understood once, and she said to me, ‘You literally do plays nine out of 12 months.’ Sometimes I do plays in school and that at the same time,” he said. Downing. “I’m always like, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’ But I really like doing it. It’s stressful, and I always think I can’t do this, or it won’t work. not, but you like it, so you put up with the stress of it all, and it ends up working.

Downing said she plans to continue acting and / or producing in college, but mostly in community theater, they all have full-time jobs.

Chris Butturff works full time on the Kerns Fireplace and Spa sales team, but always sets aside time to star in three or four productions a year. He serves on the board of directors of Encore and the Wapakoneta Theater Guild.

“When you do a show, it’s a full-time hobby,” he said. “You’re there Sunday through Thursday, usually for at least a few hours a night, and the average rehearsal period is four to eight weeks before a show opens.”

Bring the characters to life

Vickie Beining leads costume design for many of Encore’s larger productions. She led a team of a few volunteers through “The Little Mermaid” in July and is back on this weekend’s show, “The Jungle Book Kids”.

Beining said she creates costumes for six productions a year between Encore, the Wapakoneta Theater Guild and a few local high schools, including Spencerville, where her daughter-in-law is the musical director.

“It brings the character into character, if that makes sense,” Beining said, explaining why she devotes so much time and effort to perfecting each costume. “For this production (‘The Jungle Book’), when the kids finally come out in their monkey or elephant costumes, that’s what makes them really excited.”

For “The Little Mermaid,” Beining was joined by five other volunteers to sew and make costumes for 40 people, some of whom had two or three costumes throughout the show. Much of this group also helped with Van Wert Civic Theater’s “Assassins: The Musical” and returned to Encore for “The Jungle Book”.

“If I say they’ve been here 300 to 400 hours making these costumes, I would underestimate,” said show manager Christa Manning. “Everyone comes, and they see this (the end product), but they don’t realize how much is behind it.

Once the costumes are finished, the actors must then bring them to life.

Anna Kahle played Ariel and said this part was so much more than the average challenge just to learn her lines and music.

“The hardest part for me is trying not to be the Ariel movie,” Kahle said during her rehearsals in July. “I know there are going to be little kids here who are going to expect a certain thing, and I’m obviously not an animated character. I try to do my best to bring it to life in my own way and to remind me that they will love it no matter what.

Bringing a character to life is even more difficult when they’re not human. Joshua Gooding, who played Ariel’s trusty advisor Sebastian, said he studied many of Mr. Krabs’ videos from “Spongebob Squarepants” just to see the animal’s movements.

“Representing a crab is totally different, and I wanted to find out what it’s like to be on the fantasy side of things,” Gooding said. “His personality is definitely different from mine. He is more aggressive, more talkative and more open about his feelings. I am not so much. Developing this has been a challenge for me, a new experience.

Downing had similar difficulties with his “Jungle Book” cast, which is made up entirely of children aged 6 to 14.

“It was hard to get them to act like animals sometimes, mostly because I didn’t make them crawl on the ground and stuff,” she said. “I’m trying to get them to move like a snake, and they don’t know what that means, so it’s about the movements of animal types and trying to figure out how to show them how to do this stuff. They got it, but it took a little while.

Bring the whole thing to life

Another way to bring a production to life is to use the set – which, again, adds even more work.

“I feel like the costumes really show what they look like, but the set makes it more realistic,” Downing said. “I saw a version, and they just painted the wall and it was just the kids. I think it’s more about immersion – like you’re in a movie theater, and it’s a 3D view of everything rather than just the kids being the 3D element.

Christa Manning, who directed “The Little Mermaid,” also directed Van Wert Civic Theater’s “Assassins” earlier this month. “Assassins: The Musical” combined the stories of nine characters who assassinated or attempted to assassinate US presidents. In order to bring together the different time-period stories of John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald and others, the production was written to take place within the same frame.

“This takes place in a carnival, and you have these two basic storytellers, one who is a balladeer and the other is more as a circus leader,” Manning explained. “It breaks down into vignettes of the actual shootings and tells why these people did it.”

Manning even incorporated live gunfire from the era of the blank-firing replicas that the theater rented.

“It was very important to me that we used guns that were replicas of what they had used in history,” she said. “We scoured the internet and found a company we were able to hire them from. “

Why submit to it?

The reasoning is always the same as that of Downing: everything revolves around the love of the theater.

“It’s just about the fun of acting and creating art, challenging myself to be a different person and walking in their shoes,” Butturff said. He has been involved in regional theater since 1996. “As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to be an actor, whether professional or not. I lived in Columbus and had a failed career in management, so when I came back to the area I said if I come back I’m going to get involved in acting. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, so I auditioned for a play at the Encore Theater.

Butturff said a lot of his very close friends were from the theater, and he even convinced some of his non-theater friends to give it a go, and they loved him. For most people, it is this sense of community that is important to them, regardless of their age.

“I think it brings together so many people here, people that I wouldn’t always talk to in a school environment,” Downing said. “There are kids here who are really good at sports, and then there are kids here who don’t have any friends at school, but they come here, and I’ve never had a problem with it. children who do not get along. There have always been people welcoming each other, and I really like that. I have always had friends here. If I felt like I didn’t have friends at school or something, I could always come here, and that was good.

Madison Downing, a senior at Shawnee High School, conducts Wednesday in practice for “The Jungle Book Kids” by Encore Theater, being performed this weekend at the Lima Theater. “I’m always like, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’,” Downing said. “But I really like doing it.”

Vickie Beining sews a costume during the dress rehearsal for “The Jungle Book Kids” at the Encore Theater on Wednesday. “It brings the character into the character, if that makes sense,” Beining said.

Joshua Gooding, left, led the ensemble as Sebastian singing “Under the Sea” for “The Little Mermaid”. “Representing a crab is totally different, and I wanted to find out what it’s like to be on the fantasy side of things,” Gooding said.

The children rehearse on Wednesday for their production of “The Jungle Book Kids” at the Encore Theater in Lima.

Costumed characters perform a dance routine Wednesday for “The Jungle Book Kids” at the Encore Theater, Lima.

Young actors and actresses mark the end of a song during a dress rehearsal Wednesday for “The Jungle Book Kids”. at the Encore Theater in Lima.

Community theater takes time, passion

Contact Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.


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