Thanksgiving night will see the return of a Yakima Valley tradition. That night, the Warehouse Theater Company’s next offering, “Little Women: The Broadway Musical,” will open, renewing the WTC’s decades-long effort to bring some holiday hope and joy to families. Yakima. In fact, many families will tell you that their funniest and dearest Thanksgiving reunion was to go to this little theater together after a feast and a soccer game.
Grateful patrons filled with turkey, pumpkin pie, and a spirit of oneness can be among the most supportive community theater audiences one can meet. They also forgive. They will overlook muffled lines or failed signals. It’s a time of generosity, and they generously offer their support.
But for “Little Women” director Brandon Lamb, it’s important that audience kindness is earned, not offered. “I am so excited to be directing our first music production in almost two years! Said Lamb. “It’s such a great piece with beautiful musical numbers, and I want Yakima to be a real treat when they come to the show.”
And as a director, it’s Lamb’s job to build that whole experience from start to finish.
Directors bear much of the burden of a show’s success or failure. In community theater, the director is often the one who puts the play first. They have seen or read a play that touched them in one way or another and they want to share it with a wider audience. If they convince a theater company to bear the cost of their production – in terms of money and time – they do so knowing that they are committing countless hours of work. In the case of the Warehouse Theater Company, that’s countless volunteer hours.
James Edmonson, a 38-year veteran actor and director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore., Once said: “I’ve been acting from my childhood and I’ve been directing from my childhood. adult place. Translation: To play is to play; directing is a job. Oh, directing is always fun and rewarding, but it comes with a fair amount of responsibility.
Unlike actors, directors start working on a show up to 18 months before it opens. Their first challenge is to recruit a production team. Managers need to be the coach of this team, creating the game plan that will lead to success. It takes vision, flexibility, communication and humor. And it requires all of these things before the actors even audition.
Lamb’s rookies for “Little Women” – producer Pat Seely, lighting designer Bill Rathbone, costume designer Mary Kloster, set designer Kristen Clinkenbeard, prop designer Chelle Bos and stage manager Teagan Hedding – are all veterans. from the work of the Warehouse Theater. Since “Little Women” is a musical, Lamb had to add two positions not required for a standard or “direct” piece: musical director Aimee Hostetler and choreographer Carolina Garza. Lamb is especially excited for Garza, a skilled dancer who is now the Yakima Program Director for the College Success Foundation.
“I’ve known Carol for years,” says Lamb. “But this is the first time she’s choreographed a Warehouse show, so I haven’t really seen her working in her natural element – the dance realm. She blew me away working with our cast.
Creating a strong production team may come first, but perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of directing is the casting of the series. The audition process is both a hope and a fear for a director. The hope is that the characters constructed by the imagination as you read and re-read the play will walk through the door. The fear is that they won’t.
Lamb says, “The arts are such an important part of my life. I know I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the opportunities that community theater offers me. And it all started when I first auditioned at The Warehouse 23 years ago. So while it is difficult to select a cast, I know how important auditions can be to people and I really appreciate anyone who auditions for a show.
The auditions for “Little Women” drew what is considered low turnout, as fewer than 20 people tried 11 roles. While this was of some concern to Lamb at the time, he’s thrilled with his cast. “As written, the play calls for a younger cast, but depending on the lineup of the group that auditioned, I needed to play it with more mature actors,” he says. “The result is really strong, and they sound fantastic.”
The entire cast and production crew of “Little Women: The Broadway Musical” will continue to hone their skills as Thanksgiving Day approaches. The lines will be pierced; songs will be refined; the dance steps will be repeated over and over; the costumes will be sewn and sewn; props will be collected; sets will be built; the lights will be focused.
And all the while, director Brandon Lamb will be working from his “grown-up place”: he will frame, shape and shape the show to best meet the vision he has developed.
A vision which, he hopes, will reach the audience of Yakima in their “place of child”.
• Vance Jennings is Executive Director of the Warehouse Theater Company. The company contributes a column in this space every four weeks.