We’re excited to have some new cast members joining us for the re-boot of Mary Poppins! New to the stage for the October/November 2020 production:
Billy Bishop (Park Keeper/Bank Chair) was a part of the original Poppins team as the costumer. However, he is happy to be on stage this go-round and is thrilled to be playing the role of a lifetime: that of Hans Boeschen.
Corey Langley (Northbrook) is pleased
to play the role of Northbrook in Town’s production of Mary Poppins. “It’s
been awhile since we’ve all been back in the theatre. Thank you to those who
continue to support us.”
Christy Shealy Mills (Bird Woman) is
delighted to resurrect the bird woman from Mary Poppins 2015. When
she isn’t feeding the birds, she enjoys teaching dance to students at Town
Theatre, and other branches of SC Music and Dance Academy. Thanks to
Shannon for this opportunity and to Honey for supporting her theatre addiction.
Kendall Scruggs (Lead Sweep) is happy
to be a part of the Poppins re-boot after appearing in the 2015
production. Other Town shows include Willy Wonka, Beauty and the Beast,
Joseph…, Tarzan and Peter Pan. Kendall enjoys spending time with
friends, Camp Greenville and is a dancer at Columbia Ballet School.
Hannah Thompson (Mrs. Banks) is thrilled to be joining the returning cast
of Mary Poppins. Hannah appeared most recently in Town’s production of Into
the Woods as The Baker’s Wife. Before joining the Town community, Hannah
received a degree in Music Education from Belmont University and a Master
degree in Voice Performance from The University of South Carolina. Hannah also
spends her time at Town co-directing the Town Tween Troupe and teaching voice
First, we hope that everyone is doing well. We have missed “doing our thing” so much. It has been a long six-plus months since we have held a production in our space. However, we now have the “go ahead” from the state to operate at a reduced capacity. So, to keep Town Theatre alive and operating for the next 100 years, we are moving forward. Visit our Mary Poppins page for details!
Please take a minute to read this information carefully. We think you will be pleased to know some of the precautions that we have taken to operate safely.
We have air purification systems in the house, in the Moreau Youth Theatre Wing as well as the dressing rooms that use needlepoint bipolar ionization (NPBI) technology to deliver clean indoor air.
We now have a ULV Cold Fogger and HOCl maker – allowing Town to generate and distribute disinfectant on site. The Town auditorium can be cleaned in 15 minutes. We will also fog props, the set, backstage, dressing rooms and rehearsal hall spaces. (Think Ghostbusters for the musical theatre world.)
Seating capacity will be greatly reduced with distancing between units. There will be two vacant seats separating each party, one vacant seat in front of you as well as one vacant seat behind you. Our ticketing system automatically will generate this separation. The first two rows will not be available. If you need the wheelchair seat, please let us know.
We intend to use several doors for entry and exit. After you have made your reservation, you will hear from the theatre about your entry and exit point.
Per the City of Columbia and the Accelerate SC guidelines, masks will be worn by the audience while on-site, including during the performance.
Actors will be spaced on stage and will be wearing masks while backstage and in common areas.
First – THANK
YOU. Thanks for hanging in there with us as we continue to navigate the
unknown. Of course, we have more questions than answers it seems, but we have
been fortunate in so many ways. I wanted to update you on a few things with the
information that I have available to me.
Midlands Gives Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 5, is Midlands Gives. This is a community-wide day
of giving. We know that everyone is in a different place right now, but we
think it is important to seek support for the theatre from those who are able.
We will host our “$20 for Town” campaign again inviting you to make a $20 gift
through the Midlands Gives platform. Click here to make your gift.We received word
on Friday that that we will receive a match of up to $3,000 from The Cheerful
Giver – an anonymous donor. We feel
so fortunate! (And if you so inclined and able to make a gift larger than $20,
of course we would appreciate that too!)
Please know that this ask does not come without understanding
of what a rough time this is for everyone. We sincerely want to find
the balance between the tough situations that everyone is facing and making
sure we can open the doors at 1012 Sumter Street after the pandemic is behind
us. If this is not the right time for you to receive this request, no pressure
at all. We simply present it as an opportunity.
The “State” of Town Theatre
So far, Town Theatre
is hanging in there! The quarantine has created job loss and a great deal of
financial instability for so many. Our heart aches for everyone who has faced a
loss of any magnitude. Town went from a time of incredibly strong ticket sales
in an amazing season of shows to an immediate halt. The theatre was fortunate
to receive a PPP loan which is allowing us to retain our staff and not face
layoffs at the moment.
Our job duties and
descriptions have altered just a bit, but everyone is working as best they can.
We are grateful for the time to tackle some of those “to do” list items that
never seem to get done. We are hopeful that our Midlands Gives event will be
fruitful and that we will be able to generate some revenue from virtual camps.
We’re counting on the return of our shows and in-person camp activities.
But we have no
crystal ball, so we are moving forward with great care and caution – doing our
best to make decisions on a rolling basis. We continue to communicate with
theatres and arts organizations locally and across the country to understand
their best practices upon a return to the theatre. We constantly seek and apply
for any relief funds that might be available to non-profits. We gently
fundraise because we want to find the balance between the tough situations that
everyone is facing and our own goal to stay in business.
Season It is still our intention to complete our 101st season including
our run of Mary Poppins and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. We
must have details on what we can do, when we can do it as well as guidance on
appropriate social distancing before any of those decisions can be set in
stone. When they are – we promise to share our plans with you. As a reminder,
if you had already made reservations for Mary Poppins, you will have the
first opportunity to re-reserve your tickets for our new slate of performance
dates. Once an appropriate amount of time has passed, we will open ticketing
for others. We continue to appreciate your patience as we wait until that time
to communicate about ticketing.
We are continuing
our virtual youth theatre classes through May. In another month we believe we
will have more information about how we can continue to serve our 150 students.
Just like with the 101st main stage shows, it is still our intention
to allow the students to perform when possible. We know that it won’t be
exactly the same as we originally planned, but we will deal with that when
details are provided from our state and local officials.
Summer Camps Next week, we will outline summer camps for the first few weeks in June. These
will be planned as virtual offerings with small groups of students. Classes
will be held via Zoom and will vary in topic. This is a first for us and we
welcome the opportunity to deliver arts education in a new way. If we need to
continue to roll out virtual camps for a longer time frame, we will do so.
We appreciate your
support as we all make this journey together.
Shannon Willis Scruggs Executive Director Town Theatre
Hello Town Theatre families, patrons, members ticket purchasers, volunteers and more!
It has been three weeks since we all had an abrupt change of pace. At the time, we had more questions than answers and while we still have some questions, we do have a little more clarity on how we will proceed. We also thought you might have an interest in reading about what we have been doing to keep things going as best we can.
The shows MUST go on! We are very excited to let you know that we do intend to complete our 101st
season including our run of Mary Poppins and A Gentleman’s Guide to
Love and Murder. When? Well, that is the million-dollar question it seems.
But, once we can be together again safely, we will determine dates for these
performances and will communicate with you about ticketing times. If you had
already made reservations for Mary Poppins, you will have the first
opportunity to re-reserve your tickets for our new slate of performance dates. Once
an appropriate amount of time has passed, we will open ticketing for others. We
appreciate your patience as we must wait until that time to communicate about
Youth Theatre Our youth theatre classes were
running full speed ahead when we were interrupted. Weekly classes for Mary
Poppins Jr., Give and Take as well as Guys & Dolls Jr. came to an
immediate halt. However, just as with our main stage shows, we are committed to
holding these productions. Once dates and times are known, we will communicate with
you about ticketing.
During this time of
being at home, our youth theatre students have remained engaged. We have held rehearsals
for small groups on Zoom and have provided weekly activities for our students
including costume design challenges, dialect exercises and even props building activities.
Members of our Town Teen Troupe created a COVID Containment Entertainment concert
series which you can view on our YouTube
channel. Stay tuned as we hope to share more while we go through this
Summer Camps We do intend to host camps once again this summer! We are holding off on enrollment until we have more confidence on what the end of the school year looks like for our students. Our list of camps as originally planned can be seen here. We are also considering several options with adjustable dates and will share those at the appropriate time. And we are developing a “May Minis” Series of lessons and classes that we will roll out when needed.
Town Theatre Staff Town staff has committed to using this down time to grow. We’re working on some of those projects that have been on our “to do” lists. Technical Director Danny Harrington has created a fun demonstration on how to create a stage model for set design. Check it out! He is also working on set designs for the 102nd season so that we can “make up for lost time” once the quarantine is over. Assistant Technical Director Corey Langley was able to spend some time reorganizing areas of the theatre and our warehouse. He is also currently creating a scenic painting series to share with our students. Youth Theatre Director Megan Douthitt has become well versed in shifting in-person rehearsals and classes to online opportunities. Executive Director Shannon Scruggs has been exploring the ever-changing opportunities for funding in a time of little revenue as well as working with staff, licensing companies, casts and youth theatre families to keep the wheels on the bus turning.
What Can You Do Now? Many of you have reached out asking how you might help. We would truly appreciate your continued support of our theatre during this challenging time. One easy way to do that is to purchase your 102nd Season Membership at the early bird rate. You can do that online here.
Once we have
ticketing dates for the rest of our current season and all our youth theatre
shows, be sure to get your ticket and bring a friend. Live theatre can and will
be such a great part of our restoration process.
If you are able and so inclined, we would appreciate your support as a donor. We were so very fortunate to renovate two of the three areas of our theatre before this crisis hit AND we did so without adding any debt. If you still have a portion of your pledge outstanding, are you able to make an early or an extra payment? Or, if you never got around to joining us as a donor and the time is right for you, we would welcome your support. You can mail your check to the theatre or make a gift online at this link. We do plan to participate in the community-wide Midlands Gives on May 5 with our popular “Give Town a Twenty” campaign.
We hope that you and
your family are safe and well. Though this was certainly not a part of our
plan, we will make the very best of it and, more than ever, are excited to see
you at the theatre as soon as we possibly can. In the interim, if you have questions,
please reach out to Shannon Scruggs at email@example.com.
Meet Ruth Glowacki ~ our Giant. Having never been considered tall, or even medium height, it is happy irony to be giving voice to The Giant! Some favorite performances include The Soothsayer in Julius Caesar, Hannah in Newsies, Lt. Shrank and Glad Hand in West Side Story, Beline in The Imaginary Invalid, a gargoyle & the madam in Hunchback of Notre Dame, Gym Teacher & Prison Guard in Hairspray, Mrs. Bennett in Pride & Prejudice, Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mrs. Parker in A Christmas Story, Lady Montague in Romeo and Juliet, Mrs. Lambchop in Flat Stanley and Actress One in The Dining Room.
Meet Debi Young ~ Cinderella’s Mother/Granny. This production of Into the Woods marks Debi’s 55th community theatre production. Ironically, she played “Little Red’s Granny” in Workshop Theatre’s 1995 production. Debi is a retired public-school music educator and currently teaches private voice and piano at On Stage Productions in Lexington, SC. In addition to being passionate about all things theatre, she is also passionate about cats, reading, and staying active. Thanks to everyone involved in the show!!!
Meet Erin Godfrey ~ Cinderella. Erin is thrilled to have the opportunity to step back onto the stage at Town. Erin grew up in New Jersey but is currently a junior psychology major and business minor at the University of South Carolina. Erin would like to thank David, Augie and Joy for giving her such an amazing opportunity and for all their hard work. Erin also would like to thank Mom; Dad; and her sisters Amanda, Bridget, Rachael, and Mia for being her biggest source of stability and strength.
Meet Jacob Cordes ~ Cinderella’s Prince and the Wolf. Jacob is a former student at the University of South Carolina Honors College, majoring in Vocal Performance. His first musical theatre production was Town’s West Side Story in 2018, and Into the Woods will be his third show with Town, in addition to performing Heathers at Trustus this summer. Jacob is excited to perform his first solo in a musical.
Meet Jerryana Williams-Bibiloni ~ Rapunzel. Jerryana was last seen on Town Theatre’s stage as Miss Honey in Matilda. As a junior Vocal Performance Major at the University of South Carolina she has performed with numerous ensembles and as a soloist in various styles both domestically and internationally. She also serves at St. John’s Episcopal Church as a Choral Scholar and leader of St. John’s Music Makers. Jerryana wishes to thank all her family and friends for encouraging her passion and putting up with her hectic schedule.
Meet Anthony Sampedro ~ Rapunzel’s Prince. Anthony has been singing in choral and other vocal groups for nearly 16 years. A former member of the Blythewood High School Acabengals as well as USC’s Carolina Gentlemen a Cappella. Anthony enjoys singing all styles from classical and Broadway to pop and jazz. Anthony enjoys fencing, tabletop roleplaying games, and entertaining in all forms. This is his first community theatre production.
Meet Rachel Glowacki ~ one of our Stepsisters. Rachel is very excited to be going Into the Woods! She has studied, voice, tap, ballet, musical theatre and lyrical dance. She has been a dance captain, choreographed, staged managed and performed in productions at Town Theatre, Chapin Community Theatre, Columbia Children’s Theatre, Workshop Theatre, and with the South Carolina Shakespeare Company. Favorite roles include Baby Louise (Gypsy) Lucinda (Into the Woods), The Mad Hatter (Shrek), Star-to-Be (Annie), Louison (Imaginary Invalid) and Jetsam (The Little Mermaid). A big thanks to everyone involved in this fantastic show!
Meet Irene Baerwalde ~ Jack’s Mother. Before becoming a wife and mother, Irene went to school for musical theatre and vocal performance. She has performed in My Fair Lady, Jesus Christ Superstar, as well as various choral performances. After becoming a mother, Irene chose to focus on entertaining her kids and their friends, instead of focusing on entertaining the masses. Over the past 16 years, she has performed for her church, on their praise and worship team. This is will be her first community theatre production.
Meet Robert Dooley ~ our Steward. Robert is excited to be making his Town Theatre debut in his first Stephen Sondheim show, Into the Woods. He would like to thank David for giving him this opportunity and everyone at Town for being amazing. Robert’s next show will be Carousel with Opera at USC in the spring semester 2020. When not performing in the theatre, Robert can be found singing with the Midlands Men’s Choir. Robert would like to thank his AMAZINGLY PATIENT husband, Chess, who keeps the house running and the dogs walked while Robert is off running through “the woods.”
Meet Abigail Frier ~ one of the Stepsisters. Abigail has been doing theatre for 5 years and is very excited about her first show at Town Theatre. She has attended both of the South Carolina Governors School for the Arts and Humanities summer programs and hopes to go into the residential program next school year. Some of the recent shows she has performed include Heathers, Wizard of Oz, Annie, and Alice in Wonderland Jr.
Meet Billy Bishop ~ the Baker! Billy draws on extensive theatrical experience and vocal training from Mercer University. Billy completed a Master of Music degree in Church Music at Mercer’s Townsend School of Music in 2012, where he also received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music in 2009. Billy’s stage credits include the roles of Amos (Chicago), Ernie Cusak (Rumors), William Gillette (The Game’s Afoot), the Ghost of John Barrymore (I Hate Hamlet), Ben Hecht (Moonlight and Magnolias), Leonato (Much Ado About Nothing), John Dickinson (1776), Isidor Straus (Titanic), Uncle Max (The Sound of Music),and the Trunchbull (Matilda). When not on stage, Billy remains active at Town Theatre as a costumer and serves Northside Memorial Baptist Church as Minister of Music. Many thanks to Makaela Clark for supporting me in this endeavor even in the midst of planning our upcoming wedding in December.
MeetLisa Baker who portrays the Witch. Lisa is excited to be making her debut on the Town Theatre stage! A 26-year veteran music teacher/director in Lexington, Lisa has most recently performed in Heathers: The Musical (Mrs. Fleming), Hairspray (Velma) and Shrek (Gingy). She would like to thank her family for all their love, support and encouragement to get back on the stage this last year, and to David and Augie for giving her the opportunity to play one of her ‘dream roles’.
Meet Kristen Bales ~ the evil Stepmother ~ Kristen is ECSTATIC to return to the Town Theatre family. She previously played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz when she was only 14 years old (time sure has flown by!). She has enjoyed performing as sweet, kind characters in productions throughout middle school, high school, and college; however, she is definitely having a wonderful time as the snobby Stepmother. Kristen is the chief financial crimes prosecutor at the Fifth Circuit Solicitors Office and she genuinely loves tackling mountains of paperwork. Kristen thanks her family and friends for all their love and support – especially her Mom, who encouraged her to rekindle her love of musical theatre.
Meet Ayden Wunderlich ~ Jack. Ayden is a Sophomore at the University of South Carolina currently studying History. He has been involved with school and community theatre since the age of 6 when he was cast as an orphan in a production of Oliver! His roles here at Town have included Archie in Hairspray and, more recently, Specs in Newsies. He is incredibly proud of this talented cast and thankful for the opportunity to perform for all of you!
Meet Elise Heffner ~ our Red Riding Hood. Elise is thrilled to be taking on one of her dream roles with this amazing cast and production team. Elise was seen in Town’s centennial season opener of West Side Story, has been a part of many of our backstage crews and has served for two years as a Town Theatre Summer Technical Intern. She thanks her family for their endless support, and most importantly her mom for always believing in her. She hopes you all enjoy the show and learn that achieving your dreams is only the beginning.
Meet Hannah Thompson ~ our Baker’s Wife. Hannah is thrilled to be making her Town Theatre debut! She graduated from Belmont University with a degree in music education and recently earned her master’s degree in voice performance from The University of South Carolina School of Music. She was part of Opera at USC as the Fox in Janaček’s The Cunning Little Vixen and as a Street Singer in Bernstein’s MASS. Last summer she made her international debut as Sister Genevieve in Puccini’s Suor Angelica with the Varna International Academy.
Meet Jeremy Hansard ~ our Narrator/Mysterious Man. Jeremy remembers falling in love with Into the Woods when it aired on PBS in 1993 and is so glad it has finally come to Town. Other favorite roles on this stage have been Bert (Mary Poppins) and Edward Bloom (Big Fish). He is grateful for his Trinity Baptist Church Cayce family where he is Music Pastor and dearly loves the biggest Into the Woods fans he knows – his wife, Cindy, and daughters, Jillian, Jenna and Julie!
We invited our two leading ladies… Kathy Hartzog and Lee Martin… to share a few thoughts on their road to Yonkers and what it meant to play such an iconic role.
Lee: “Dolly Levi, that’s right Mrs. Dolly Levi born Gallagher ~ social introductions, ladies and gentlemen, of excellent family!” This is how we are first introduced to the one and only DOLLY LEVI! What an introduction! Playing Dolly has always been a role that I always wanted after I saw THE Barbara Streisand portray her in the movie as a child. As I began studying Dolly, I realized that she is one amazing woman. She is a hustler, a nurturer, a puppet master, a devoted widow and an all-around woman who wants to be whole again. The loss of her husband changed her life completely. She had to figure things out on her own which led her to become a jack of all trades.”
Kathy: “Well, where to start? Late in June, I auditioned for this show and what I consider the role of a lifetime. I researched the character extensively but ultimately came to the realization that the actresses who came before me must have come to the same conclusion as I did. I had to find my own voice. Carol Channing, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, Betty Buckley and numerous other big names who performed the role of Dolly through the years were completely different and fresh in their interpretations. Not one was the same as the other! Channing was brash and delightful, Bette Midler was larger than life, Betty Buckley was charming and decided to focus on Dolly’s Irish background by using a soft Irish brogue in her performance, whereas Barbra Streisand was decidedly well, Barbra Streisand, using a strong Jewish characterization and New York accent. All of this helped me immensely in knowing what I had to do. I had to be true to myself as an actress but find the sweetness and vulnerability and quiet determination that was inherent in Dolly.”
Lee: “I found myself really relating to Dolly in the sense of feeling unease if something were to happen to my spouse. I can also relate to learning how to figure things out on your own. I stopped working to stay home and raise my children. My husband’s job is very demanding and has caused us to move around the country more often than most. It has also had us rethink our career paths a few times. That being said, Dolly’s acknowledgment of just being tired of constantly being worried about money can be heard in several of her intimate monologues to her deceased husband Ephraim. Although he has passed, he is still very present in her life. She constantly refers to his sayings and asks for him to let her live again!” “Dolly has learned to figure things out the hard way. In that time, she found that she was not necessarily enjoying life and was just living to survive while giving of herself to everyone. In the end, she realizes that is no way to live and so she “decides to rejoin the human race.” As a woman and an actor, I admire Dolly’s spunk, tenacity and vigor!
Kathy: “One song that spoke volumes to me that I immediately had an emotional attachment to ‘Before the Parade Passes By.’ Dolly sings, ‘I’ve got to get in step while there is still time left before the parade passes by.’ Wow! That sums up the character so completely and spoke to me on a personal level as well. It’s the one time in the entire show that you really see and hear Dolly’s vulnerability and see her tenacity. I can absolutely relate to this sentiment on so many levels and I hope that my interpretation of that song carries over the footlights to the audience because, for me, that is the pinnacle of everything I do on stage and in life.”
Lee: “I agree with Kathy on the importance of the song, ‘Before the Parade Passes By.’ I consider it Dolly’s moment of enlightenment, her anthem. It articulates all the emotions she has been feeling since the loss of her husband and her desire to live life again. It provides a picture of what she believes life could be if she ‘rejoined the human race.’ The song is preceded by a monologue she gives to Ephraim begging for him to let her go but she also asks for him to give her away. The song begins as a slow melancholy acknowledgment of what she wants. As the song continues Dolly’s excitement grows as she pictures all the wonderful things that can happen with her new take on life. I love this song because it is an anthem for anyone who does not want life to pass them by anymore!
Kathy: “I feel so fortunate to have a someone like Lee Martin share the role with. To have that sisterhood and to share the same challenges and moments of self-doubt with someone who was going through the exact same things I was more than I could have hoped for. Lee said it in an interview once, that it could have felt like an ongoing “call back” or competition but it didn’t because we’re both in it together to produce the best show possible and for each of us to find our Dolly voice in our own unique way.”
If you love theatre or children, or both, Town Theatre has a real treat in store for you. Its summer musical Matilda runs July 12-28, with a Be Limitless special event and show preview on Sunday, July 7 for all ages.
Theatre is partnering with Limitless Purpose ~ an organization that works to
dispel the myths falsely associated with Down syndrome. Limitless Purpose was
founded by Padgett Mozingo, whose 8-year-old daughter Lila was diagnosed with a
heart defect and Down syndrome before birth.
From that day in her pregnancy, Padgett found that people started
underestimating their baby girl – including her doctor. She and her husband
were told of all the things their daughter would not be able to do. Today,
however, Lila is a thriving elementary school student who is happy, outgoing,
sassy and so much more.
“Lila’s diagnosis doesn’t define her, and we won’t let it limit her, either,”
says Padgett. “We might have to fight a little harder to make sure others don’t
limit her, but we know she’s giving it her all, so we will, too.”
Matilda’s story is similar to Lila’s and that of many children.
Once Matilda finds someone who believes in her, she too is LIMITLESS. We know
that every child can be limitless when loved, accepted and included.
We’re shouting that message from the rooftops and we want YOU to join us!
Here’s how you can be a part of this awesome adventure…
· Come to the show prepared
to buy a Token of Hope handmade by Lila and other special items!
· Bid on one of our awesome
silent auction packages, available before each performance.
· Come BE LIMITLESS on
Sunday, July 7. (Fun details below!)
Limitless Purpose will receive a portion of the proceeds from these summer
events. Come enjoy a great show and join us to prove that all children are
Be Limitless with Matilda, the cast and Lila too.
Sunday, July 7 will be a fun-filled day at Town as we host Be Limitless ~ an
interactive day with Matilda and her friends. Be one of the firsts to see a
special preview of the show, and that’s not all! Learn to salsa with Mrs.
Wormwood, decorate your own chocolate cake with Bruce and have a dance party
with the other Revolting Children. And, while you’re here, learn how to be
LIMITLESS with LILA. Throw in some photo ops with our cast and maybe even win a
ticket to see the full show. It’s sure to be limitless fun!
Be Limitless tickets for participants ages 12 and under are $10. ALL activities and photos (e-mailed after the event) included. Tickets for chaperones (ages 13 and up) are $5. After all, it is a GREAT cause! Choose between a 2 PM or 3:15 PM start time. (The first tour runs 2:00 PM to 3:30 pm and the second tour runs 3:15 PMto 4:45 PM.
Tickets are available at towntheatre.com anytime OR by phone at 803-799-2510. The box office is open 12 noon to 5 PM Monday through Friday. Tickets MUST be purchased by Friday, July 5 and will NOT be available at the door.
Guest blog by Hans Boeschen
Director of The Buddy Holly Story
In 2011, three years after moving to Columbia from Nebraska, I walked into my first ever community theatre audition. I had been involved in school productions since the second grade, was just shy of a minor in theatre, and had, at that time, been teaching high school theatre for three years. I had never tread the boards in a community production, however. That first audition, almost eight years ago, would change my life.
That was when I met Lou.
Since that time, either Lou or I have been involved with 25 productions ~ on the stage or on the production team. (I am well aware of Lou’s extensive involvement in Columbia community theatre long before we met. I will forever be trying to catch up.) In seven of these 25 shows, we were lucky enough to be working together.
This production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is not only my first time directing for Town Theatre, but it is also the first time Lou and I have joined up as director/musical director. It has been such a joy to have Lou by my side throughout the process. Many times our dinner conversation has been about the show. To be able to ask her about a directing choice or work through a transition has been such a wonderful resource. She has been my biggest supporter, my rock, and my sounding board (pun intended). Not to mention, she is an amazing musical director.
I believe the true power of the theatre is in the connections it builds. Whether those connections be amongst the cast working together for months, the audience who see the raw emotions of each actor, or within the community at large as we examine what life is about through the stage, theatre unites us. I consider myself extremely lucky that the theatre brought Lou and me together and that I get to be a part of such a vibrant community theatre environment.
I am continually thankful for Town for providing a safe space for two math teachers to moonlight as thespians.
Performing is and has long been a common theme in our family dynamic. Growing up, I thought every family had a rule that prohibited singing at the dinner table. Don’t they? Was this a hint of the future for us?
As adults, conversation at our family gatherings often centers on who is involved or planning to be involved in a production. Usually at Town Theatre (and there’s a LOT of talking at these gatherings, as you might imagine)!) It is a bond that we all cherish. At family dinner, one Sunday late this past summer, I brought up the subject of auditioning for Buddy Holly. After finishing Beauty and the Beast in August, I was already craving an opportunity to get back to the theatre and hoped to be involved in this production in some capacity. My initial inquiry was whether my sister, Rebecca, or my brother, Charlie, planned to audition (I knew my talented youngest nephew, Jack, already a veteran of the TT stage, was too young for this one.) Imagine my surprise and delight when Rebecca informed me that her two oldest sons, my nephews James and Marshall Seezen, were interested in auditioning and planned to play their own instruments. They’d never appeared on the TT stage before. And Charlie was throwing his hat in the ring too! Yay!
That decided it for me right away. I was definitely auditioning. I really wanted us all to do this together. When Charlie was cast as Buddy Holly, the nephews as two of the Crickets, and me as a “Crickette”, I was over the moon and couldn’t wait to get started. The journey has been every bit as rewarding as I knew it would be. Every day and every performance, I grow more excited about the blossoming “grown-up” friendship I’m building with my nephews. [We just became Facebook friends!]. It’s great to see more of Charlie, too, as he has been so busy this last year, being both a newlywed and the new drama teacher at AC Flora.
It has been just amazing to go through this process together and to glimpse it through the eyes of newcomers like my nephews, after all these years…. Especially with dear friends Hans, Lou, and Shannon leading us. It is especially significant and memorable for me to get to share the stage with both of my families in Town’s 100th year.
Rebecca and I became part of the Town Theatre family more than 35 years ago, with Showstoppers I and The Sound of Music. I asked Rebecca to share her thoughts about the older boys joining their other family members as “Townies.”
She shared many of my same sentiments. “It has been so fun to watch y two older sons become a part of the Town family. They are joining not only their aunt and uncle, but me, their younger brother, and their dad as Townies. It is hard to describe how it feels to see all 3 of my kids finding joy on the stage where I grew up. I am proud, of course, but it also strengthens our bond as a family. We have this common experience that we share. We all know what it feels like to run those stairs to the dressing room, wait backstage for a cue, and hear the applause of a sold-out crowd from that historical stage. It is such an amazing theatre family, and I’m glad to welcome James and Marshall to it.”
In one of the first productions I did with my brother, Charlie Goodrich, I also played a music legend, Tammy Wynette. We have similar research and preparation styles for these roles, so I already knew what was ahead for Charlie as he met the challenge and enjoyment of portraying a known figure, whose music and sad story has touched so many people. I also knew he would nail it. I’d seen him do it with many roles before, most notably as Johnny Cash. As predicted, Charlie has thrown himself into the role and shines as Buddy Holly. James and Marshall, being such accomplished musicians themselves, enhance the experience as they share the musical spotlight with Charlie and bassist, Billy Bishop. But wait, there’s more! Not only is Charlie an accomplished actor, singer and musician, but he is making a name for himself as a director. And he’s darn good at it! (I know! Rebecca and I have both been cast in plays he directed.) He’ll be directing Mamma Mia in the spring. Hopefully, some of us will have the chance to collaborate again on that production.
This is what Charlie had to say about this particular experience. “What a joy to be involved in this fabulous production! This Season at Town is not only is the 100th Season for the Theatre, but also my 10th Season of continuous involvement. Initially, I only planned to direct this season (Mamma Mia), but when I saw the audition notice for Buddy, I instantly jumped at the challenge. I already knew that Dell was auditioning, as were my nephews, James and Marshall. At the callback we all attended I could feel that this would be a special production if we were all cast. To my delight, we all were!
This production has been an immensely special one for many reasons. Of course, getting the privilege to portray the legendary Buddy Holly is an honor that I cannot express in words. However, getting the chance to share the TT stage with my nephews for the first time and with Dell for the third time has made it all the more enjoyable! Town Theatre has always held a special place in the hearts of my family. That place has been cemented even more by this wonderful production. I can’t thank Hans, Lou, and Shannon enough for giving all of us the chance to experience this awesomeness together!”
When I asked my nephews how it felt to be a part of this, their responses reflected that they have now found the same joy as the rest of us, being on the TT stage. The bug has bitten them and they plan to keep on rocking with TT in the days to come. They also look forward to a chance to work with cousin, Agnes Babb, in a future production.
James, playing the Crickets’ guitarist, shared how he cherished this opportunity on many levels. “I have had an absolute blast doing this play with my family. It was totally awesome to get to share a stage with some of my favorite people. I am ecstatic to get to jam out with my uncle, my aunt, and my brother in front of such an amazing audience. I want to thank Hans and Lou Boeschen for all the math help, Uncle Charlie and Aunt Dell for all the support backstage, and my little brother Marshall, for keeping me on tempo.”
Marshall, playing the Crickets’ drummer, indicated he is still discovering what a gift it is to share this passion with the rest of us. “Working with my whole family has just been surreal. I remember when I was a kid when Charlie first started at Town. Since then it always seems like someone is doing a show. Whether it be one of Charlie’s, Mom’s, or Dell’s shows or one of my little brother’s (Jack)….or even both my parents, Charlie and my little brother all in one. Before this show, I have stuck primarily to the Cardinal Newman drama program. Now that I’ve started at Town Theatre, I look forward to many more shows with my great family.”
I can’t adequately express how incredibly proud I am of my talented family. (As anyone who knows me is well aware. I brag about them to anyone who will listen!) I’ve jokingly called us “The Von Goodrich Family Singers”, in homage to the Von Trapp Family (The Sound of Music). Now that the next generation is represented, I think I will be modifying that to “The Von Seezrich (Seezen-Goodrich) Family”. 😉
We have many, many years ahead of us to enjoy working together and to share our love of performing. Thanks, Town Theatre, for making a place for all of us to join in the fun!
Editor’s Note: In our current production of West Side Story – we have three “veterans” of Town’s 1998 production. David Swicegood (Director) and Tom Baldwin (Doc) penned their thoughts earlier in the series. TAKE THREE is courtesy of Kerri Roberts who is playing the role of Maria.
In the summer of 1998 I was 21 years old, preparing to start my senior year of college, and engaged to be married. I was privileged to study voice at Columbia College with the incomparable Lanny Palmer, who encouraged me to go and audition for West Side Story at Town Theatre. I was not a Columbia native and had not been involved in any theatre outside of Columbia College where I was active in opera, and Columbia Classical Ballet where I danced for four years during college. I had absolutely no idea about the community theatre scene in Columbia. I remember being so nervous about auditioning, but so excited about the potential of doing something new. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the audition process except the director, David Swicegood saying to me, “I’m SO glad you could sing!” I immediately felt welcomed and right at home in that little old theatre! It’s been that way ever since.
I genuinely have no negative memories associated with the 1998 production. It was, in fact, truly ground-breaking in my life. I had been a singer. I had been a ballerina. I had been in operatic productions. For me, West Side Story was the first time that I experienced the thrill of doing all the things I loved – singing, dancing and acting – all in one medium. I came alive with it! That was when I first discovered my passion for musical theatre. David was such an easy, kind, inspiring director, who truly loved what he was doing, and the environment of the show was always positive in my memory. I remember the week of intense choreography sessions when Maurice Brandon Curry came to teach us the whole show! Maria doesn’t dance all that much, but it was still so fun to learn from Maurice and to watch the rest of the cast, many of whom would not have called themselves dancers, come together and nail these iconic dances! Christopher McCroskey was our music director and working with him was also a pleasure. This production team, along with Janet Kile as the costumer, worked together so well to create a show that was truly a joy to be a part of. I felt nothing but encouragement!
For sure, the best part of West Side Story 1998 was the people. David, Christopher, and Janet are all still very dear to me and I treasure any chance I get to see them and/or work with them. Brian Childers was so talented and such an easy stage partner as Tony. It has been so great to watch him go on to have a successful career! That was when I met Shannon Scruggs, who has become a friend, a director and a colleague for whom I am very grateful! Agnes Babb and Lou Boeschen are also “Town family” that I first met in West Side Story! I have such fond (and funny) memories as stories of all the Jet and Shark guys and girls, some of whom actually came to my wedding a few months after this show closed. I’ll never forget the connection with Robby Sweet (Chino) during the last scene of the show and the tears in his eyes almost every time.
When I learned that Debra Bricker Brewer would play the role of Anita, I remember feeling very intimidated. She had been a ballet teacher, known for her sharpness and demand for excellence. But she embraced me as a sister rather than a student and we had the best time playing these roles together. She killed it as Anita! We still squeal out “Querida!!!” whenever we see each other!
Tom Baldwin was just as precious as Doc the first time around. And although Maria and Doc are only ever on stage together in the very last scene, Tom was always encouraging to me and kind. He only ever called me Maria after that! Who would have thought that 20 years later we would serve the same church in worship each week and be getting to reprise our roles in West Side Story 2018?! The first time he was technically too young to play Doc and this time I am technically too old to play Maria, but we’re making it work!
Of course, I could never leave out Will Moreau. West Side Story 1998 was also his first show at Town Theatre, so we were “newbies” together. Will played the role of Bernardo, Maria’s protective older brother. He was much more experienced and mature in his craft than I was, but he quickly came alongside me and encouraged me. He saw my potential and never missed an opportunity to tell me what he thought about it. After this show, we didn’t work together in the theatre for 18 years! BUT we reconnected through the world of social media while my family was living on the mission field in Zambia, Africa. I didn’t know that much about Will and his personal passion and work in 1998. But I got to know him over the years by watching and reading about his life online! And he did the same with me. We developed a true respect and affection for one another over the years.
When I came back to the States and got reconnected with my theatre family at Town, Will was one of the people I was most excited to see! Everyone loved being around Will! We would chat whenever we would see each other around the theatre. Then when the audition announcement came out for My Fair Lady we giddily talked about auditioning! He was SO excited about the possibility of playing the role of Alfred P. Doolittle, as was I about playing the dream role of Eliza Doolittle! The day that we got the call offering us the roles of Alfred and Eliza we both happened to be at the theatre. Will came running to the lobby to find me and we hugged and jumped around squealing! I will always treasure having that show together. It gave us the opportunity to spend time talking about life and faith over coffee, to play family again on stage (however dysfunctional), and to share in the comradery of a fantastic cast.
Last fall, just a couple of weeks after Will had actually gone to share about Native American culture with my youngest daughter’s class, we lost him so suddenly. One of the kindest, most genuinely loving people I’ve never known. I am grateful to have called him a friend. To have played his daughter on stage, but first to have played his little sister back in 1998. Thank you West Side Story for not only being a catalyst for discussions on love, racism, bigotry and violence but also for being the place in my own life where passions and treasured relationships were born! I’m so grateful!