Keeping it in the Family (and other thoughts from a first time blogger)

Guest blog by Bill DeWitt

Bill Citadel
Bill during his Citadel days

It’s Tuesday morning, and we officially open Spamalot on Friday, so there is some reflection going on here during a few quiet moments before I start on today’s honey-do list. First, how and why did I ever get involved in theatre in the first place? I never “acted” on stage or even considered the theatre in my teen age or early adult years. A graduate of The Citadel, a high school history teacher, administrator, and coach, I thought of myself as a jock, and my free time was spent either with family, golfing or traveling. My younger, taller, smarter and infinitely more talented brother, David, had been a double major in journalism and theatre in college and grad school. He has always been heavily involved in theatre, so maybe there was something hidden in my DNA after all? Then one night I took my 11-year old daughter, Laura, to audition for a children’s play. The director, Larry Hembree, told me that since I would be bringing Laura to rehearsals anyway, I might as well do a small part in the show. I said, why not, and was hooked. Just 25 years and some 61 stage productions, a movie and some commercials later, and I’m still hooked. My wife has shown infinite patience and has indulged my passion over the years; she is my biggest supporter and harshest critic. So my daughter and brother got me started, my wife has sustained me, and the countless friends I have made have inspired me. I’ve done Willie and the Cowardly Lion, musicals and dramas, and still feel that adrenaline rush every single time I step on stage. I am immensely thankful for every chance that comes along.

Sir Bedevere
Sir Bedevere, the strangely flatulent; photo by David Barber.

That brings me back to Spamalot – and, yes, I do tend to ramble a bit. I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail many years ago, and loved it. Then I heard that it was going to become a Broadway-style musical. Now, I live doing comedies and dramas, but have always been a bit nervous about doing musical theatre. Bottom line, when Town Theatre announced that Spamalot would be part of its 96th season, I decided to give it a shot. Part of being an actor is being willing to step outside of your comfort zone (or so directors keep telling me), so I auditioned and got cast, and am having an absolute blast. The show is hilarious, and we are having so much fun every night during rehearsals. I get the chance to work with some old friends with whom I have worked before (like Frank Thompson,  George  Dinsmore,  Bob Blencowe,  Agnes Babb, and others), with old friends with whom I haven’t worked before (Tracy Steele, Chip Collins,  among others), and new friends (like Rebecca Goodrich Seezen, Chris Cook, and Daniel Niati and others). Some of these folks are Town regulars, some have been seen in other theaters around Columbia, and for some, it is their first time on stage. I could list everyone in the show, but don’t have that much room. Besides, that’s what your program is for. Watching everyone bring their total commitment to their roles, to put all their skill, talent, time, effort, and enthusiasm on the line, to “give it their all”– I love it. Just being a part of this has been a thrill. A quick aside – observing Shannon Willis Scruggs blend this collection together (ask me later about how she can blush), Lou Warth Boeschen fusing together this amalgamation of voices (even mine), Danny Harrington’s set/lighting, Lori Stepp’s costumes, and Toni Sheridan’s magic with our hard-working crew – that is a special treat all on its own. And a topic for another blog.

Some of you know the show, or the movie, or you know the highlights or main characters, but you have to see the Laker Girls, the Knights of Ni, the French Taunters, Herbert and his lovable father, Brother Maynard, Sir Bors, the citizens of Finland – a true feast for the eyes and ears.

If you come to see Spamalot, and I hope you do, you’ll see and hear singing and dancing, hear jokes aplenty, see the sets and costumes, hear the music, and see some really good people pour themselves onto their roles. If the audience has anywhere near as much fun watching the show as the cast has had doing the show, well, a good time will be had by all.

And to answer the earlier question about why I do theatre, I can’t speak for others, but for myself – well, it’s partly the adrenaline rush, partly the challenge of trying something new, partly the “roar of the grease paint and smell of the crowd” – but mostly the friendships, the people I’ve come to know over the years that have become so important in my life. You guys are my family. And a little DNA as well. ‘Nuff said.