Como Theatre: De facto Festival

They may not have planned it, but with 5 different productions by local theatres, Columbia, Missouri is hosting a de facto theatre festival this weekend.

“All the schedules just lined up,” stated no one but I figured putting a made-up quote would make it look personal.

Leading the group is one of COMO’s well known community theatres, Columbia Entertainment Company’s production of “Murder at the Howard Johnson’s“. This  screwball comedy promises to be hilarious as well as well directed and acted. Director Judy Olson, well known in the local theatre scene, has a passion for farces and comedies.  She’s worked extensively with her small cast since early February to perfect their timing.  “Murder at the Howard Johnson’s” focuses on the ditzy Arlene Miller and her buffon lover Mitchell Lovell as they plot to murder Arlene’s husband, Paul in a Howard Johnson Motel.  But the thing is, each is too stupid to actually pull off the murder. The show runs Thursday through Sunday, April 19 to May 6th. Opening night tickets at CEC are only $8,  other nights vary from $8-$10.

Over at the MU Theatre Department in Rhysberger Theatre, Kevin Brown is directing Shakespeare’s famous play about the brooding Danish prince “Hamlet“. It looks like this one is a bit of an update as it has been adapted for a contemporary audience, emphasizing Hamlet’s descent into madness and his romantic entanglements with Ophelia. The show runs thursday through Sunday, April 19-26. Tickets are between $8-$10.

The Moberly Area Community College Theatre Department  is putting on “The Laramie Project.” Sure, that’s not technically in COMO but with so many MACC students (who get in free) it may be of interest.  “The Laramie Project” is a pretty tough show to watch as its subject matter is very serious.  It focuses on the tragic story of Matthew Shepard who in 1998 was tied, beaten and left to die on a bitter cold night in Wyoming, all because of his sexual orientation. That said, it’s well written and has been well received by critics across the country. The show runs this weekend only April 19-21st. Ticket prices range from free for MACC students and between $3 – $5 for the general public.

There are two musicals raising the curtain this weekend as well. The first, Talking Horse Production‘s presentation of [title of show] at the Berlin Theatre, adjacent to the restaurant formerly known as Cafe  Berlin, now known as Toast. Yes, the brackets are correct. This 2009 musical centers around the creative process of self-expression. It’s a love letter to the unique American art form of musical theatre.  I caught a few of the songs back in 2009 and have been itching to see this show. I’m excited to see what this production does. The show runs April 19-29.  Tickets are between $10-$12. It’s a very small theatre so get there early enough to secure a spot, or pay the additional handling fee and order online, or take advantage of their discount.

Finally, Performing Arts in Children’s Education (PACE) is presenting the musical adaptation of Dickens’ 1838 novel “Oliver!” at the Missouri Theater (I guess it’s no longer the Missouri Theater Center for the Arts?).  The cast is composed of non-adults ages 8-18, with one role, that of the antagonist Fagin, being performed by an “adult”, Trent Rash.  The show runs April 19-22nd with two performances on the 21st. Ticket prices are between $5 to $12 with their Thursday opening performance also serving as a fundraiser for the Buddy Pack Program for the food bank and being at a discounted rate of  $10

Three of the productions being produced in the area this weekend

CECTheatre (Murder at the Howard Johnson): 1800 Nelwood
Rhysburger Theatre (Hamlet): University and Hitt Street, 129 Fine Arts Building
MACC Auditorium (The Laramie Project): 101 College Avenue, Moberly, MO
Berlin Theatre ([title of show]): 220 N. 9th Street
Missouri Theater (Oliver): 203 S. 9th Street 

Pssst, next weekend Indpendent Actor’s Theater (IAT) opens Talley’s Folly, by Missouri playwright Landford Wilson.

Como Theatre: Upcoming Auditions

With a couple of big productions coming up, now is a great time to get involved. It’s getting busier and busier in the Columbia, Missouri theatre world as it always does in the spring and summer.

Exterior of the new Maplewood Barn.

Exterior of the new Maplewood Barn. Their first production, Fiddler on the Roof, auditions this Monday and Tuesday!

The Maplewood Barn is opening it’s 40th season with Fiddler on the Roof. This production will be playing at the new barn (or is it the old one, it looks identical, people don’t call the new Heidelberg the new Heidelberg, do they?). They’re wanting a big cast for this, so if you’ve been wanting to get involved in theatre in some way, I’d strongly suggest you come audition this Monday and Tuesday, March 19th and 20th. They’re wanting males and females from 18 to 60 plus. They’ve even got four slots for kids age 7 to 13. Go befriend them on facebook for more pictures of the new barn.

Columbia Entertainment Company is concluding it’s 33rd season with the musical The Drowsy Chaperone. Auditions won’t be until next month on Monday, April 2nd and 3rd, but you can go ahead and start considering it. They’re wanting a wide range of ages as well, though there are no specific parts for children.  (Don’t worry, they’re making up for that in their 34th season….)

I don’t know much about this group, but there’s an independent film doing some casting in town. They’re looking for 30 women and 30 men.  It looks like it will be a bit on the “R” rated side, but they won’t be requiring any nudity etc. from anyone who is cast. Plus, it looks like a fun way to get involved and see how a movie is made.

For the kids, PACE has some events coming up this summer, with auditions in late April and early May.  Little Women promises to need lots of girls (err, little women?), but they also need some boys (little men?).  I’d encourage you to check it out if you have a little one. Heck, my first involvement in theatre was as a 5th grade kid in a production of Music Man. There weren’t many guys in the show then, but by the time high school hit, I knew a lot of the girls there because I was first exposed to them before, umm, puberty… sure that’s it.

Additionally, PACE will be doing Fame with auditions in May, so consider that one as well!

Finally, I wanted to point to some other art resources for you in Columbia. For one, the Office of Cultural Affairs is now on facebook. They’ve done a great job in posting and getting the word out, go like them so that you can stay on top of everything artistic going on in Columbia.  I also want to encourage you to check out the facebook group started by a few COMO theatre actors: Mid-Missouri Stage has become a stomping ground for anyone needing actors in a production, or letting people know of theatre productions in town. Even a few MU professors have started using it. Also, check out COMO Cabret. They’re doing a performance next week on the Broadway flops: songs from shows that didn’t make it.

Shout outs to IAT and Talking Horse Productions and also TRYPS. I don’t know why I don’t have anything on you in this post, but you too deserve recognition.  This post became a lot longer than I expected. That just goes to show how many wonderful opportunities there are in Columbia!!

Como Theatre: “Bent”

When Columbia Entertainment Company first discussed doing the play Bent by Martin Sherman I was a bit apprehensive. I wrote it off, thinking that a 1979 drama about gays in the holocaust was walking a thin line that I  wasn’t sure CEC could walk. Many of our audiences members haven’t enjoy the darker shows that we’ve done of late, such as Doubt or even Rabbit Hole.  While I thought both of these shows were well written, directed, acted and produced, our audiences often reacted that the show wasn’t something they were expecting. I worried a similar reaction to Bent could hurt CEC’s ability to produce such dark shows, especially with competition from other smaller theatre groups in town.

Jeff Neil, Joshua Johnson, Eric Seeley, Adam McCall and Nathan O'neil in Bent at CEC. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Hedrick

I realized something was different about this show after auditions. While director Meg Phillips only called for 7 roles for men, she was actually able to cast 12 men.  This showed me there was a large interest in the show and a strong passion for each of the actors to take a role that had little speaking lines. Many of the ensemble actors have been leads in past CEC and Columbia shows.  But, reading their biographies, you could tell that Bent was a show that they wanted to be a part of, regardless of their involvement.

My worries returned during the opening scene when  Max, portrayed by Adam McCall, entered the stage wearing not much more than a bathrobe and boxers. This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen Adam on stage in such little of an outfit, but it was also accompanied by Max’s lover Rudy, portrayed by Joshua Johnson,  wearing a similar outfit. “Oh, no, ” thought, “it’s going to be an awkward show.” But, that’s when things changed.  Adam and Joshua felt so comfortable with each other that it comforted me. Their teasing and flirting was fun. I was even able to laugh, something I wasn’t expecting to happen in this show,  at several of the jokes Rudy threw at Max. I thoroughly enjoyed the first act, even with the darker and serious tone it switched to once Max and Rudy were caught by the Nazis.

While the first act was highlighted by two already close friends dealing with a difficult situation, the second act soared to greater heights with two people getting to know each other while trying to overcome insurmountable odds. There was great chemistry between Max and Horst (Nathan O’Neil), where it was easy to see the hours and days of practice that each actor put in to the characters.

Adam McCall, JD Nicols and Nathan O'Neil in Bent at CEC. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Hedrick

I don’t want to go on giving too much detail about this show, but do know that each and every portrayal meant something to each actor. They were there because they wanted this story to be told in Columbia. Even though Bent has been around for over 30 years we believe that this is the first time it has been produced in Columbia.  That to me is a testament to the theatre community in this town. My early worries appear to be unfounded. I’m glad that Columbia can support theatre like this.

Bent, at Columbia Entertainment Company (1800 Nelwood),  runs for only one more weekend, Thursday through Saturday (3/15-3/17) at 7:30pm and a final Sunday (3/18)  matinee at 2:00pm.  I strongly encourage you to come check it out.

COMO Young Frankenstein: Crowd – pleasing Raunchy Humor

As part of the almost sold-out crowd at Jesse Hall Wednesday night I was hoping for raunchy, yet familiar entertainment – and I was not disappointed. You know there’s just something about “knocker” and ball jokes, overt sexual innuendos and Frau Blucher (nervous horse whinnies included) that make even the most sophisticated along us snicker with delight when we know what’s coming. And believe me, when it comes to Young Frankenstein (Stein – with a long E that is), I know ALL the lines, every boob joke, and want nothing more than to “roll in the hay” in Transylvania.

The cast, led by A.J. Holmes (Dr. Frederick Frankenstein), certainly had a hard act to follow. Like “Rocky Horror”, Young Frankenstein has an almost cultist allure, a kind of don’t-mess-with-my-1974-Mel Brooks-Gene Wilder-Madeline Kahn- masterpiece. But Holmes, who obviously saw the film a time to two, did an amazing job of resurrecting Wilder’s intonations. Lexie Dorsett, (the Doctor’s untouchable love interest), pulled off a decent Kahn, albeit without the smoker-like husky voice we all remember so well.

Rory Donovan, as the monster filled Peter Boyle’s big shoes well and I think Teri Garr would be proud of Elizabeth Pawlowski’s sexually-charged Inga.  But then again, although Christopher Timson played a well-humped Igor, in all honesty, no makeup artist in the world can pull off those Marty Feldman eyes.

The scenery wasn’t elaborate, mostly backdrops and laboratory (laBORatory) furniture and equipment. But the additional strobe-lighting and some impressive electrical magic pushed the performance up the theatrical ladder a bit.

Yet, in some cases, the Spartan stage was ideal. Musical numbers, such as “Roll in the Hay” where a single cart “pulled” by hilarious horses managed to steal the scene. And of course, the crowd-pleasing “Putin’ on the Ritz” needed nothing but a curtain and a spotlight. We all knew the song and dance.

I was a little dismayed to find the much-loved meal scene – where everyone questions who’s stomach made yummy noises – wasn’t included. Another part that didn’t make the cut was the “put the candle back” one, nuts. But perhaps the swinging wall would challenge most stage crews.

In a nutshell, I enjoyed myself immensely though. Kudos to the orchestra who not only set the mood with their hauntingly familiar scores, but also kept the action moving.  By the way, I was quite impressed with the pianist who appeared (from my balcony seat) to be conducting as well – bravo! And a high five to the dancers who’s synchronized moves and acrobatics were Broadway-worthy.

And finally, a salute to the Concert Series committee who brought this political incorrect production to Jesse Hall in a time when PC can be a touchy subject in itself.

To paraphrase Inga, “But Dr., I know the monster got your amazing brain, but what did you get from him?”







Como Theatre Preview: “Dracula, The Musical”

A few weeks ago I got the chance to sit in on a vocal run through of Columbia Entertainment Company’s “Dracula, The Musical” and let me tell you, it blew me away. Sitting through the vocal run through was a bit disjointed. I only got to hear the cast sing each song with a piano, far from the planned 15 piece orchestra that will accompany the show starting Thursday, September 27th. But the songs were well sung and well acted. I was able to gauge the character from every actor. With a mysterious figure and beautiful ballads the show seems reminiscent of Phantom. Yet I know the show is a love story at heart, with the side characters promising to steal the show.

Rehearsing Dracula

Music director Trent Rash gives instructions to two cast members of Dracula, The Musical.

The cast of Dracula listens to the music director as the conductor and his sheet music look on.

Since that visit weeks ago, I’ve returned a few more times. I’ve caught glimpses of amazing costumes that look like they are fresh from Broadway. I’ve caught bits of a scene where beautiful vampire brides slink in and out of the set. I’ve seen the set develop from a mere skeleton that you can see above to something right out of a Victorian mansion. As you can tell I’m eagerly awaiting a full performance.

Dracula, The Musical runs Thursday through Sunday for the next three weeks (September 29-Oct 2; October 6-9; October 13-16). Tickets vary in price from $10 to $12 and all tickets for opening night are only $10.  The director does caution that due to some adult themes that are sensual in nature, parental discretion is advised. This is Dracula after all and not Twilight. If you haven’t caught a show out at CEC yet, you really are doing yourself a disservice.

CoMo Theatre: Directors

One of the first real steps of any season is selecting a director for each show. At Columbia Entertainment Company (CEC) this is always a worrisome endeavor.  We want a quality director who knows what she’s doing and can keep costs down. Additionally we strive for directors who understand the show and have an artistic vision of what they want a show to be. Undertaking a show at CEC is no small task, most auditions take place two months before a show begins. By that time, a director should already have a strong idea of the characters, the set, the crew, the musicians, and the technical aspects of the show. For a director cultivating these ideas start early. This year, CEC once again selected quality directors with strong views on how a show should be brought to life. This article highlights two of the visions that each is bringing to the 33rd season of CEC Theatre.

Leslie Stock has never directed on the Columbia scene. This raised plenty of worries from the CEC board. Columbia has many opportunities for people to direct or assistant direct a show. Leslie’s only real directing experience was with a church production in Boonville. However, she has immersed herself in the Columbia theatre scene. She applied to direct Dracula, The Musical and meticulously showed her vision for the production. She researched the production by watching youtube videos of a Austrian production of “Dracula, das Musical” and understanding the characters, music and technical challenges of the show. She sought out crew members who have had experience at CEC and brought them on her team.

And, as is required by all directors, she created a beautiful mock-up of her vision of the set:

A doll house version of the set for "Dracula, The Musical"

The set opens in the middle with an upper level.

The "Dracula" set opens in the middle with an upper level.

With a strong, musically inclined cast Leslie’s production promises to be good, watch for a preview of it in the coming weeks.

Kirsten Malinee’s experience with CEC and the community theatre scene in Columbia is well known. She’s directed many of the darker stage II shows at CEC and has performed many memorable roles, such as the grieving mother in Rabbit Hole, which was later adapted to a feature film with Kirsten’s character being played by Nicole Kidman. However, for Lanford Wilson’s “Book of Days” Kirsten had to think long and hard about if she wanted to direct the late Missouri playwright’s show. She knew that this show, which involves a tornado hitting a southern Missouri town, is character driven. For that, she ultimately chose a simple set, shifting the focus to be on each actor and they character they portray.  Kirsten, a Stephen’s College alumnus and holder of an MFA in acting from Penn State, has taught acting classes for The Performance Lab. She’s already begun rehearsals for this November show, allocating plenty of time to work with each actor on  their character.

Also, if you’re interested, CEC still needs a director for our June 2012 show, “The Drowsy Chaperone”.

CoMo Theatre: Shakespeare Preview

No need to head out of town this summer to get your fix of Shakespeare (the bard, not the pizza) .  Columbia, Missouri has three productions by two different theatre companies running this month.

5th Wall Productions starts it with a doubleheader of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged on July 7th.  This is 5th Wall’s third year of doing Shakespeare shows.  They’re a recent upstart in the Columbia community theatre scene, and that’s giving them leeway to find their own niche.  Capitalizing on both the talent the city offers and the abundance of free venues, 5th Wall will be performing both of at the Boone County Courthouse Ampitheatre.

While Midsummer’s popular comedic tale of a troupe of actors being manipulated by  fairies set against the marriage of Athenianroyalty is well known, many may not be familiar with the Abridged. This parody features three actors performing the entire works of Shakespeare in an abbreviated time.  It was well received when 5th Wall performed it two years ago. With a strong cast of Chris Bowling, Tom Philips and Aaron Hunsley, this promises to be a fun production allowing the cast to improvise many

Finally, on July 15th, Maplewood Barn Community Theatre starts it third production of the summer with  The Merchant of Venice. In this play the bard, famous for creating more than 2,000 English words and phrases, first used the phrase ‘flesh and blood’ and famously popularized the saying ‘all that glisters is not gold‘. The Barn is no stranger to producing Shakespeare plays as doing so  is their annual tradition.

All three of these productions are performed outdoors. While that does mean you have to battle the bugs and the heat, it also means you can bring your own food, including alcohol,  and enjoy a picnic as you enjoy the festivities.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged, (July 7-24th) plays Thursdays at 6:30pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 6:00pm.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream (July8-24) plays Fridays at 6:30pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 4:00pm. Both productions are “pay-what-you-will” performances.

The Merchant of Venice (July 15-31) plays Fridays through Saturdays at 8:00pm. Tickets may be purchased at the door (well, tent) and are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students and $1 for children 10 and under.

CoMo Theatre: “Putnam County Spelling Bee” Actor Profile

One of the things that makes Columbia, Missouri such a dynamic city is that many people here come and go; having three four five colleges will do that to a city. One such actor who was active in the community theatre scene years ago and has now returned is Kelley Rohlfing Marchbanks.

Who are you?

I’m Kelley Rohlfing Marchbanks. I  grew up on a family farm in Howard County and commuted with my parents to Columbia since the 4th grade.  I now live in Fayette with my husband and five-year-old daughter.

I work for the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, raising funds for the College.  I am very involved with the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Network, and many other organizations within our community.  However, as I became more involved with work, volunteerism, and the family, theater has had to take a back seat. Now that my daughter is older and beginning to develop her own love of theater, it was a great time to tackle a Columbia Entertainment Company (CEC) performance again.

What originally got you involved in theatre?

I have loved theater from as early as I can remember.  My first show was Li’l Abner with Fayette Area Community Theater (FACT) and that began my true love of performing.  I was lucky to be able to attend Rock Bridge High School where I was given the opportunity to be a part of some amazing productions.  Following high school, I faced the decision most every artist faces – follow my love of my art or find a way to fit it into a more practical life.  I chose the latter.  I went to Mizzou and studied Agriculture Education.  During that time, I competed in the Miss America System, giving me many new venues to perform.

What got you involved in theater in Columbia? What makes theatre in Columbia unique?

12 years ago, I met my husband on the CEC stage in The Sound of Music.  He was cast Rolf and I was Liesl.  We both love theater but with a family, it is difficult for both of us to be in a show at the same time.  We have done a few shows with FACT and I auditioned for several shows at CEC before being cast in CEC’s current production of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

The amazing thing about CEC is the quality of actors it attracts and this show is further proof of that.  In my experience, community theater pulls all levels of talent and experience which can be really fun.  Anyone, from those with the itch to entertain to those desiring more of the high that only comes from being on stage, has a place.  However, this show (as is the case with many of the CEC shows) is as close as you’ll get to professional theater without actually paying the cast and crew!

Describe the time and effort you’ve put into this show.

Being in a community theater production takes a great deal of commitment in both time and energy but it is one of the most rewarding experiences to be had.  It has been hard being away from my family at least 4 nights per week but those who “get it” know there is nothing in the world that compares.  The relationships you build with fellow actors, seeing a show start from nothing and become a completely unique world, and the high that comes from moving the audience is what bring us all back to the stage again and again.  As my daughter gets involved in her own activities, I might be pulled away again but I will always come back and, if I’m lucky, she will have the theater bug too and the entire Marchbanks/Rohlfing family will be back on stage again!

Why this production?

The entire production is made up of the most talented cast and crew I have ever worked with.  From absolutely incredible musical talent to keen improvisational skills, this cast is sure to impress. I have seen this show several times, absolutely love it and was thrilled to be cast as Rona Lisa Perretti, the official host of the Spelling Bee.  This show is filled with great music, a diverse cast of characters and opportunities for the actors to interact with the audience.  Four audience members become integral parts of the Bee and the actors bring the show out into the audience.  The show is designed in such a way that much of it can be tailored to the audience and community to which it is presented and that makes it a show you can see over and over again.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opens tonight and runs for the next three weekends (June 9-12, 16-19, 23-26). Curtain is at 7:30pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday with a 2:00pm matinée on Sundays. Tickets are $12 for adults and $11 for students and $10 for seniors and children. Reservations are encouraged, 573-474-3699.

COMO Theatre: “Odd Couple” Actor Profile

One of the fun things about community theatre is the wide range of people that come and get involved in it.  People are constantly coming in and out of the theatre world. Theatre presents an easy opportunity for people to develop a small amount of talent into a much larger one. One recent entrant into the Columbia, Missouri community theatre scene who once thought “Hey, I can do that” is Leslie Stock.

Who are you?

I’m Leslie Stock, I’m originally from northwest Illinois but I now live just south of Wooldridge, Missouri, with my husband, Mark, and our 4 children.  I am co-director of operations of our company, otherwise known as a stay at home mother.

What originally got you involved in theatre?

My parents saw that I had a flair for the theater when I would do Mae West impersonations for their friends when they would come over and singing show tunes around the house.   I attended a summer children’s theatre in Illinois for multiple summers.  My parents were integral in nurturing my love of the theater.  We attended productions at the various local community theaters.

What got you involved in theater in Columbia? What has been the best thing about it?

My husband and I attended Camelot last summer at Maplewood Barn Theater.  While perusing the show program I saw an ad for auditions at Columbia Entertainment Company for their upcoming production of  Jesus Christ Superstar.  It had been some time since I had been able to be a part of a theater production and Jesus Christ Superstar is one of my favorites.  Mark and I did some talking and I decided to audition.

I am so glad that I did.  Through auditioning and being a part of the Jesus Christ Superstar cast I have met wonderful people who share the same love for theater and music as I do.  The chance to come together with so many different people, who I probably would not meet otherwise, and bring to stage productions from wonderful playwrights & composers is quite a heady feeling.

What is it about Columbia’s theater scene that makes it unique?

I think what makes the Columbia theater scene unique is the wide variety of community theater production companies.  There are some large companies and then some smaller groups.  Each one is unique in the type of productions they produce.  You can find traditional stages to black box theaters.  I recently saw a production of “Superior Doughnuts” put on by Independent Actors Theatre (IAT) at The Muse Cafe & Gallery, using the cafe as the stage. In addition to the community theaters in the area there are the collegiate and high school theaters that do wonderful, amazing productions.

What is your current project?

My current project is “The Odd Couple” (female version) by Neil Simon at Maplewood Barn Community Theater.  I am playing the role of “Vera” one of Olive and Florence’s friends.  Olive and Florence are the female odd couple.  Vera marches to the beat of a different drummer. Sweet, caring but not always the sharpest knife in the drawer.  She is married to Harry, who runs a kosher deli in New York.  Vera has been a delightful role to develop and bring to the stage.

Describe the time and effort you’ve put in this role?

Our first rehearsal was two months ago in early April. We’ve  been rehearsing 5 days a week most weeks.  In the beginning we would rehearse for two hours in the evening.  As we get closer to our opening night, June 10, our rehearsals do run longer.  This does mean many evenings away from home but is necessary to bring a show to the stage. In addition to the hours of rehearsals myself and the other cast members have spent a great deal of time memorizing our lines and developing our characters at home.

Why should people see The Odd Couple?

This is a wonderful play by Neil Simon.  Smart and funny.  The cast and crew have worked hard to bring this play to the stage and they will be entertained.  Oscar and Felix have nothing on Olive and Florence.  Join us and see how this dysfunctional relationship struggles to function.  Meet their off the wall friends: stylish Sylvie, Mickey the cop, sweet but slightly off Vera (played by me!) and Renee who is always on the look out for a cute, single doctor.  Watch as Olive introduces Florence to her upstairs neighbor from Spain – the Consuela brothers.

Maplewood Barn Theater is a unique setting.  First it is set outside with the sky as our ceiling and the audience brings their own seating.  In addition to that the audience is encouraged to bring a picnic, snacks or something to drink to enjoy while watching the play.  People will have a great time and I encourage them to come out to Maplewood Barn Theater!

The “Odd Couple” runs June 10-12, 17-19, 24-26. The box office opens at 7pm, show starts at 8pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and children.

CoMo Theatre: Behind The Scenes

I’ve been a lover of the stage since I was young. When I graduated from college I was glad to see that there was a vibrant community theatre scene here in Columbia, Missouri. I think that this scene was a driving force in helping me to decide to stay in this community and not venture off to the larger cities.  It is no wonder with so many opportunities for people of all ages to get involved in a production. I never realized how much hard work really goes into a show. While I did participate in shows as a kid, it was more expected, since every child has extra-curricular activities.   So, what makes being involved with theatre in Columbia so great?

Melting Pot: Theatre brings together people of different ages, different demographics, different classes, different sexual orientations, and different opinions.  This wasn’t always the case if you did theatre as a child. Often, you would be in shows with people your own age, or who went to your school. But theatre in Columbia brings together people from all across Mid-Missouri. I’ve had the opportunity to meet people I wouldn’t otherwise have met. This includes those who are CEOs of a major company, to high school or college students, to those between jobs or even those well employed. I’ve met devout Christians, devout pagans, transsexuals, conservatives, and liberals. Yet all these groups that otherwise wouldn’t interact come together with a collective goal, that doesn’t involve beating another team. I think this is where Columbia is special. We can be a large enough town to attract a large diversity of people and yet still small enough that we stay in our own social groups. Participating in theatre breaks these bounds and helps create a more cohesive community.

Camaraderie: It takes a long time to get a show ready to go on stage. For example, Columbia Entertainment Company’s next production, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, held auditions on April 3rd. Their final performance will be on June 26th. That’s an entire quarter of a year of the same group of people working on one production. These actors have gotten together regularly every day for the past two months from 7pm to around 10pm working on their lines and music. They then have spent their weekends since late May building a set. It has involved headaches of having to replace an actor who dropped out, to having to deal with the regular drama that goes on behind any event. In the end, they’ll have a production they’ll be proud of. But, by June 27th it will be a memory. It is no wonder that some shows, such as the Maplewood Barn’s 2008 production of Plan 9 from Outer Space, still hold reunions years after the show has wrapped.

Not Food Centered: It seems that too often if you want to hang out with a group of friends, it involves food of some sort. Being in a production is different. There are times when building a set gives a feel of an old fashioned barn raising. You’re constantly talking with your fellow actor or crew and working out different problems.  In fact, when I’m in a show, I typically lose 10 pounds during the production. Now, while I would probably do better if this were an athletic event like softball, I’m just not an athlete. Plus, let’s face it, sometimes athletic events are just an excuse to go out drinking later, if not during.

It’s fun: There is nothing like coming together with people you hardly know to join forces and put together an event that will cause people to applaud.  We all like attention. Being in a production gives you that attention. Even if you’re a “small part” there will be someone in the audience who is watching you.

Volunteers: I think this is a fun thing about Columbia’s community theatre scene. Everyone involved is a volunteer. They don’t have to be there. They’re not being forced to be there. They are volunteering for an effort within the arts because, frankly, they like the arts. Sure, some positions, like a show director, get a small stipend, which for the number of hours a director puts into a show is mainly covers gas money. But, for the most part, everyone is there because they want to be. They put in a lot of hours and it shows.

In the future, I plan to write more for The Como Collective. Highlighting not only the shows (make sure to catch the female version of The Odd Couple coming up at Maplewood Barn) and actors, but also some of the planning that is involved in running a community theatre. From the high cost of royalties and marketing to the process of selecting a season to dealing with the regular drama behind the scenes.