Anyone who’s ever been to the theater and walked away wondering, “how’d they pull that off?” will love Rick Abbot’s ensemble piece, “Play On!” which is being performed by the Rock Hill Community Theatre on the last two weekends in May.
“This is a play about just how they pull it off,” Fort Mill resident and RHCT director Sheri Marvin explained.
The story is about a theater group trying desperately to put on a play while the overbearing writer interferes incessantly, driving everyone nuts along the way and pretty much guaranteeing that anything that can go wrong, will.
“There are three acts,’ chuckles Marvin, who’s played the annoying writer herself in another production.
Act I is a rehearsal of the dreadful show.
Act II is the near disastrous dress rehearsal.
Act III is the actual performance which includes all manner of raucous behavior; botched curtain calls; madcap misadventure and sound effects gone awry.
In this production, Pam Unruh, a veteran performer, plays the writer whose inability to let go of her own creation causes angst – and plenty of headaches for the rest of the cast and crew.
“Phyllis is not mean," Unruh explains about the character, “she’s socially awkward and it’s a big deal that she’s getting this play produced.”
The others in the room laugh.
Phyliss is annoying.
Recently, the playhouse, located in an old school complex off Cherry Road, was a hub of activity as cast and crew worked on the set, checked the lights and sound, posed for photos and shared snacks and jokes.
“What I love about this kind of theater is community aspect,” explained another actor, Marti Deane, who’s worked on a number of productions at RHCT. “But, it also develops who I am, as a person. I feel like we’re giving something back to the community.”
Nicholas Ryckman who plays Billy was asked to audition for this production while simultaneously playing a different character in the same play at USC Lanscaster. Confused?
It’s a play about putting on a play and some things are universal with any performing group.
“It’s a really fun play and I’m glad that I get to participate. It’s done differently here. I’m not working with just students.”
“We’ve got an all-star cast and I really like to brag about that,’ Marvin said about the cast which includes veteran actors with over 30 years of theatrical experience. The Fort Mill resident who works in the banking industry by day said luck, as well as talent, plays a role in casting calls.
“It’s probably timing, too. There wasn’t a lot of other stuff out there to try out for, so we’re happy about that! We really lucked out.”
Tom Delorme, another longtime veteran of stage, film and sound projects, said that many in the ensemble have switched roles. Directors have acted. Actors have directed. The cross training is good for them.
“You’re using different muscles,’ he said about being the actor vs the director. Delorme is a regular in Charlotte Comedy Theatre and other improv circles. He’s in it for the long haul.
“I’m less of an actor than I am a director,” confessed Marvin, who has been directing in South Carolina community theatre for 18 years and before that in New Jersey.
John Calabrese, a veteran actor of film and stage orginally from Connecticut, plays the set builder/lighting and sound guy in this production. His character has his hands full dealing with the wacky writer and corroborating with the fictitious stage manager.
The real-life stage manager for the play, Catherine Wallace, reiterates the positive energy that comes with working together in community theater. The retired teacher is currently working on three different productions in the area.
“The year I retired was the same year my mother died and my husband left me,” she told a visitor to the set. Working around the stage and behind the scenes keeps her going. The camaraderie and feeling of family, not to mention the laughter involved – put some air under her wings.
“I feel free here,’ she said of the space around her. “I’m freed up to do what I love.”
And that’s how the show continues to go on.
Want to go?
Play On! By Rick Abbot presented by the Rock Hill Community Theatre
Directed by Sheri Marvin
May 19-21 and May 25-28
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Rock Hill Community Theatre
546 S. Cherry Rd (Behind ROC Emporium)
Tickets are $15 for adult; $12 for Seniors and Students; $2 off matinees.
Go to rockhilltheatre.org
For more information: 803-FAN-RHCT