The Off Broadway Players’ production of the comedy Dearly Departed runs on the J.F. Hillyard Middle School stage June 3, 4, 5, and 10, 11, 12. The cast that Director Terri Hoover acquired includes several OBP regulars, three actors returning after some time away from the stage, and three bright new faces, too. This month we focus on those first-timers and those who have returned to the stage.
The six actors were asked several questions, including: What attracts you to be on stage? Why do you volunteer your time to community theatre? Their answers reveal some things about themselves, as well as the appeal of the local theatre experience. The commonality of their responses shows that in all of us lie similar drives and desires, the fulfillment of which can be found among friends who work as a team in this world called “theatre.”
Three actors who return to the stage after some time away from the OBP are Amber Miller, Romney Ritchie, and Cory Tinkham. The last time these three were together was in the 2019 production Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Why did they decide to audition for Dearly Departed? Cory says, “I missed the theatre after the start of Covid and wanted to get back into it, now that it’s up and running again.”
Amber echoes Cory: “I always miss my theatre family on the breaks between shows, especially when we had to be shut down due to the pandemic. It’s so good to be back on stage with everyone, entertaining the audience again! I love comedies. I just thought the show sounded like it would be really funny and so much fun.”
Romney, who has worked in other theatres, usually in children’s roles, adds, “I was ready to play an adult role, and this would be the best place to learn in this witty, cute, and heartwarming play.”
Acting, like most activities, has its rewards and challenges. Cory loves the whole amazing process from start to finish, which he finds to be “super fun.” The only challenge for Cory is memorizing lines, as it is with many actors. Romney says that he enjoys pretending to be a different person on stage, and his most challenging thing is developing into a character. In addition to becoming someone else, Amber loves the costuming aspect and working with other actors to entertain audiences. She adds that dancing is a challenge, but her biggest challenge is knowing there is a final performance, because she never wants the experience to end.
Dearly Departed also has three actors who are new to the community theatre experience itself.
These folks were not just sitting around, waiting for something to do. Their current activities include cooking, music, outdoor adventures, church work, public school teaching, quilting, renovating an old house, etc.
Why then did Madeline Owen, Laura Fly, and John McMurray decide to add acting to their busy lives? Here’s a sampling of their responses.
Madeline writes: “When I was younger, I was involved in a few school plays and throughout my life I fell in love with theatre. I had a desire to act, but the opportunity had not presented itself, until now. This opportunity came at the perfect time.”
Laura says, “I was part of a Christmas production at my church. A dear friend of mine (who directed the Christmas play) recommended I try out (for Dearly Departed).”
John explains: “I was in the plays and musicals in high school. It was a wonderful experience. My wife and other friends had been suggesting that I get involved in community theatre for quite a while. So, when I got a call from a friend to consider being a part of Dearly Departed, how was I to refuse? Since joining the cast, it has all come flooding back to me how much fun it is to be a part of a production.
What do these new additions to the OBP consider to be rewards and challenges as community theatre actors? Madeline confessed that her challenge is letting herself go and not overthinking the character. She appreciates the camaraderie among the players that allows the characters to evolve together as an ensemble. Laura finds that learning lines is her biggest challenge. She loves playing a character that makes the audience laugh. John agrees that learning lines can sometimes be a challenge, and what he enjoys most is, “Everyone is working together to help each other achieve a goal that is greater than any one of them.”
The life of any nonprofit organization, especially its future, lies in its members and the community who supports it. All six of these actors were asked to comment on their views of and hopes for the Off Broadway Players. Their responses ranged from being proud to be a part of the organization to their anticipation of having a new theater space on Main Street. Each one of them wants to see the theatre grow, continue to entertain the community, and attract many more people to become involved in some way, as actors, backstage help, ushers, or audience members. Cory Tinkham summed up everyone’s dream for the theatre: “I hope (The Off Broadway Players) are around to stay for many, many years to come. I would love to see more people give it a shot! You won’t be sorry, and you’ll make some great friends in the process!”
If you have ever considered getting involved with a production, either onstage or offstage, you have an opportunity coming soon. Our next production is The Play That Goes Wrong, a sidesplitting comedy about the opening night of a new murder mystery. Auditions for the show (and sign-ups to help offstage) will be held June 13 and 14, 6:30 pm until 8:30 pm, in the J. Frank Hillyard Middle School auditorium. Shows will be performed on September 23, 24, 25, 30, and October 1, 2. Rehearsals will be Sunday afternoons, and Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings beginning July 31. Additional information can be found at www.off-broadwayplayersva.org. Come join us!