By Michelle Strubeck for Seward City News –
The Port City Players devoted numerous hours rehearsing for their current production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Tryouts took place in mid January and rehearsals began in February 3-4 nights per week. Director Linnea Hollingsworth stated rehearsals went well, she is very happy with the progress of the entire cast and the kids were full of energy and ideas throughout the process. The cast is comprised of ten; six principal parts and four chorus members. The kids in the chorus were able to pick out which characters they would like to play. This production also has a good mix of cast members that performed in Peter Pan last year.
“You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” was a 1967 musical comedy with music and lyrics by Clark Gesner, based on characters created by Charles M. Schultz. The story follows a year in the life of Charlie Brown; a series of vignettes such as Valentine’s Day, kite flying, baseball and glee club. Musical Director Dr. Mark Turner stated that the original musical was written for adults to sing to children. In this instance the tables had to be turned and some of the music had to be rearranged to fit the strength of the kids.
The lead role of Charlie Brown is being played by Clay Peterson, Sally Brown is being played by Lidia Jacoby, the role of Snoopy belongs to Selma Casagranda, Anevay Ambrosiani has been cast for the role of Lucy, Linus is being played by Martin Fink and Schroeder is being played by Karl Pfeiffenberger. The chorus is composed of Nora Andrews, Sailor Terry, Ava Nappi, and Abigail Doepken. The performers range in age from second grade to high school sophomores. The cast of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” stated they are a intimate, friendly bunch that are very easy going and there is always lots of laughter. Abigail Doepken expressed that it is fun to be a different character than in real life and Selma Casagranda went on to say she likes how close everyone in the production is. Selma added that playing Snoopy is something that is outside of her comfort zone. Initially, she was uncomfortable with playing Snoopy when rehearsals began, but with the help of choreographer Rike Pere, Selma and the entire cast grew into their roles and became more comfortable. Everyone had to use their imaginations working with minimal props. Aside from enjoying theater, some of the cast members also participate in forensics and they have won several awards for their oratorical abilities.
Rehearsals took place at the Breeze Inn before moving over to Temple Studios. The former Elks Lodge was purchased by J.W. Fry and Tyson Davis of Blackwater Railroad. Temple Studios is currently being renovated for use as a performance venue for local and traveling artists. Once rehearsals began at Temple Studios, props were finalized, then seats and flooring were installed. Lighting Director Cliff Krug worked on getting the “spaces” in place. Cliff stated that one of the challenges for this production is that the venue doesn’t have three phase lighting, allowing for the use of dimmers. (In order to go from smooth to black, three phases are needed). However, by choosing the right lights and the right moments, over 80 lighting effects were created, and although it was a crude way to go about it, a lot of the lighting effects were done by plugging and unplugging the lights. “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”, was the inaugural performance at Temple Studios; a space that has a lot of potential. Cliff was assisted by Seward High School Junior, Joel Williams, Lighting Technician. Joel carried out Cliff’s lighting creations and he also worked as a Lighting Technician during last years production of Peter Pan.
Another challenge for Cliff was talking about the lighting effects in English. Cliff taught dance theater and lighting for seven years in Italy and went on to tour Europe and South Africa. He learned lighting in Italian and when it came time to talk about the lighting effects for Charlie Brown, he found that he couldn’t talk about the subject in English, making for some comical moments! Cliff stated that working with this team was a magical collaboration, the group is passionate about what they are doing, everyone feeds off of each other and there was a lot of thinking outside of the box.
Kathy Martin stated that she accepted the challenge of being the Stage Manager with the support and encouragement of Producer, Kenneth Faust and Director, Linnea Hollingsworth. Being a stage manager is something Kathy has never done before, but as rehearsals and production progressed, Kathy found that she does have a transferable skill set that fits into being a stage manager. It was just a matter of figuring out how her skills fit into the world of theater. Kathy explained that she stepped into the role of stage manager very humbly. She has a sense of peace with working on a smaller production, venue and team versus working on a larger production such as Peter Pan.
Kathy went on to say that another challenge for Charlie Brown, is that they don’t have a sound booth to work with so everyone had to get creative in every aspect as to how scenes would be carried out. The cast doesn’t have cues to work with, so they have to be very attentive as to where and when they should be positioned throughout the play. This includes positioning props during the show as well.
Once rehearsals began at Temple Studios Kathy explained that there was very good progression between the owners of Temple Studios and the cast and crew of Charlie Brown. There was never any nervousness or stress that things wouldn’t get done in time and everything came together piece by piece. There was an assurance from Tyson Davis and J.W. Fry. You just need to have a vision in theater.
Pianist Beth Johnson said that she felt a bit more pressure as a solo accompanist, providing most of the musical cues for the cast. She said that music creates the play and each scene is unique and whimsical. She feels that Charlie Brown is a delightful play and the songs are hilarious!
Recently, Seward home school students were invited to the final dress rehearsal and preview night. This gave the cast a chance to perform in front of a live audience prior to opening night, which took place on April 14th. Linnea Hollingsworth was incredibly pleased with the dress rehearsal. She stated that everything went very well, the kids zest was up and they were saying and trying new things. She went on to say that the entire production came together in a very good manner and there was an amazing transformation from beginning to end.
Remaining performances will take place on Friday, April 21st at 7:00 P.M. with a matinee performance on Saturday at 2:00 P.M. and another at 7 P.M. Tickets are available at the Hotel Seward and at the door. Individual tickets are $25, family tickets are $50 (two adults and two children or one adult and three children), $20 for seniors, children and members of the Seward Arts Council. Thanks to the generosity of Wellness for All, an affiliation of the Seward Prevention Coalition, there is a limited number of family tickets available to students that participate in the free/reduced lunch program. These tickets can be claimed at the box office and they are only offered for the matinee performances on a first come, first serve basis. If you are a student on the free/reduced lunch program, be sure to mention this to the ticket agent in order to receive free admission.