The Joy Of Community Theatre! A Little Reminder In Florida
By Katie Hurrey
The community theatre group, the After Work Players began meeting once a week on a Monday night in April 2018. United by their love of musical theatre and with just eleven weeks of rehearsal these senior citizens, eighteen year olds and every age in between, played Guys and Dolls to sold out houses at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
We were invited to the dress rehearsal by our friend and artist-in-residence Tammy Holder. She warned us (a group of professional directors, actors and dancers) it was the first time the cast were running the show in sequence, and that no-one in the company was a professional performer. Guys and Dolls was presented in concert version in the little black box theatre and various Hot Box girls began each scene with a brief synopsis. The sparse set was created by moving panels (half of which were yet to be painted by one of the ensemble for the following night’s opening), a couple of benches, a table and chair.
Tammy sat at her piano downstage left, music directing, stage managing and technical directing all at once, while her husband John hot-footed around the stage during scene changes moving the wheeling panels, rearranging furniture on Tammy’s commands: “Stop! The bench is at the wrong angle!”
As the performance began and we were treated to the physical exuberance of Nathan Detroit (Kevin O’Connor) and his motley crew of gamblers, played by both men and women in some wonderful suits and hats, we started smiling. And didn’t stop.
Our encouraging smiles willed them on and swiftly turned to genuine enjoyment of the company’s passion and commitment, the delight causing our jaws to ache.
Miss Adelaide’s (Heather Nock) bubbly accent and the lovely voices of Sky Masterson (Giuseppe Barioli) and Sister Sarah Brown (Amanda Dabideen) brought the familiar scenes and songs to life and the Hot Box girls relished their dance numbers – my eyes were drawn to a pair of beautifully beveled feet with obvious prior dance experience among the cleanly rehearsed dancing women in their pearls. Stand-out moments from Harry the Horse (Jacqueline Falaude) and the delightful Rusty Charlie (Jeffrey Gaines) kept us smiling as did a couple of delays: Mimi missed her scene announcement after calls from Tammy… she didn’t appear and the show went on….Kathleen almost missed hers, but managed to dash to center stage just in time, and Mariann was directed to step into her light lest she make her announcement in the dark. Called direction reminders from Tammy to the Mission Band “and we’re sad, we’re tired…” and general crowd instruction “hub-ub, hub-ub” incited immediate vocal energy from the players and our smiles continued…
The following morning, back in the studio with twenty-two professional singers and dancers in rehearsal for a beautiful production show for Quantum of the Seas, I missed the enthusiastic performances of the evening before.
The soaring vocals and contemporary dance pieces would have benefited from the passion and pride of the Guys and Dolls amateur actors. Those of us who are fortunate enough to make a living doing what we love, occasionally need reminding of the reasons we pursue a career on or behind the stage, the magic we can bring to every moment and the intense emotion able to move an audience. The After Work Players, comprised of lawyers, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, a marine biologist, chemical engineer and a leader of the South Florida Democratic Party, performed with such joy I will be smiling at the memory for some time.