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Dec. 23, 2004
Behind the Stage Door

Picks from Behind the Curtain

It's all good in North Coast Theater 2004


THE END OF THE YEAR BRINGS TIME FOR reflection on what we've accomplished and what we want to do next. I recently asked the local theaters to do just that; three responded.

The most enthusiastic was Michael Thomas of North Coast Repertory Theatre (NCRT) who said he had a hard time picking his best of 2004 because they had "two sold out musicals, and nearly sold out productions" for the rest of the season. He was also pleased to announce that local patrons have funded not only the new paint job on the outside of the building but a "state of the art heating, cooling and ventilating system [to be] installed early in 2005." Thomas said that physical systems continue to challenge NCRT, but their most looming crisis is "continuing to present quality live theater and paying all artists involved in a production, while keeping ticket prices reasonable for members of our North Coast community."

Dell'Arte's Producing Artistic Director Michael Fields said his favorite pieces this year were Shadow of Giants, The 30 Show and Golden State, and the worst he saw "was 42nd Street on Broadway [in New York] -- a mechanical, lifeless, cold million dollar production that seems to have no reason to be other than to attract tourists to spend $75 [for a] kind of theater Disneyland." Fields added, "I truly don't think there is a burning crisis in theater on the North Coast," although he added, "There are a lack of funding sources, [with California] now ranking 50 out 50 states in arts spending with most of those cuts negatively impacting children's access to the arts." Fields said, "I believe in the transformative power of the arts and its power to make the world and our lives better." While concerned that "there is a general lack of understanding that the arts and theater in particular have a huge economic impact on this community and contribute in great measure to the livability and the specialness of this place," Fields concluded, "in many ways our theater scene on the North Coast is healthy, respectful and diverse. The arts make for a healthy community. And despite the issues that face us -- ours is healthier than most."

Meanwhile the Ferndale Repertory Theatre's Artistic Director Marilyn McCormick said, "We are not only blessed with a fabulous variety of live theater entertainment options on the North Coast but an incredible number of wonderful and talented actors, directors and designers. I do believe we rival what's out there in the big cities as far as theater goes."

McCormick's concern was "the lackluster attitude of [some local] media regarding the importance of the theater arts in Humboldt County," which she considers "a potential tourist draw." She hopes "to raise enough money to pay the theater artists a decent salary [and] expand our children's theater and school program." She concluded that "our biggest challenge is getting new audiences, [which leads to my] other challenge: not having the money to pay for more staff, resident designers and stage manager, publicity and audience development." She added she's always looking for more volunteers.

Picks from Behind the Curtain

CONSIDERING THE EXCELLENT WORKS LOCAL theaters have produced this year, I present my first ever personal "Picks from Behind the Curtain." The five local companies are abbreviated as follows: Ferndale Repertory Theatre (FRT), Humboldt Light Opera Company (HLOC), North Coast Repertory Theatre (NCRT), Redwood Curtain Theater (RC) and Dell'Arte (DA)

Best Actress, Comedy
Wanda Stapp (NCRT Miss Firecracker Contest, NCRT Pirates of Penzance)

Best Actress, Physical Comedy
Keight Gleason (DA Shadow of Giants, DA The 30 Show)

Best Actress, Musical
Fiona Zublin (NCRT Cabaret)

Best Actress, Drama
Marilyn McCormick (FRT On Golden Pond)

Best Actor, Drama and Comedy
Henry Kraemer (RC What's Wrong With This Picture, NCRT Biloxi Blues)

Best Actor, Musical
Mark Allen Johnson (NCRT Cabaret, RC Enter the Guardsman, NCRT Pirates of Penzance)

Best Actor, Physical Comedy
Michael Fields (The 30 Show)

Best Supporting Actress, Drama
Carolyn Ayres (RC Enter the Guardsman)

Best Supporting Actress, Musical
Annie Salamunovich (HLOC Brigadoon)

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Zachary Rouse (NCRT Biloxi Blues)

Best Supporting Actor, Musical
Gavin Donnellan (FRT Oklahoma)

Most Delightful Leading Couple
Nino Degennaro and Holly Couling (RC Don Juan in Chicago)

Best Dead Woman
Bonnie Bareilles Halverson (RC What's Wrong With This Picture)

Best Nonexistent Woman
Shelley Stewart (RC Woman in Black)

Best Young Sopranos
Fiona Ryder (HLOC Quilters) and Essie Canty Bertain (NCRT Pirates of Penzance)

Best Devil
Ron Halverson (RC Don Juan in Chicago)

Most Challenging Roles for an Actor
Victor Howard (NCRT Miss Firecracker Contest, NCRT Biloxi Blues)

Youngest Chorus Line
Oompa Loompas (FRT Willy Wonka)

Slipperiest Chorines
Theresa Ireland, Darcy Daughtry (NCRT Cabaret, NCRT Pirates of Penzance)

Best Costumes
Heidi Caldwell (RC Don Juan in Chicago)

Best Set
Bob Bigelow (RC Woman in Black)

Best Lights
Monica J. Hubbard (RC Don Juan in Chicago)

Best Sound
Emily Carpenter and Everson Corrigon (RC Don Juan in Chicago)

Best Director, Musical
Elisa Woodruff (FRT Oklahoma)

Best Director, Drama
Gene Cole (NCRT Biloxi Blues)

Best Director, Comedy
Bernadette Cheyne (RC Don Juan in Chicago)

Best Director, Children's Theater
Denise Ryles (FRT Young Actor's Workshop)

Best Children's Review
Circo Stupendo (DA)

Best Children's Play
The World of Willy Wonka (FRT)

Best One-Man Show
Gary Anderson (FRT Clarence Darrow)

Best Review
The 30 Show (DA)

Best Holiday Show
Three Pigs: A Comic Tail with a Twist (DA)

Best Original Play
Matthew Graham Smith (DA Shadow of Giants)

Best Drama
Biloxi Blues (NCRT)

Best Comedy
Don Juan in Chicago (RC)

The Only Spontaneous Standing Ovation of 2004
was earned by Jeanmarie Simpson and Cameron Crain (FRT A Single Woman).

Thanks to the actors, techies, directors, theaters, patrons, audiences and my publishers for the opportunity to see the fantastic range of live theater in Humboldt County and get paid for it!


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