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It ain’t normal at an Our Town rehearsal

July 3, 2019
By Anne Michael , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

By Anne Michael

It's a Monday around 6:30 p.m. at the Wieting. It is a rehearsal for Our Town, and it would be a real experience for anyone not familiar with theater. Walking down the aisle and looking intently serious is Joannie Hayward Helm. She is on a mission and carries a baseball bat. Is she dangerous? No. She is just bringing in one of the props needed for the play.

On the stage seated in chairs are several actors who are portraying the deceased townspeople resting in the local cemetery Director Fasse-Shaw has told them to sit still and be basically expressionless. So some chat, some memorize their lines; and some do upper body stretching exercises. They are a very lively group for dead people. But they must be wary because "life" will come out of them when Fass decides it will.

Article Photos

The Stage Manager (Nathan Shepard) shares what and who is in Grover’s Corners.
Chronicle photos/John Speer

Every once in a while, there is a disembodied voice coming from the balcony. This is the voice of Jeff Shaw who is working on the lighting system. He is not seen and only occasionally heard as he struggles with spotlights and the more complicated new lighting system. This voice adds an element of suspense to the rehearsal. When will he speak? What will he say? Will anybody ever actually see him?

Then Maria Behounek keeps walking up and down the aisle, carrying loads of garments. She is not on her way to the laundromat; she is the costumer for the play. Marla is not a tall woman, and one sits in amazement as she totes such tall loads of costumes that she almost disappears behind each bundle. Watching her bring in costumes is like watching reruns - here she comes - again and again and again.

Fass speaks to her actors as they prepare for the cemetery scene. She warns them not to poke each other with their umbrellas. She says, "And don't deny it. I saw you doing it. I DID!" The mourners were a little slow making their entrance, probably because they took time to poke each other off stage.

Michele Anderson appears for a moment wearing a long black skirt, which will be part of her costume. Of course, a long black skirt is appropriate for the time period - but - perhaps - that rather high slit in the back is not so much. Undoubtedly, Maria will do some sewing.

And the debate and confusion for the evening surfaces among the dead, which considering these particular group of dead people, is highly appropriate. The question is who has the lines given to "a woman among the dead" and a "woman FROM among the dead." After discussion, the "from" character is separated from the character who is only "among." And the rehearsal continues.

A bit chaotic scene at the Wieting at 6-30 on a Monday. It is a rehearsal. And it is live theater. It is how it's done and how it happens. Out of all this fumbling will come a creation that is known as art. And for a moment we see it when Michaela Suchanek as Emily, playing a girl who dies far too soon, stands stage center and delivers her final lines so beautifully that it wrenches the heart.

That is theater. Come and see it July 11, 12, and 13 at the Wieting at 7:30 p.m. each evening.

 
 
 

 

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