Behind every star on stage, there’s a worker in the wings.
A producer. A stage manager. Lighting tech.
And the 100 Mile pantomime, The Emperor’s New Clothes, is no exception. The show is running at Martin Exeter Hall this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. with a matinee at 1 p.m. Saturday.
But months before characters like Dame Doonothing or the Emperor were even cast, producer Kathy Wolczuk was busy working behind the scenes.
She was meeting with the directors to hammer out a vision and come up with a budget for the costumes and sets. She then had to wait for the plan to be approved by the society’s board before starting to look for members of the cast and crew.
Being a producer, she said, requires patience, a tenacious spirit, good people skills and a general dedication to getting things done.
“I have a three-page list, step-by-step, to build this play. On a show the size of Emperor, it’s almost better to have two people because there’s just so much,” Wolczuk, 70, said. “I think I’ll have a partner next time because it can just get a little much.”
One of the biggest challenges this year was finding people to audition. After three years of no live theatre, some members of the society had left the community or were no longer interested in participating. This led to Wolczuk, along with directors Margot Shaw and Donalda Spears, “scrambling” to find actors to avoid cancelling the play.
They succeeded, bringing in several new actors to fill the roles. They even recruited one of their key cast members after running into him by chance at the Red Rock Grill.
But that was just the beginning. Wolczuk said the real work began when they first entered Martin Exeter Hall. That’s when the production becomes real, she said, and the backstage crew joins rehearsals.
As stage manager, Melissa Hermiston is in charge of ensuring every scene runs smoothly. Her stage crew includes her daughter Rowan, Steve Coleopy and Calvin Kreschuk.
“Basically I am in charge of all of the set changes between scenes and all the props are where they need to be,” Hermiston said. “I’m also in charge of making sure the actors are in place to make their cues and that everybody is quiet backstage.”
Hermiston said so far the cast of Emperor has been great to work with, as they all know their cues and are in the right place at the right time. The set pieces are also relatively simple so she and her crew are able to make quick and efficient scene changes regularly.
“You need to stay calm if something goes wrong. Live theatre stuff is going to happen so you just need to figure out a way to fix it.”
Learning the ins and outs of Martin Exeter Hall’s lighting system was a unique challenge for lighting technician Delta Pinkston. Originally designed as a TV studio for broadcasting the Emissaries of the Divine Light’s sermons, the hall has a lot of strange quirks, she said.
“We got six lights new to us for this show that we can actually get parts for, unlike some of our older ones that they just don’t make parts for anymore,” Pinkston said. “We’re trying to update it a little bit and I did as much as I could. There’s an increasing number of outlets here that don’t work so I have to get more and more creative.”
Besides one light exploding during an early dress rehearsal, which Pinkston cleaned up with some heavy gloves, she said rigging the lighting went as smoothly as could be expected. She said it’s a “cute little theatre” that’s grown on her over the past couple of months.
“There are people who really like to be the centre of attention and I like to facilitate that story process to give them their moment to shine,” she said.“There’s a happy battle between the actors and the tech. ‘Without us, you’d just be standing there shouting on a dark stage’ and ‘without us you’d have nothing but a pretty well-lit scene and nothing would happen.”
Hermiston said the confidence of the cast and crew has increased since the live performances started last week. The young talent Wolczuk found has really blossomed and come into their roles nicely, she said.
“I think it’s becoming a well-oiled machine and with each show, it’s just going to get better and better,” Hermiston said. “There’s so much that goes into a show. It’s not just the 18 people you see on stage, it’s twice that really and it’s a really great group of people.”
Watching the crowd react positively to the Emperor’s New Clothes feels “really good,” Wolczuk said. She and everyone else involved have heard all the jokes before but to watch people laugh their heads off makes the experience rewarding.
“Come and enjoy this wonderful pantomime! I find it very exciting to see it all come together,” she said. “We’re doing something for our community and it’s positive. Everybody is welcome.”
Tickets are available at the door or at Didi’s Boutique or Donex Pharmacy & Department Store.