Letter: Heroic doings on Gay Street

Dear friends of the theater,

I hope you didn’t miss the RAAC Community Theater performances of “Heroes,” which closed two weeks ago. Written by a Frenchman named Sibleyras and translated by Tom Stoppard, it’s one of those wonderful plays that seems pretty simple the first time you see or read it, then changes every time you do it again. The first time it seems to be a simple play about three retired Army officers at a military retirement home whose friendship keeps them alive. But after a reading or two you know that at least two of them are crazy – but maybe it’s their very craziness that keeps them alive.

And then there are the poplars, up there on the ridge beyond the cemetery, constantly swaying in the wind. What are they all about? (In fact, the play was called “Le vent des peupliers” in the French original.) And the 200-pound dog who moves occasionally even if he is made of stone? What’s he doing there?

It’s just the kind of play we like to do. Sort of like “Proof” (which we did about a year ago) only funny as all get out. We point you in what may be the right direction, and if you want to, you can figure it out. But there’s no correct solution. You (and your spouse or partner) leave the theater not agreeing on what its really all about. In fact we hope you do, so long as you enjoyed it.

There are only three characters in “Heroes,” all old codgers. Our problem was that there are lots of old codgers in Rappahannock who like to act. How to choose among them? So we decided to run the play two nights but with different actors and directors each night so you could see how different it was each night. Steve Carroll, Geoff Gowan and Mike Mahoney performed Friday night; Howard Coon, Andy Platt and I on Saturday.

The difference in the play each night, everyone agreed, was huge, but to see the change, of course you had to come both nights. Not everyone could do that. So we plan to do the experiment again sometime soon, performing a shorter play with different casts and directors, twice on the same night, so everyone can see the difference.

If you were there for either one of the performances at the theater on Gay Street, you may have noticed a couple of music stands with scripts on them up on the stage. That’s because the performances were “staged readings” in which the play is acted out but with the script available for the performer to use. We’re not the only ones to use this device. Some plays are written as staged readings. A.R Gurney has done several of them. Other are created by the theater where they are performed, provided the play does not require a lot of movement by the actors. That was our case. We created the staged reading so that some of our actors who believed they could not memorize the lines could participate nonetheless. In fact, everyone ended up memorizing all or most of their lines, almost without even trying. But I believe they would not have done it if the scripts hadn’t been there in front of them throughout all the rehearsals.

There was no problem with this play involving missed rehearsals. Every one of our Heroes was there for every rehearsal. But the problem always comes up when there is a large cast, especially one involving a lot of kids, especially during vacation time. We plan to put on another production this summer if we can work it out. Auditions will be held soon. To avoid the vacation problem, we plan to do not one play but several short plays with different casts, with rehearsals scheduled separately for each play on dates when the cast of that play will not be away on vacation. That will require a bit of computer work, but isn’t that what computers are for? We finally have air conditioning in the theater (thanks to the county), so melting actors shouldn’t be a problem.

Come fall, we’ll be doing a play we’ve wanted to do for a long time, “Driving Miss Daisy,” starring Joyce Abell, Dontez Harris and Andy Platt. The performances are set for Sept. 21-22. Mark your calendar; it’s a very popular play.

Then comes the 14th annual performance of “No Ordinary Person” Oct. 20. Be sure to mark your calendar for this one and reserve early on. It always sells out.

Finally for this year comes our Christmas play which we expect to be “Peter Pan at Christmas,” tentatively on Dec. 8-9 and 15-16. Auditions will be held in early September. We’ll announce them well in advance. There are so many characters in “Peter Pan” that if you try out, you’re pretty certain to get a part.

If you promise to come to rehearsals.

On time.

Peter Hornbostel
Artistic Director
RAAC Community Theater

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