I am back from a brief hiatus, during which I was in the jungles and rivers of Brazil searching for the giant piranha. Thanks for your concern. I came back with all the body parts I left with.

I would like to speak about a common problem, seemingly suffered by most community theatres. The puzzle that is scheduling is one that is difficult and dangerous. The theatre’s governing board is faced with getting the plays which will appeal to the populace and guarantee “Butts in the seats.” The theatre cannot survive if a paying audience is not attracted. You can perform at the highest levels, but if the crowds do not come, the theatre could be doomed.

Most theatres try to produce about four to six shows per year, interspersing one or two musicals among the straight plays. The community theatre clientele LOVES musicals. sometimes the musicals draw such big crowds that the season’s financial success is assured. But for the people who select the plays, the questions become “Which musicals?” and “What other plays?” will bring in the ticket buyers? Which season package will lure potential season ticket holders.

Van Wert Civic Theatre, for example, came up with a great choice for their pre-Christmas offering this year. The timeless classic movie starring James Stewart, “It’s a Wonderful Life” has been translated into a play. The public, aware of the story and its feel-good aura, will swarm to see VWCT’s production. It will be a terrific holiday treat. Except for one problem. It appears the public is more anxious to see this show, than the actors are to perform it.

Auditions for “It’s a Wonderful Life” failed to bring the required number of gifted thespians that the large cast called for. Usually if this happens, the producer and director begin making calls, scouring the countryside for able bodied actors. In this case, though, the male parts had a poor turnout. The production team could not put the touch on enough men who could play major roles. Panic can tend to set in when this happens.

The board and the director finally agreed that the necessary cast could not be brought on board. It has to be a rapid decision, because the longer the delay, the less time for rehearsal. And many directors will admit to wishing for more rehearsal time anyway. The powers that be made the decision to replace the larger-cast play with another, less populated one. The new show that they picked “It’s a Wonderful Life, A Live Radio Play” is similar, but not exactly the same. This play involves a radio performance, something with which I have no experience. It’s for this reason that I am very excited to come to see this production. I want to see how close to the movie this can be. It’s an interesting consideration.

The Christmas offering will open on Nov. 30 with four shows, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday afternoon. The following weekend, Dec. 7-10, has shows in the same time-slots. I hope I see many of you there.

I enjoy giving you all some other people’s take on what theatre means to them, or what they like about it. Here are a couple of quotes on theatre, and one on writing, that I’ve found inspiring:

“Seat the house! Bring up the lights! Raise the curtain! Cue the Orchestra! Bring on the overture!

Ladies and gentlemen, we are going for a wild ride. We are going to sell you a story; tell you a tale, give you the best couple of hours you will have today.

Sit back. Get comfortable. We expect to have you on the edge of your seat, soon. Watch closely. We don’t want you to miss anything. On with the show!”

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Davis Martin Kelleher II

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"In the commotion before the play begins, I see children squirming and giggling nervously. I see the elderly ladies chatting, rather loudly, with each other. I see their husbands yawning, checking their watches, and trying hard to appear excited about what is to happen. I see the young couples, mischievously bonding, whispering their secret thoughts, holding hands and smiling broadly. I see the true theatre buffs, programs in hand, often rolled up, held tightly, as if someone might ask for them back. They look to be nervous. Are they wondering how they’ll like the story? Are they worried about how well it will be presented? Is their concern for one particular actor or actress? This is the audience I see; the audience I look for, almost every time. And it gets me excited, once the curtain opens, to sneak peaks at those faces once the action starts. What are they thinking now?”

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Charles D. Bagrum

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“Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.”

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Tom Stoppard