Those play lessons will serve cast and crew very well

I threw a question out at the cast and crew of “The Trial of the Wicked Witch” last week.Basically, it came down to this, “Why the play?”And one of the actors told me it all comes down to “conditioning.” Say what?Here’s the full answer I got from Jeffrey Reicks, who played a dang good Prince Charming in the play,“I like most the environment,” he said. “The environment is created by wonderful people, autonomy, use of creativity and the absence of cardiovascular conditioning. And though I mean that humorously, I’ve been in sports, and as you know, the thought of conditioning makes you dread the practice. Instead, I look forward to each [play] practice.”This might be a hint to the Drama Department’s Melissa Nelson that it would be a bad idea — a very, very bad idea — to institute wind sprints for the next play.Seriously, though, Reicks knows he’s being a bit facetious and admits that the other three reasons — the people, the autonomy and the creativity — are really what make up that great environment.But as I read the responses the cast and crew members wrote to a couple of questions I posed last week, I was transported back in time to the days when I ran the lights for “Dracula” and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and acted — or at least tried to — in “Sweeney Todd” and “David and Lisa.”People who know me think of me as a “sports guy” and they’re not all wrong. I loved football, basketball, track and baseball, but if God came down, told me to pick one high school activity, I’m pretty sure I’d pick plays.Look, I couldn’t act my way out of the proverbial paper bag, but that didn’t matter. The fun we had, the stupid things we did and the laughs we shared are things I still remember almost 34 years after we closed the curtain on “Sweeney Todd” for the last time.So when I had a chance to hang out a few play practices last week, I couldn’t help myself.Yes, I was dreadfully behind here at the office, and as much as I’m complaining about putting in more than a few hours today [Sunday], the day my vacation is supposedly starting, I’m glad I did.Those couple of hours at play practice brought back some great memories.And play kids are cool.I mean who else but play kids would bring up conditioning or the lack of conditioning when asked about what they like about the activity?The jokes, at times, flew, and so much of the humor was of the self-deprecating type.Forget a line? That’s OK; make fun of yourself and move on.Yet, there was also a very serious tone about the rehearsals I sat in on last week.It was “Performance Week,” and even after all these years, I could sense that these kids — just like I and my schoolmates were 30-plus years ago — were ready for an audience.I hope people appreciate the amount of time and effort that goes into plays. For two months, this group worked on putting on a good play, and for two months, for the most part, the cast and crew knew when it was time to play and when it was time to get down to work.That was another question I asked. How do you know?My favorite answer came from Cody Deere, who played Hansel in the play.“You know when to work when everyone’s in a bad mood,” he said.Yet, I also believe that actors and crew members are like athletes — no two are alike.“You get to have fun when you’re ready,” Will Throndson said.Alexus Ensign didn’t exactly disagree, but for the girl who played Rapunzel, it came down to timing.“Well now that it’s a couple of days off of the matinee,” she wrote, “I know that it’s time to really cut down on the messing around and get to work.”At the center of this is Nelson, who isn’t all that much different from a coach.Sometimes, she has to yell. Sometimes, she has to encourage. Sometimes, she has to come up with a new strategy. And sometimes, she has to let her “players,” if you will, come up with a new strategy.In the end, I think it all worked out great, and I hope the kids who had any part in bringing “The Trial of the Wicked Witch” to life enjoyed the experience.Because the lessons they learned — how to react to a dropped line, how to come up with something on the fly — will serve them very well in the years ahead.

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