For my husband and I, it was a trip to Columbus to see CATS (not a personal favorite, but wanted to see a real show) that made me realize the need we all have for live performance. Watching the quintessential ‘MEMORY’ belted with sheer perfection by Tayler Harris (Taylerharris.com) as Grizabella, something came over me….true tears streaming down my face! I MISSED THIS! We all missed real people, doing real songs on a real stage. No streaming necessary. From that moment, I thought, ‘How Do Our Resident Dayton Artists Explain this Visceral Response People are Having to Seeing Theater Again?‘
And I gathered a stellar cast….PHILIP DRENNEN, TINA MCPHERSON, BRIAN SHARP, JAMIE PAVLOFSKY & KEVIN MOORE.
(Note: The interview questions are answered by corresponding initials of each respondent.)
Why do you feel that people are having such an emotional response to theater’s return, not only in NYC, but around the world?
PD: The escape that we enjoy in theater was stripped from us. There is a resilience to theater and the people who participate in it. When we were not available to perform, or to be with each other, it hurt!
KM: Theater is LIFE-SIZED! Theater is living and breathing. Being detached from that live performance is not only disappointing, it’s a punch to the GUT. To work hard and then see COVID have us postpone or close again, it created such anxiety.
JP: People react with that depth because there is nothing like a performance right before your eyes.
BS: I think for some people arts are a vital part of their lives and purpose. Seeing it open again is energizing.
Almost daily, FACEBOOK and IG feature stories of understudies and swings jumping in to save shows affected by COVID. Can you relate to the sentiment of these ‘HEROES?’
TM: They are extremely talented and driven, the hardest working people in show business. They might cover between 3-8 roles and get called upon within an hour’s notice.
BS: In the MUSIC MAN, the understudy was given 4 hours to learn all she had been studying (blocking, choreography, etc…) and did it without missing a beat. Not only is that quite an accomplishment for the actor but it also puts the rest of the cast at ease knowing the show goes on as expected.
KM: I’ve been that person….one time, we had an actor with a debilitating migraine and Scott Stoney and I split up the part between the dancing and the dialog! And in a touring West Side Story, as an understudy, I was called up for two roles.
PD: …and it’s a ton of work, I am going in to a role for my most recent show as an understudy. It is what we do to ensure things work!
Local theater has faced many challenges during the Pandemic. What do you say to ‘hungry audiences’ ready to return to see shows?
PD: Even before the pandemic, safety is always at the forefront of what we do in the theater. Still is.
KM: Everyone just needs to find their level of comfort. Obviously, we are hopeful everyone is vaccinated, boosted, masked….we all must be responsible during this time.
BS: …and please come see the shows. Send a donation, buy a ticket, buy a gift certificate. Tell your friends! We need the audience. Small, local arts organizations have suffered significantly financially.
JP: We can’t wait to see you….grab a mask and spend a few hours with us!
What show in particular would you love to see in-person as a tribute to a return to live theater?
PD: BEAUTIFUL. I really want to see the Carole King musical as a friend of mine is in the production.
KM: DEAR EVEN HANSEN. I have tried to see this show a few times, on Broadway, off-Broadway…now it’s coming to the Schuster and I won’t be here! I know the powerful story. It’s just nagging at me that I have not seen it live.
JP: SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, since we recently lost Sondheim. RAGTIME, for its timely message. ON THE
TOWN since it is a love letter to NYC.
BS: In NYC, I’m dying to see MUSIC MAN. I want to see COMPANY. I need to feel the crowd and the excitement of BROADWAY. It gives me energy to bring home…and locally I want to see all that I can!
TM: I am happy to see ANY show being produced in these extraordinary times. I will say that is the bigger challenge to a theater when you have a large cast. There is more opportunity for people to become ill, so safety is, again, the top priority!
Finally, Dayton is alive with the Arts! Why do you feel other places around the country look at Dayton as a ‘Beacon of Light’ for the performing arts?
TM: When I worked at Dayton Live, I remember casts would come from all over the place to our little town and say ‘all my friends say you haven’t lived until you’ve played Dayton!’ It’s true. We are a welcoming, creative community.
PD: I think it’s because we start young in Dayton. Muse Machine, area school programs, youth theaters…So many opportunities for kids!
JP: I think we have a spirit that attracts artists to come and be with us so they can soak up the great energy we have in Dayton!
BS: We can thank Kettering and Patterson for believing that having a strong arts community would attract the right executives and their families to the arts organizations! It has long been said (and true) that Dayton has more theater than Cincinnati and Columbus combined.
KM: It’s ‘In The Water.’ Seriously. We are where five rivers meet and with that comes an incredible energy. Home to inventions, patents, creativity….there is an openness here, and acceptance of creative people. Edgar Casey said ‘Dayton is a Karma Center.’ It has
a natural energy…and I believe it!
A huge thank you to our resident theater folks….and now, let’s all get back to the theater…so that, as Grizabella reminds us….we can ‘Let the Memory LIVE AGAIN!’