Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guest Blogger--Dennis Cole: "She asks, 'What if?'......"

She asks, "What if?" ...and it happens.


The answer has been rattling around in that empty space between my ears for a while, and the conclusion of the matter is that there is a commitment and a bond that has formed between several key people. The bottom line is making the show,the event or the project something we are proud to attach our names to. Everything is a performance. Since that is the case, I want to give an insider's view of the cast, along with a character description.

CHRISTINE SCHAEFER: (Peter Pan ,The Pied Piper, Pinocchio).
I think she is a little of each. She is unafraid to take on a task and is always looking for the next adventure (Peter Pan). Part of the "never say no" mentality can be attributed to a cast of "enablers" that have shown that they care as much as she does (Pied Piper). She is very trusting and therefore sometimes finds herself caught between what is "supposed" to be happening in the theatre world and the reality of life for her volunteers (Pinocchio). I believe it takes this type of person - a dreamer - to make it all happen. She is an artist and that typically comes with varied emotions and a version of "logic" that most of us fail to completely understand. However, none of us would be doing any of this, and the community of Greenfield would be much different today, if the little lady with the big ideas was not here.

All of these folks (I also include myself) have, at different times, played these roles. If you recall,Jiminy was Pinocchio's conscience and the voice of reason. I am not saying Chris doesn't have these traits. It is reasonable that any person with really big ideas needs someone there who is unafraid to ask the tough questions and challenge them. The role of Jiminy, however, is not exclusive to this. He (or she) has always been there for KidsPlay and CrazyLake to bring in the common sense approach - to organize the nuts and bolts of the operation. Each of these people possess the ability to exist as both artist and crew leader. Jiminy is able to see, and more importantly translate, the vision to the people who can make it happen.

At times, each of us have also needed to be Captain Hook. Not everything is a great idea. Sometimes someone has to be willing to be the bad guy and say what needs to be said - sometimes to Chris, and sometimes to others. Each of us have a great friendship with each other and the confidence to know that conflict doesn't mean the end of that friendship. Each of us see the end goal and will always protect the best interest of KidsPlay and CrazyLake.

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" Neither of these civic-minded men have any interest in being on stage. However, without the financial risks both of them took, I believe KidsPlay and CrazyLake would not be in the position we are in today.

When I was first associated with KidsPlay, Chris would often mention Stan as one of our strongest advocates. I didn't actually meet him for several months. Once I met him, I realized he is a relatively shy man who has a heart for his community and for the kids. I believe (and I have no proof of this) that Stan put a pretty good sum of money into KidsPlay in the early days and he is a large part of why KidsPlay was able to continue to grow to what it is today.

CrazyLake Acting Company was actually born from KidsPlay. The first cast was primarily a bunch of KP parents. When we decided to do our first show, Kurt Vetters immediately volunteered to take the risk and finance the show. Kurt is one of the most selfless men I know. He is a true advocate for our community.

The Wizard was not some mystical magical being. He was simply a man who diverted attention away from himself while doing good for others. These two men fit that role.

JOE URBAN: (Bagheera, the panther in Jungle Book)
A group of friends, who are also parents of KidsPlayers, were sitting in Steak 'n Shake after a show one evening when Joe said, "We should do a show..."

It is at that moment CrazyLake Acting Company was born.

Joe has more stage experience than the rest of us. The majority of us have a fairly similar back story: "Several years ago... (blah,blah,blah)...out of shows for a while because (blah,blah,blah)..."

For Joe this was merely a transfer of experience from one venue to another. Our success has a lot to do with his experience and connections.

Chris learned quickly that directing adults was different from directing children. The cast learned quickly that getting on stage again, knowing our kids were watching every move, was a defining moment for us. Joe was the one who guided us through it as an internal leader with unfiltered truth.

Much like Mowgli, Chris got tired of hearing Joe say, "This is how adult theatre works...". But also similar to the story, Joe got frustrated because Chris didn't want CLAC to be the same as everyone else. We managed to put on a great show that fell somewhere in the middle. Sure it made for some tense moments, but ultimately we made our kids and ourselves proud with the final product.

GREENFIELD CENTRAL DRAMA: (The Little Engine That Could...and all the cars)
The relationship between GC Drama and KidsPlay/CrazyLake is a busy two-way street. It began several years ago when KidsPlay grads found their way onto the stage at Greenfield Central High School. We have always said, "Once a KidsPlayer, always a KidsPlayer", and that has been evidenced through the kids' involvement in both programs. Last summer, I cast my daughter, Payton, as Annelle in "Steel Magnolias". I had a fear of cries of nepotism, but then remembered she had more stage experience than just about everyone in the cast thanks to KidsPlay and GC Drama. It was the right call.

Inspecting Carol had former KidsPlayer/ CrazyLake Acteen, Lauren Prazeau and former CrazyLake Acteen Luke Agee in the cast. Both are also active in GC Drama. Again, it was the right call.

We've had the pleasure of having Lex Atkison and Aaron Batka - two of the sharpest young minds around - run tech for us. We've had Jayme Frederick pave the way for Rachel Batka as stage manager. This list goes on.

My point is that we can be proud of what we are doing through both GC Drama and our community endeavors because these kids know how to, and are willing to, do what it takes to make a show great. They think they can...and they do. They "get it".

"Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go!" This list of players is too long to individually write, but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Sometimes the line gets blurred between a KidsPlay event and a CrazyLake event. Most of the time, this doesn't matter. The theatre family in Greenfield is where the true magic lies. It is a matter of giving them the job, and walking away. Before you know it, the lobby looks like you are walking into another world, or there is somebody with a pair of gloves and a cordless ready to move the set. Everything is done for the love of the game and a reward of "thank you". I am proud to be associated with the countless people who take the time to do this - for the kids, for the troupe and ultimately for their community.

Although I have listed a cast of characters, I now realize that I still have no idea WHY it happens. That is because each of these people have their own motives behind what they do. I am still amazed every time we have a successful show or event - even if the process may not be have been as smooth as we are used to - because we always come out as family.

Maybe the WHY isn't as important as the WHAT. Perhaps it is an imperfect, sometimes dysfunctional, theatre family's drive to support each other that deserves the standing ovation.

I am satisfied with that answer.

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