Sunset Playhouse Q&A


Sunset Playhouse‘s annual Event I Can Never Remember the Name Of is coming up this Saturday. I’ve turned in my ballot for Best [___], and chosen which dress I shall wear (grandma’s cast-off), leaving naught else to do save answer the following questions that arrived with my invitation:

“Tell us something about you… your favorite story from the season, how you found Sunset, why you volunteer, what you love about Sunset, funniest backstage antic….”

“Tell us something about you…”

Well for starters I’m a Pisces, Year of the Dog. I don’t put any stock into that sort of thing, mind you. I just thought you should know those things about me in case they mean anything to you. When I was three years old a dog bit me in the face, leaving a row of short scars from my eyebrow to my chin. One day I’d like to rent a cottage in the Appalachian Mountains for a few weeks and just write. I like my pizzas deep dish, my theatre community, my screwdrivers sonic, and my sagas set in space.

Also: Ferrets.

“Your favorite story from the season”

I was only involved in one show at Sunset this past season- 6 Degrees of Separation- so I hope you’re up for tales with a limited scope.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much fancy-pants candy as I did during rehearsals for 6 Degrees. Every day we’d show up to a decadent sugar buffet courtesy of Jim Santelle and Sendick’s, and every day we’d clean that sucker out. And then there were the people there like Donna Daniels, man. They wear their little khaki pants, you know? And their little cardigans? And they drink their tea and they eat their veggie snacks and you think they’d never belly up to a processed sugar smorgasbord. But wouldn’t you know she totally did every time? Admittedly she wasn’t matching the rest of us bite-for-bite, but I will say this: Girl is not afraid to put away a few sweets. Admirably so.
  • And then there were the nights when it was time to go home, but it wasn’t time to go home. It was time to congregate outside the door to the back parking lot to shoot the breeze for an hour over bottles of Red Stripe while the bad kids smoked and the short kids had their pictures taken next to the tall kids.
  • The good times weren’t restricted to post-practice rolling, much to our collective great fortune. I can’t tell you how many times I pulled into the parking lot before rehearsal to find our director, Jim Farrell, sitting out in the grass with Spence Mather, the two of them swapping stories and guitars. As our 7pm start time ticked closer and more cast members arrived, the number of lawn hippies would increase. The stories that went around the circle are theirs to share, but I will offer you a prompt: Track down Joan End some time and ask her how not to dispose of a cigarette while traveling. Bad to the bone, that one.
  • And then there was the party at Jim Santelle’s. Oh Jim Santelle, sender of eloquent emails and hero of high-school smokers everywhere: You are great! And your stove is great! And your books are great! And I love your taste in fruit trays and cheesecake decorations!
  • Then there was the time after we opened when I dreamed my mom and I gave JFare and his non-existent elementary school-age daughters a ride back home to their Tuscan villa in a community of theatre folks, all tucked away past miles of farms and fields and hills. The girls wanted to show me their room and their books, then wanted to share their cake. I’m more of a brownie person, but that was some mighty fine cake.
  • Plus we acted in a play, which was pretty cool. (This’un is mighty good for monologue mining for anybody with auditions coming up.)

“How you found Sunset”

Turned left at Greenland.

I’ll be here all week.

But seriously, folks…

I graduated from Carroll University- though we called it Carroll College in those days- back in aught-four. Toward the end of the school year an event was held honoring department chair Dave Molthen, complete with a snack table and places to sit, so naturally plenty of Carroll theatre alumni came to call. Among them was Mark Salentine, the fella who’d directed me in The Nerd my second semester at Carroll. A bit of a nerd himself, I quite liked the man. One of those sorts you can’t help but smile about. So when I learned he’d be directing Cabaret at Sunset that summer I decided to have a go at auditions, in spite of my being neither a singer nor a dancer. And wouldn’t you know the fool cast me?

And that was it. One show was all it took. Cabaret came and went and left me hooked, and I’ve been going back ever since. Occasionally racing head over heels toward my own disaster. Ask me some time where it still hurts from Noises Off!

“Why you volunteer”

Yeah, I mean… I’m gonna keep doing it, I’m just sayin’ if they offered me a paycheck I wouldn’t turn it down, kapeesh?

“What you love about Sunset”

There’s nothing quite like having a hobby where the Venn Diagram of the cool kids and the weird kids is a circle, and Sunset has its fair share of both.

Thank God.

For me, Sunset has had a “home base” feel ever since the first time I crept off-key, and off-beat, through “The Telephone Song” for Donna Kummer, my heart in my throat, my throat in my sinuses, my brain long since flown into hiding so I’d never be able to fully reconstruct my memories of that particular part of the rehearsal experience. The rest of it, though? Not nearly as scary. Brilliantly fun, even. I’d never have believed you if you’d told me I could have such a blast doing so many new, difficult things in front of hundreds of people at a time for weeks on end. But then I did it. And it was wonderful.

It was all wonderful. Every show. There hasn’t been a single one that hasn’t fulfilled some acting dream, or given me a reason to spend countless hours plugging away at exciting work with lovely people, or proven to me that yes I can memorize a stupidly large number of lines. Shows like:

  • Bedroom Farce, where I got to run around in a nightie while talking with a British accent
  • Rehearsal for Murder, where I got to run around in a robe while married to Ken Smith
  • The Seven Year Itch, where I got to run around in a nightie while haunting Brian Zelinski
  • Jake’s Women, where I got to run around in flats while my boyfriend was haunted by Coleen Tutton
  • Noises Off!, where I got to run around in a nightie while talking with a British accent
  • It’s A Wonderful Life, where I got to run around in wigs while my husband was haunted by himself
  • 6 Degrees of Separation, where I got to SUFFER OUTRAGEOUS EMOTIONAL TORMENT AS THE ONLY TRULY INNOCENT VICTIM

Themes. I’m sensing themes…

Really it’s the people, though, that made those experiences so memorable for me. The directors, the designers, the crews, the other actors, the beautiful, beautiful audiences. I forget all my lines within two weeks of a show closing, but the people I keep with me forever, tucked away in random brain folds, smiling and laughing and shining.

I love how you all shine.

“Funniest backstage antic”

I– I mean I can’t… Aw geez.

I can’t even begin to think of how to answer this one. Randall Anderson’s slot machine anecdote comes to mind, and Jim Bloomingdale and Mark Salentine with sleeves full of shaving cream are floating around up there too. But as with most great “backstage” stories, the element that made the moment truly magical is lost in the retelling, especially if the tale can’t be acted out since most of the hilarity occurs in silence.

That is, you hope it occurs in silence.

I’ll tell you what: I’ll see what stories come up at Saturday’s Annual Theatre Volunteer Annual Event for Theatre, and if there are any that can stand on their own without the aid of miming and the quaking laughter of onlookers, I’ll post one or two of them here. ‘S’good?

‘S’good.

*Read about 2009’s Annual Theatre Thingy here: The Jello Covered Grapes Annual Volunteer Choice Awards

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3 comments

  1. This phrase was spectacular: “where the Venn Diagram of the cool kids and the weird kids is a circle….” As always, I love a look into your freaky-strange nucleus. Da gusto, da gusto.

  2. When I see you in a Sunset Playhouse show, I get the same feeling as when I saw Julia Roberts with Lyle Lovett…”How are they together?” But then, I would get the same feeling if you worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I just think you’re better than everybody.

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