The Fridley Community Theatre (FCT) is ready for opening night of Anything Goes on Friday, the second production since the company formed two years ago.
Sixty-seven actors from age 3 to 80 will be singing, dancing and even tap-dancing in this community event. It involves hundreds of volunteers from Fridley and surrounding communities including family members working side by side, business owners, teachers, students and Fridley’s mayor, Scott Lund.
FCT was the brainchild of two staff members of Fridley High School: Tom Larson and Dan Wold, who together run the school’s theater program. Wold has been doing tech theater at the school for the past 20 years. Larson, who directs the plays, joined him 12 years ago.
Larson and Wold’s working relationship is aided by the fact that they get along very well together—which is unusual at times in the theater world, Wold said.
“We balance each other well,” he said. “We’re aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. … There’s a trust that’s been established.”
Larson and Wold have been wanting to start a community theater for some time, but it was a regime change at the school district—with the arrival of new Superintendent Peggy Flathmann—that created a “perfect storm” for it to happen, according to Wold.
They submitted a proposal to the Fridley Community Education department and it was accepted. Last summer the theater produced The Music Man. This year they decided to get a little more ambitious, as Anything Goes has a quite demanding tap-dance element.
Eventually, they hope to also include a non-musical in the season, but the tricky thing is finding the space to do it, as the high school theater is usually booked up during the school year.
Wold said the expectations for running a community theater, as opposed to a high school program, are a little bit different because there is such a wide range of talent, age and experience.
There isn’t as much opportunity to train people as there is in a school setting, he said, though there are many local actors who are extremely talented.
Another challenge is that because there are so many people, a lot of planning needs to take place. The dressing rooms are very small, so Wold said that actors are encouraged to do as much makeup-prep as possible offsite.
Luckily, for Anything Goes, the set was built to block off a whole upstage area, so a lot of props and things can be piled behind the set.
Director Tom Larson said an important aspect of the community theater is the building of relationships between people as they put the show together. People go into community theater for fun, not for money. It’s been rewarding, he said, watching the younger kids hitting it off with the older cast members.
“Everyone seems to be melding,” he said.
Another rewarding aspect of the theater is that so many people have volunteered in one aspect or another, Larson said: “Dan and I were hoping that 50 other people shared our interest.” The community exceeded their expectations by the amount of enthusiasm and support given to the production.
Maureen Collins, who is on the Advisory Board for FCT, said what is so great about the theater is that it brings the whole community together.
“Most of the people that come are either in the community or know someone in the play,” she said. “It’s so cool when you know people up there … to see people you know on stage, having the guts to do that.”
Collins’ 17 year old son is in the show, as is one of her co-workers. There are also many families involved. For example, the choreographer Angela Mannella (who owns the local dance studio Moore Than Dance) is working alongside her husband, Tom Hoffman, the orchestra-pit director (he’s also Totino-Grace High School’s national award winning show-choir director) and her young son. Stage Manager Teri West’s husband, son and daughters are all in the show.
Even before the auditions, Collins said, people were getting ready for the show, taking dance lessons Manella offered for free to people hoping to do the play. Collins encourages people who want to do the musical next summer not to wait until the spring to start; they should start brushing up on their skills in the fall.
People of all ages from both Fridley and the surrounding area have all been working hard to put the show together. Besides the city’s mayor, Scott Lund, expect to see Nancy Hottinger (St. Paul Winter Carnival’s “Klondike Kate, 1988), Ginnie Micek (a member of a senior citizen tap dance group) and beloved Fridley Middle School teacher Rachel Cathey. FCT Board member Christine Houchins has the Herculean task of costuming the enormous cast, and Ruth Messer, choir director at Fridley High School, is the music director.
The Important Details
Anything Goes will be performed over two weekends – Friday and Saturday, July 29-30, and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, August 5-7, 2011.
All shows will begin at 7 p.m., with the exception of the finale which will be a Sunday afternoon matinee beginning at 3 p.m. Performances are at the Fridley District Auditorium, 6000 W. Moore Lake Dr. in Fridley.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Call 763-502-5100 to order reserved tickets. The finale on August 7 will offer ASL interpretation for the hearing-impaired.