Getting ready for 'A Christmas Pudding'
After months of uncertainty, WilsonvilleSTAGE is back for another season. But unlike the past several shows, Artistic Director Terry Kester won't be directing this season's production. Instead, local singer and musical theater director Sandy Libonati be at the helm of the production "A Christmas Pudding."
"The play is unique in that it's a compilation of a lot of different readings," Libonati said. "Intertwined in all of the past Christmas stories are lovely carols, but carols that people wouldn't typically hear on the radio that are from a long time ago, that may be familiar, but perhaps in a different arrangement."
Using a selection of readings and poems, including Shakespeare, contemporary and lesser known works and the Christmas classic "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, the play is set as a radio show with readings followed by carols reflecting the themes of the readings.
"It's got some nostalgia, some comedy," Libonati said. "For the holiday, I think that it's a nice change from what you would normally see."
Set up in WilsonvilleSTAGE's typical three-quarter stage area, Libonati and Kester are looking for four to six singers to perform the show's many carols, including solos, a cappella numbers and harmonies, as well as four core actors who aren't required to sing.
"It's always song, scene, song, scene, song, scene and flows like that," Kester said.
"It would be two separate groups of actors, most likely, but if there is some crossover that would just be a bonus," Libonati said. "But it's one of those shows that isn't black and white, and the fact that it's a lesser known show gives us a little leeway to put our own flavor. Depending on who comes to the auditions will also guide us."
Although Kester and Libonati hadn't met previously, with a background in musical theater, Kester had heard of her work and called her with the opportunity to direct the show. After pitching the show to her, Libonati signed on along with her husband, Glen, who will be the show's musical director.
"I started musical theater, as a director, 12 years ago," Libonati said. "It's my love and my sweet spot. I just love working with people to discover things about themselves that they didn't know that they had and then seeing a show come to life through those different energies. It's like you can see the same show with five different casts and it's a completely different show because each cast brings its own energy."
As for the saga of the theater group finding a homebase to rehearse and perform — after losing their rehearsal and performance space at the Clackamas Community College Wilsonville campus earlier this year — Kester said that story is ongoing without an end in sight. But he's thankful for the many community churches and organizations that have opened their doors to the troop for the winter play's eight shows throughout Wilsonville and Charbonneau.
"As long as we have good equipment, enough people helping us — including some young people — I do enjoy moving from venue to venue, because there's a richness and value in that," Kester said.
"A travelling thespian show," Libonati said with a laugh.
Venue woes aside, Kester and Libonati are excited to get the show up and running — especially in this time of political and social tension.
"Through feeling each other's energy, you're bringing an audience into a story and they're part of it at that point — and you don't get that anywhere else," Libonati said. "It's a vital piece of society, but it's usually the first thing to go when there are budget problems in schools or in the community, as yet it should be the first thing to stay because it's foundational for relationships and learning coping skills through hard times with one another."
"We're not giving up and we do value WilsonvilleSTAGE and the community and we're going to keep on," Kester said. "I think that it's going to be a hoot and it fairly new to a lot of audiences."
Auditions will be held from 6:30-9 p.m. Nov. 1 and Nov. 3 at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 8818 N.E. Miley Road. The show will open in early December.