The best performers bring to their role something more, something that is undefinable on paper but wholly understood by the audience. In the case of “Dearly Beloved,” the director and backstage crew are just as responsible for audience enjoyment as the actors are.
Brian O’Neill, director for this Playhouse in the Park production, said he began planning for this production a year ago.
“I read the script a thousand times,” O’Neill said. “Casting is 90 percent of the battle, and then you have to put the right people in the right role. You try to see what the actors do naturally, and there is a really fine line between what I want them to do and what they actually do. The playwrights have scripted the story where you have main characters combined with outside characters, and that makes an ensemble with excellent dialogue. Everyone has their moment to shine.”
“Dearly Beloved” is the story of three estranged sisters coming together to put on a wedding with all the southern humor Texas has to offer. O’Neill said audience members may find themselves recognizing the character traits in themselves and relating easily to the family situations put on stage.
O’Neill said he has seen plays where the actors did not necessarily have great chemistry with one another on stage.
“The great thing about this cast is that they bonded immediately,” O’Neill said. “I established that there would be no backstage drama, which is something you can expect when you get involved with theater. I’m a fairly laid-back guy and I wanted everyone to have fun. The main goal was for people to say, ‘Gosh, didn’t we have fun doing that?’ Audience members can sense when actors are comfortable on stage, and that’s why they keep coming back to see the shows.”
Adam Miller, freshman originally from Andover, Conn., has done several shows with Playhouse in the Park for the last six years.
“In this production I am a backstage crew member,” Miller said. “The reason people return to this group is because we’re a family. When you need something done or have a project, your family will come in and help you and that is what Playhouse does. I’ve worked backstage, ushered before the show and performed. The experience of doing shows as well as the fun and memories that follow are what keep people coming back.”
Miller said he acted in a previous production, “Dearly Departed,” and people would make a point of telling him that his character reminded them of someone they knew.
“Sometimes a show hits pretty close to home, and a lot of returning actors such as myself like to see that,” Miller said. “This show is full of hilarity and is a must-see. Whether I am an actor or hearing the audience laugh, cry and applaud while I’m behind the curtain, I love the experience of doing these shows.”
“Dearly Beloved” opened last weekend, but runs again tonight through Sunday. Performances are at 7 p.m. today and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets for general admission are $11 and $9 for students. As mentioned on the website, playhouseinthepark.net, Playhouse in the Park is one of the oldest continuously producing theaters in the country. For more information about how to help in continuing the tradition of community theater in Murray and Calloway County, contact Playhouse in the Park at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dearly Beloved Showtimes 7 p.m. today 7 p.m. Saturday 2:30 p.m. Sunday