Sue MacCallum compares directing a stage play to playing chess.
“You move the actors around for a purpose,” she said. “They need a motivation to move. They are reacting to something on stage.”
During a recent rehearsal as director of the upcoming Brunswick Little Theatre production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” MacCallum clutched the script in one hand, and used her other to give instructions to Rasa Love and Charles Patton, who were portraying a couple on a blind date.
MacCallum concentrated on details: when Love should throw her arm in the air, how Patton raises an eyebrow. “It’s not robots moving around,” MacCallum explained. “The actors have to have a reason to move on the stage. They have to think and know what their objectives are.”
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The play, a humorous musical revue comprised of a series of vignettes that follow couples from the time they meet through to their twilight years, is a satire on love and relationships. Each vignette highlights a key event in a relationship, such as first date, marriage and children. It is second only to “The Fantasticks” in longest running off-Broadway play, and BLT arranged through R&H Theatricals to produce it.
The six local actors play several parts to portray the scenes, and Mark Bachara said getting in and out of the different characters is difficult.
“[The characters] are all very dynamic and different in many ways between age, personality and dialect,” he said. “It’s challenging but fun.”
Patton said pacing and gestures require a lot of concentration but “singing a whole song that is dependent on rhyming baby talk? Now that’s tough.”
MacCallum wants to create the impression of 16 different locations in the production and contacted visual arts teacher Kathy Peck at West Brunswick High School to provide background scenery. Students started with digital photographs and designed digital backdrops to simulate appropriate scenery that is projected on the wall behind the actors.
“It is a digital world,” MacCallum said. “I’m working with young people and learning so much. They use electronics. I wanted to bring as much realism to the play as possible, and technology is where it is today.”
Although this is the first time MacCallum is directing a BLT production, she is no stranger to the theater. She became involved with directing and stage production in junior and senior high school and went on to earn a master of fine arts degree in theatre performance at University of South Carolina at Columbia.
She founded Winding River Players Theatre Group in 2003 and celebrated its 10th anniversary by directing “I Love You…” for the first time. She is serving her second three-year term as president of the performing arts division of Brunswick Arts Council and has assisted with the Dickens Christmas Festival the two years it’s been in Brunswick County. She joined the BLT board in January 2014.
“This play reflects one of my favorite theatrical genres: the musical comedy revue,” MacCallum said. “It not only has comic sketches, songs and movement, but it offers a common theme that resonates with adults of all ages. It pokes fun at the irreconcilable differences between men and women and celebrates the resiliency of couples as they share a hilarious joyride from spring to autumn years.”
Assistant director Larry Bochiaro said he looks for actors who can read music, take direction and act out what they are singing.
“I always tell people they have to become the song, embrace the lyrics. Body language tells what the song is about. I look for people who can portray the song.”
Bochiaro is one of the actors in the play and said the quick-change scenes are difficult to manage; however, “I love the music most of all and the fact that the show is so true to life.”
Jeffrey Stites, president of the BLT board of directors, said BLT offers opportunities for the entire family and added that his wife assists with publicity and his son helps operate the sound board.
Ten years ago Debbie Skillman organized Stagestruck Players, the youth division of BLT for those aged 8 to 18. Their production, “Dear Edwina JR,” is scheduled for March 28-30 and April 4-6.
In 2013 Jen Iapalucci introduced LET’s Play for the 4- through 12-year-old set and provides games and activities for children interested in acting.
“Live theater is pure magic, and anyone can become a part of that magic and have fun and learn a lot along the way,” Stites said. “As a community theatre we try to provide a wide array of shows, but it is the musicals that bring the most joy to the most people.”