Every season tells a story: A Tyrone Community Players 20th anniversary retrospective, season 14

This time of year can sometimes leave me a lot less motivated than I would like to be. After all the activity of the holiday season it feels like I’m treading water, a condition that I don’t like very much. I may sit down for a day or two and enjoy the calm that has descended on my home, but that will very quickly lose its allure and I will be looking for things to do.
One of the problems with me is that I never want to do what I should be doing when I should be doing it. I could take down the smaller of my trees that is in my family room, but I don’t want to do that. The lights are still up and blazing on the front of my house, and with this nice weather it would seem logical that this would be the time for them to come down, but I think I’ll wait until it gets so cold I can’t feel my fingers. There are still gifts under the remaining tree, cookies and candy to be distributed to people who can afford to eat them, Santas and pine boughs on any, and every, flat surface in my house, and a few poinsettias that should be humanely put out of their misery.
As you see, there is no shortage of things I should be doing, but I lack the motivation to do them.
What I want to do is something different, something earth shattering, something unusual. The lull between seasons always feels like the time to branch out and soar to me.
Although seasons run on a different calendar schedule in the theater company, it is still run by human beings. The timing is different, that’s all.
Between seasons for TCP is in the summer. It is the time when there is a lull between productions and a large quantity of planning sessions take place for future seasons. Although the theater in the YMCA is an inferno in the summer months and precludes our actually performing there, TCP members will brave the oppressive heat for short periods of time to do clean-up, organization, and inventory. It would seem just the wrong time to commence a big renovation project in the theater, but the between season lull got us, and that is exactly how we began the fourteenth season.
I have spoken before in this column about the general condition of the theater and the plywood thrust that was added to the stage. With TCP’s ability to negotiate an exclusive lease with the YMCA we decided it was time to remove the thrust, replace the seats, and uncover the orchestra pit and theater boxes that had been hidden for about 25 years.
With the generous support and encouragement of special benefactors Dr. and Mrs. John Anastasi, and countless strong arms, TCP removed two dumpsters full of old lumber from its unnatural position spliced to the front of the stage.
We had located, again with the help of our benefactor, a movie theater that was being dismantled and we were able to purchase the 200 seats needed to replace the original ones that had been removed to build the thrust, and were subsequently lost.
It was a very exciting time for TCP and hot, dehydrated, and less than sweet smelling that we all were, it was worth it to see our home looking like a real theater again. You could almost hear her give a sigh and a thank you!
We wanted to celebrate this accomplishment by using the orchestra pit as much as we could in the upcoming season, show it off if you will, so we decided to do musicals all year.
Another decision made when we were between seasons, looking for something special, and ignoring the work factor involved.
But we did it anyway!
Nunsense opened the season that used the pit, boxes, and soft red seats for the first time. It was a delightful musical about the Sisters of Mount St. Helen’s convent and their need to raise enough money to bury some of their fellow sisters who had accidentally been poisoned by the convent cook, Sister Julia Child-Of-God.
Ed Kuhstos, who seemed somehow to have an affinity with the Sisters, directed this hilarious romp, with Donna Marthouse at his side to choreograph the five ladies (if they were indeed all ladies), and Richard Ward and Chuck Brand acting as stage managers.
The five nuns in the play were delightfully crafted by Cindy Bennett as Sister Mary Regina, the Mother Superior, Steve Helsel as Sister Mary Hubert, second in charge, Darcy Wilson as Amnesia, a nun who had a crucifix fall on her head and cause her to forget who she was, Mary Jane Bickle as Sister Robert Ann, a street smart, wisecracking nun from Pokipse, and Elaine Conrad as Sister Leo, a novice struggling to become a member of this pleasantly dysfunctional order.
Nunsense was just plain fun! It was fun to watch the nuns tap dance in their rainbow colored shoes, fun to hear them sing and disco dance to the tune of YMCA, fun to watch the Reverend Mother’s impersonation of “Free Willy,” fun to see three nuns with army hats over their habits do a bang-up job impersonating the Andrew sisters.
The second musical for the season was My Fair Lady, and it was what this little jewel of a theater was meant to house. Duana Gummo did, once again, a masterful job of creating the look required for Victorian England. Her costumes transported you instantly to the time and place where Eliza Doolittle could, and would, become the “loverly” person she was intended to be.
Darcy Wilson was perfect as Eliza. Her grace of movement, even before Professor Higgins came into her life, was a joy to watch. The blend of voices between her, Brian Anderson who played Higgins, Gib Lucas as the Colonel, Chuck Brand as Eliza’s father, and Rick Ramsay in his premiere with TCP as Eliza’s suitor, Charles, was grand.
There isn’t a lot a person can say about My Fair Lady that hasn’t been said before. It is a beautiful piece of theater, one that allows you to leave the theater feeling good about life and humanity. Steve Helsel, who directed this production, and Melody McMillen his stage manager, should be commended for allowing the inner strength of the script to dictate the direction of the production. The simplicity of the staging acted as an eloquent backdrop for the purity of the story.
The final musical of the season, one which we uncharacteristically performed in the theater at the very beginning of the summer, was a Neil Simon show entitled They’re Playing Our Song.
It was very warm in the theater when we commenced rehearsals for this production, but that didn’t stop the construction of a huge, revolving, circular platform that housed three independent sets. It was a masterpiece of design and assembly that was accomplished by John Anastasi and Joel Connely.
The circle, which had a circumference of 17 feet, was manually turned to reveal the different locations required to tell the story. Two of the locations housed pianos so you can imagine what a job it was to revolve this creation. Only one section of the stage-pie was visible to the audience at a time and the other two sections, which were backstage, were being changed by the addition of different window panels, exquisitely painted by Janet Marshall, walls and furnishings.
This was a light-hearted script about the real-life romance between Marvin Hamlish, the composer who did the music for this show by the way, and Carol Bauer Sager, lyricist and Marvin’s business associate. The lead roles were played expertly by husband and wife team John and Catherine Anastasi, who brought the natural dynamic of two people who really know each other to the script. They sang and danced, an infrequent posture for either performer who acted predominately in dramas, to the delight of an enthusiastic, if overly warm, packed house.
Then it was summer again. Tired as everyone was after a big season, we all took a week off and then, one by one, began the crawl back to our fantasy land, the place where, in the lull between seasons, we really could accomplish something earth-shattering, create a new reality, or plan a play.