For the Love of Community Theatre
By Stephanie Davis Garzoli | Photographs by Lucas Garzoli
MCDONOUGH–The Henry Players present their second to last show of their 25th season, the Broadway musical, Big Fish.
The story takes place in the heart of the South, where larger-than-life travelling salesman, Edward Bloom, tells stories of his colorful past with vivid imagination and grandeur. His pragmatic son, William, begs to know the truth about his father’s heavily exaggerated life, as a final attempt to connect with him. Edward’s wife, Sandra, stays by her husband’s side and is the center of his universe.
Told in full song and dance, the show will be sure to entertain, awaken the soul, and get your feet tapping. The cast is made up of 12 talented actors, singers, and dancers- some will play multiple roles throughout the performance, each represented by a symbolic chair on stage.
The Henry Players have been a staple to the Henry County community for over 25 years; They recently transitioned from the Henry County Performing Art Center, to the Hood Street Art Center in the past two years. They now have a permanent home and stage, on which they can produce shows with new creative vision.
The director of the show and the president of The Henry Players, Adriana Beckner, is excited to present this grand play on their new, intimate stage. Since 2015, they have built the “house” from the ground up.
Their new home has fully blossomed as the cast and crew work hard to rehearse and create the set for Big Fish. Beckner has some exciting ideas in store for the audience, along with new challenges for the cast and crew. “The hardest part is the low ceilings. We have to fit a giant in here! Our sets will be a little different [for Big Fish]…I wanted to keep the set minimalistic. I think it’s more about the story with this show. We actually added an extension to the stage… I think it opens up this space to do this show that is larger than life itself.”
Beckner explains that in community theatre, a large team of directors, actors, set, and lighting crew come together to make a grand production that is often met with unexpected challenges and constant adjustments; Everyone’s individual talents and specialties are needed at all times in order to make the best out of what Beckner calls “organized chaos.” The cast and crew are all volunteering their time, but always for the love of the lively spirit that theatre brings. Assistant director Kay Bohan adds, “Everybody helps everybody to pull it all together.” Bohan is a veteran actor in the Henry Players, and has stepped in as assistant director as well as to help style some of the costumes and wigs; “Everything from the head up” she adds, giddly.
Some may also know Kay from Damon’s Design Team, where she is a hair stylist. “Even when I’m an actress [at the Henry Players], I’ll still multi-task…it needs to be a team-playing organization” she adds. Beckner also says of Bohan, “It really helps to have [Bohan’s] organizational skills and to keep me on task.”
It is also important within community theatre to have a cast that is willing to explore the depths of the roles given in order for the play to come alive. In Big Fish, there are some big shoes to fill, complete with singing, dancing, and of course, powerful acting.
Local actor and para- professional Chris Gansel plays the lead role of Edward in this tall tale about family, memories, and of leaving a legacy behind before you go. You may have seen Gansel in some of his previous HP roles as Dan Goodman in the pulitzer prize-winning musical Next To Normal, and as George Milton in the epic American drama Of Mice and Men. Gansel is enthusiastic to tell the story of Edward Bloom, and has come to love the role as he embodies the charismatic travelling salesman.
He is thrilled to be a part of Big Fish, both because of its general family-fun appeal, and its emotional depth. “It really hits that emotional sweet spot–the audience will find some real, emotionally resonant moments.”
Gansel explains that he benefits from working with familiar faces, including his co-star, Sophie Decker, with whom he was first on stage with almost a decade ago. “She is one of the most gifted people I’ve ever met…She is also my vocal coach!” He says. “There has always been someone to push me…to be on my chops.”
The spirit of community theatre is alive in this show. Expect your heart strings to be played, and expect to see the joy emanate from the stage. And, you will see many familiar and new faces.
Gansel adds, “One of the things that is really wonderful about The Henry Players, and community theatre in general, is that it’s a place where you can go and see your friends, and see them do it for the pure love of it. You can feel what you are giving the audience.”
Big Fish runs Thursday, April 20th-23rd and 27th-30th at 136 Hood St. McDonough, GA. Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30PM and Sundays at 2:30PM.
Tickets are on sale online at www.henryplayers.com, or you can purchase them at the Hood Street Art Center. $15/$18. Season passes are also available.
Invite your friends!