One weekend left for CUP’s ‘Sister Act’ — an act of love

Photo courtesy Gavin Kiker
Curtains Up Pagosa’s “Sister Act” will be presented three more times, beginning tonight. Remaining performances are tonight, Thursday, June 29; Friday, June 30; and Saturday, July 1, at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale at the Pagosa Springs Visitor Center and at the door for $15 for adults and $10 for students. Children age 5 and under are admitted free of charge.

By Sally Neel
Special to The PREVIEW

There is magic happening on stage at Pagosa Springs High School this week. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see Curtains Up Pagosa’s (CUP) production of “Sister Act,” you will definitely want to put this on your “must-see” list.

Remaining performances are tonight, Thursday, June 29; Friday, June 30; and Saturday, July 1, at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale at the Pagosa Springs Visitor Center and at the door for the very reasonable price of $15 for adults and $10 for students. Children age 5 and under are admitted free of charge.

The question continues to arise, “How do you take 22 amateur volunteer actors and make them look so amazing? I almost forget that this is community theater!”

“The answer to that question,” said production director Dale Johnson, “is a lot of patience, a lot of hard work, a lot of laughter and a whole lot of love. Community theater is a very different ‘animal’ than professional theater. The people who audition come in feeling very insecure and unsure of their talents. They hope to be cast, yet fear it at the same time. It is the job of the directors to teach them, to help them develop their character, to help them learn the music and dance steps, and to help build their confidence, while at the same time remembering that many of these people are on the stage for the first time.”

“It can be frustrating at times,” Johnson continued. “These folks are not being paid and they have a life outside of the theater. We try to instill the importance of being at every rehearsal, yet we also have to bend to the fact that life happens, illness happens, jobs can demand they work hours that cut into our rehearsal time, family events call them out of town, etc. We cannot hold a paycheck or contract over their heads. It really is an honor system. They make the commitment and we hope they will abide by it.

“The best way we can keep volunteers on track is to make rehearsals fun. Yes, it is hard work, but we also develop some deep friendships among the cast members. They laugh at their own mistakes, shake their heads when they know they still don’t have it right and they encourage each other. We develop a camaraderie that encourages them to want to work harder to get it right. They feel an obligation to the rest of their cast members to make their own performance as good as they can make it for the good of the production. They all put so much time and effort, they want it to be rewarded with a really great show.”

Johnson is skilled in knowing how to work with amateurs. This is her 16th year directing plays for CUP, and each production has had its own unique challenges: “With each show, we begin with a brand new mix of personalities, talents and experience. We try to bring in some of our veteran volunteer actors into each show to help the new ones rise to the top. But the challenge and reward is to find the key that reaches inside of each performer and brings out the gifts that often they didn’t even know they had. That’s what mentoring is all about. We ask for more than they think they can give and, lo and behold, they respond to the challenge and come up with what we need. The result is some pretty amazing performances.

“The best part, of course, is when we get into the final week and start working with a live pit orchestra. And, of course, the icing on the cake is performing in front of a real audience that responds with laughter at the jokes, enthusiastically applauds our dance numbers and offers praise for all our hard work.”

Continued the director: “The final curtain is always a kind of sad moment. There have been lots of friendships made during this long creative process. Each person knows that their fellow cast members were all a part of creating a golden moment in time; a time filled with a whole lot of love.”

Proceeds from these performances are used to help young people develop their skills in the performing arts. Your gifts of support keep community theater in Pagosa Springs alive and strong and assure the future of the performing arts both here and beyond.

For more information on how to become involved with CUP, go to CurtainsUpPagosa.org. New volunteers are always welcome and appreciated.

This story was posted on June 30, 2017.