The Show Must Go On
DeSoto Family Theater rolls out 2015 schedule
Story by Casey Hilder | Photos courtesy of DeSoto Family Theater
Arts | June 2015
As one of the original founders of DeSoto Family Theater, Executive Producer Donna Wieronski usually has her hands full. Since its inception in 2000, DFT has produced several expansive and locally acclaimed shows, including last summer’s Les Mis performance, the biggest in the organization’s history. This month, Wieronski and company gear up for the DFT rendition of the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel, “The Secret Garden.”
Click Magazine: What’s it like adapting something that’s been adapted countless times through film and theater and reworking it for a Southern audience?
Donna Wieronski: Part of adapting something to community theater means making concessions — we aren’t Broadway. We strive to do everything in a high-quality fashion to the best of our ability and the casting is usually the deepest and lengthiest process. We’ll have a “TBA” on the schedule for months before putting down something that might not work for a particular show. But, at the end of the day, we’re able to capitalize on these things a little bit. It builds an audience for us and gives inspiration to draw from, among other things.
CM: What can potential cast members expect when they apply for a role?
DW: It’s usually a process of two or three days that begins with an all-call casting session where we bring a lot of applicants in. We jot down the names of those who might fit for certain roles to narrow it down. Then the callback process begins where we touch back for a more in-depth performance. Applicants will then come back down for a combination of vocal, acting and dance. We then make a choice depending on what’s required for the character and the role. It’s a very thorough process that involves teamwork from the choreographer, director, producer and others.
CM: How do the sets and costumes come together for a play?
DW: Two years ago, we did a production of “Beauty and the Beast,” which brought us a company called Broadway South. This group represents a producer in New York, Carolyn Miller and Daniel Mueller. Carolyn had previously worked on “Memphis: The Musical” in New York and Daniel has a bunch of experience on the technical side of things. The goal of this organization is to partner with community theaters here in the South and help them learn about production values, how to conduct auditions and basically how to produce an effective show from A to Z. We’ve been working with them for a few years to help ensure that everything runs well. It’s a great company and goes a long way in showing some of the younger performers that we’re not so far away from the big acts.
CM: How big is a typical cast?
DW: “Le Mis” was our biggest performance yet with a cast of around 50. However, for small dramas, we may need no more than 13. A full-out musical usually requires around 25. The most recent show we completed, “Camp Rock,” was a first for us in that it was an all-youth cast under 16 years old. This was a great opportunity because some of our younger kids and summer camp attendees don’t get to perform on the main stage too often.
CM: What advice do you have for someone who doesn’t sing, act or dance, yet still wants to get involved?
DW: I always suggest getting involved in our summer camps program if they’re interested in the performance aspect. These two-week camps offer a lot of different opportunities to get involved for kids under 16. We also have an intern program for youth or adults on the technical side of things. Set design, lighting design, running sound for a show — these are the kind of things we need, too. And the third way is simply finding one of us and saying “I’d like to volunteer!”
CM: What can we expect from DFT for the remainder of 2015?
DW: Of course we’ve got “The Secret Garden” coming up, but we also have And Then There Were None, a drama-thriller type piece from Agatha Christie. For the Christmas season, we’ll be doing “Miracle on 34th Street. ”I definitely recommend taking a look at this classic right after Thanksgiving.