Central Campus staging ‘Stage Door’

Central Campus will showcase more than 30 young actors on its stage this weekend – and that doesn’t count the other 30 working behind the scenes.

I’ve got an army of theater kids.

Central Campus Playmakers will present their fall production, “Stage Door,” by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, this weekend. The show will perform at 7:30 p.m. tonight through Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Kaufman’s name should be familiar to many as the author of comedic hits like “You Can’t Take it With You” and “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”

“Stage Door” is a more dramatic piece than has been attempted at Central Campus in years past. Set in the 1930s, the show follows a group of women living in a boarding house, nicknamed The Footlights Club, who all want to be famous actresses. Girls with no talent, girls looking for love, girls running away from trouble, and many others with stars in their eyes all live together, struggling to make ends meet. Most of the story focuses on two girls: Terry Randall and Jean Maitland. Terry, played by Caytee McDonald, is described as the most talented actress of all of the girls, but she doesn’t have the pretty face that producers are looking for. Jean, played by Anah Farmer, is not as good an actress as Terry, but has the looks and personality that launch her into success quickly. Playwright Keith Burgess, played by Hunter Benjamin, and producer David Kingsley, played by Lucas Johnson, both arrive on the scene and offer additional challenges and opportunities for the girls. The play follows the struggles of all of them over the course of a year, showing both the highs and the lows of following your dreams.

I chose the play because it has so many unique characters which would allow even the smallest of parts to really stand out on stage.

For example, there are a pair of characters, both named Mary, who randomly walk through several scenes quoting dialogue from other plays. They add a lot of humor to the play.

When McDonald first saw the cast list go up, she went white as a sheet.

“I have the lead?! I don’t know how I feel about this,” she said. It is the first time the sophomore actress has been on stage at Central Campus, and while she expressed a lot of anxiety about the part, she is perfect for the role. I think people will really be captivated by her performance.

I also try to take my role as a teacher into the theater. Every part of the show is run by the students. I advise and approve work, but mostly I just supervise. They build and paint the set, operate the lights and sound, research costumes and hairstyles, and design and build everything else related the play. I want them to really feel as though it is their play so they really take ownership of it.

Beth Doster, the technical assistant director, took charge of the enormous job of finding props and costuming 35 actors who all had at least one costume change, if not six. She credits the talented young people working with her for really making it come together.

Brenna Pfau was the lead costumer, but Doster said, “We couldn’t have done it without the help of every single one of those students. Some even took dresses home to alter overnight so we could work with them the next day.”

“Stage Door” may not be appropriate for all audiences. There is discussion of serious subjects such as suicide and some strong language. There are no reservations needed. Doors will open 30 minutes before opening curtain. Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for adults.

(Chad Gifford is a teacher at Central Campus and the director of “Stage Door.”)