The Merc Playhouse gets character again – Methow Valley News

Photo by Don Nelson
Changes at The Merc include new leadership with the departure of former Executive Director Missi Smith and the appointment of Kira Wood Cramer as Smith’s successor.
Poster courtesy of The Merc Playhouse
Auditions for The Merc’s production of comedy The One Act Play That Goes Wrong begin this week (see Arts Briefs).

The theater sets the full production schedule

The show must go on… and so does it at The Merc Playhouse, where plans are in place for a full season of live theater after the regular production schedule was suspended during the pandemic shutdown.

The Merc has hosted a few performances since last fall, including a reading theater, children’s theater, and a high school production. The playhouse is resuming its regular schedule with a children’s musical theater camp in the summer, a comedy and reading theater in the fall, a winter holiday performance, and a children’s theater performance next spring.

Coming July 1-3 is The Brunch Club, a parody of the 1980s cult film The Breakfast Club. The performances will culminate in a week-long character development workshop for high school actors, led by The Merc’s new CEO, Kira Wood Cramer.

Cramer said she’s had the idea for the one-act play with a cast of five since she suggested it as a senior project when she was 17. “It’s kind of like a crumpled up breakfast club,” she said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of character work.” Performances are on Friday, July 1 and Saturday, July 2 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, July 3 at 2 p.m.

The Merc is offering its annual summer musical theater camp in July, and registration is full. Young actors in grades three through eight begin rehearsals on July 11 and present “Winnie the Pooh” on July 14 at 4 p.m. and July 16 at 2 p.m. The week-long camp is directed by Megan Hicks, a director, actress and choreographer from the Puget Sound area, with Cramer as her assistant director.

At the end of June, auditions will take place for The Merc’s fall comedy The One Act Play that Goes Wrong (see box). The play is about an inept and accident-prone theater company trying to produce a crime thriller with disastrous results.

“It’s a slapstick comedy, play within a play,” Cramer said. “It reminds me of an SNL [Saturday Night Live] Sketch.” The play runs over three weekends from September 16 to October 10. 2. That’s a week longer than most productions, she said.

“It’s an experiment. We think this is such a hilarious show that we want to give people a chance to see it,” Cramer said. The longer run also features an additional pay-as-you-can Thursday performance. “Those are always the most popular for each show,” she said.

Also planned for the fall is a theatrical production of three one-act plays – Mere Mortals, Time Flies and The Butleress – directed by Phil Quevillon. The performances will take place over two weekends instead of one like reading theaters have done in the past — “another experiment,” Cramer said. The auditions take place in August.

The holiday performance will be The Nutcracker, with children and adults, music and dance. Directed by Missi Smith, former CEO of The Merc, and Jane Orme. The show runs from December 2-11 and viewers can bid on silent auction items while attending.

Orme, who directed the Tom Zbyszewski Children’s Theater production of Fantastic Mr Fox in March, will direct the children’s theater show Beauty and the Beast next spring.

Playhouse Upgrades

People who haven’t attended an event at The Merc in a while will notice some improvements to the theater. While the theater was closed due to COVID, the staff and board were busy updating the facility.

The Merc got a new HVAC system with a commercial air washer. “We have a really good air filtration system,” Cramer said.

The Merc also updated the seating to include new seats with cup holders. The seats are manoeuvrable and can be moved as needed to accommodate smaller viewers in more intimate settings, or expanded to accommodate a full house of around 130 seats.

Box office windows have been added for outdoor access and easier access to the theater. A new tech stand in the audience helps separate the tech crew from the audience and provides a better view for the tech stand to see the action on stage.

Added a sink to the concessions area, eliminating the need for concessions volunteers to go backstage to get water or wash dishes. And backstage, a dressing room facelift includes new flooring that’s easier to clean than the old 1980s carpets, new makeup mirrors, and brighter lighting to make the dressing room a more comfortable place for the actors.

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