River Ward Theatre Company prepares for first full-scale production.
By Melissa Komar
The energy in the room was practically palpable last Tuesday night at Monkiewicz Recreation Center.
The day marked exactly one month until showtime for River Wards Theatre Company’s first full-scale production, Crazy for You, and cast members were in full character, rehearsing scene after scene.
The nonprofit community organization formed in October 2017 and has hosted a cabaret night fundraiser in April 2018 and presented The Addams Family the Musical in Concert in November.
Now, the company is ready to take the next step and show it means to be a theater staple within and for the community.
RWTC treasurer David Kirby, 31, is a mix of emotions when it comes to the upcoming event.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking, but at the same time, it’s super exciting,” he said. “It feels like we’re finally getting off the ground. After doing The Addams Family, it’s not just we feel like we can do it, we’re finally achieving it.”
Kirby will play Bobby Child, a New Yorker who dreams of being on the stage, but is forced by his mother to take over his family’s banking business and is sent to foreclose on a theater in a small town in Nevada.
His character’s line of work draws similarities to real life: Kirby is a tax accountant.
Balancing his involvement with the production, the organization and having a full-time job is no stroll in the park, but the life he loves.
“It’s definitely a challenge, but I think I’m making it work.” he said, laughing. “It’s a constant, ‘Am I keeping up with the board stuff?’ and, ‘Oh wait, I have a ton of pages to memorize and dances to learn,’ so, I keep on my toes at all times. It’s a lot, but working a stressful tax job, I work well under pressure. Being really busy works well for me. We just go nonstop.”
Many of the theater company members are always on the go, balancing work, acting, jobs, school and even other productions.
Alex Phillips, 20, will play Patsy, and mark her first performance with RWTC.
“It’s been super fun and awesome getting to know everybody and work on the show,” she said. “I found an ad online for auditions and I thought, ‘Why not?’ I was already cast in another show, but it was in the beginning of production, so when I found out I was cast [with RWTC], I came here.”
Phillips was always cast as a principal dancer in theater productions throughout high school and is currently majoring in dance, but tap is a new shoe.
“This is the first show I’ve done that is tap-heavy. I pretty much have very minimal training in tap,” she said. “It’s been really fun learning how to tap. It was definitely a huge learning curve for me.”
Angela Burtulato, 18, who played Wednesday Addams in RWTC’s fall production, will play Mitzi and is in a similar boat.
“It’s a lot different than preparing for the in-concert production, The Addams Family. It’s a lot more dance-heavy,” she said, laughing.
Burtulato took dance classes when she was younger, but not recently.
“It’s challenging, but I like that it’s challenging because music is my strong point, but dancing is not. So, getting to learn new things and try new things and experiment is pretty neat,” she added. “And, for RWTC, it is a very big step to do a full-length production. And, I think it’s just another step on a bigger journey.”
The journey is one not led by one actor or actress, rather, it’s an ongoing collaboration.
“We’re trying to get as much input from people at all times,” Kirby said. “We really want people to feel they are being heard.”
The upcoming show, for example, was chosen from a list generated initially by members of the organization.
The production is also an indirect way for RWTC to establish itself as a serious theater company within the community.
“In a lot of ways, we wanted to make a statement,” Kirby said. “And, this is a challenging show. It’s nonstop dancing. It’s just dance number after dance number. We really wanted to take on a show that would be a challenge for us and something that would have a lot of appeal.”
Aside from providing high-quality entertainment, RWTC hopes to provide opportunities for others to cut their acting teeth.
“Hopefully, there will be a lot of people who come see us and will be inspired to join,” Kirby said. “Maybe we’ll be the catalyst that makes other people want to do theater.” ••
River Wards Theatre Company will present Crazy for You on Friday, April 5, and Saturday, April 6, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 7, at 2 p.m. in St. John Cantius Auditorium, 4435 Almond St. Tickets can be purchased online at https://riverwardstheatre.ticketleap.com/crazyforyou/. To arrange ticket pickup, contact Terri at 267–253–2839. For more details on the River Wards Theatre Company, follow the company on Facebook at River Wards Theatre Company; on Twitter @RiverWardsTC; or Instagram @riverwardstheatre or email firstname.lastname@example.org.