'Stage Door' swings wide open Friday

"Stage Door," a 1930s play that still reverberates with people who have big dreams, opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday night the Carson City Community Center.

The comedy with bittersweet overtones is performed by 62 actors and produced by Carson Performing Arts of Carson High School. It is directed by veteran Karen Chandler. She said it makes a statement about acting.

"I hope it makes the kids think about their future," said Chandler. "The climax comes when one of the would-be actresses is offered a seven-year contract with a movie studio that means she'll have to leave New York City. Her decision sums up the play."

Written by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, the show takes place in a rooming house in New York where aspiring actresses live while searching for the big break.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Jan. 16-17, 2:30 p.m. Jan. 15 and 2 p.m. Jan. 18. Tickets are $4 for children/SBC, $5 for students/senior citizens and $6 for general admission. Seating is limited. Call 887-0438 for tickets and reservations.

Working with a double cast of 62 has been a task, what with flu keeping some actors from rehearsals and having to move the sets from Carson High to the community center, said Chandler. But she can cope - she's a veteran of many Performing Arts productions, having directed "A Christmas Carol" most recently.

At rehearsals, she's into everything, showing a teen how to wear a dressy hat, yelling at the crew not to paint a set just yet. But she watches the cast rehearse with rapt attention, at times cueing them.

"I tell them, 'You're on stage, you've got to make it fly.' And they do.

"I love working with new casts, seeing them grow. This show mirrors the big choices that they will face, maybe not choosing between Hollywood and the stage, but in making tough choices.

"I hear from Jim Godwin, who graduated 11 years ago. He just got a job in an Arby's TV commercial, making $30,000 for one day's work. But he said he'd rather be back in San Francisco tending bar."

MGM made a movie of "Stage Door" in 1937 with stars such as Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden and Ann Miller among other actors.

"MGM had all these people on payroll so they put them in the movie, rewrote the play, throwing out most of the original dialogue," said Chandler. "I saw the movie a year ago, and believe me, the play is a lot funnier."

Cast members have found the show to be rewarding in different ways.

Dominic Procasini II, who plays Keith, said, "It's great to be among such a wonderful group of people, to get close to each of them."

Patty Capistrant, who plays Judith, said she found the "crazy costuming changes, getting it all together, has been fun." Chandler said there are 125 costumes in the show.

"It has been a great experience to be trained by Karen ... the knowledge grained is incredible," said Jessica DeBacco, who plays Bernice.

Matthew Hogan (who doubles as Keith) feels that "working with so many people, so much depends on them, so many different roles makes every show something you've never seen before."

While the cast is doubled for all but two roles, Chandler has little problem in dealing the cast in its entirety. She's even come up with a new seating plan for the play. Instead of sitting out front with the cast up on the stage, the audience will sit on stage, facing a wall between them and the auditorium. That makes for a more intimate interaction between cast and guests.

"I don't want to get up on a soapbox and orate, but I think making choices is what this play is about. And that's important to all of us."

If You Go

What: Carson Performing Arts' production of Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman's "Stage Door"

Where: Carson Community Center, 851 William St.

When: Friday and Saturday

and Jan. 16-17 at 7:30 p.m., Jan. 15 at 2:30 p.m., and Jan. 18 at 2 p.m.


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