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OnStage Playhouse to be represented at national showcase Phillip Brents | Fri, May 31 2013 08:11 AM

OnStage Playhouse artistic director/producer Teri Brown felt the Chula Vista community theater’s recent production of Michael Brady’s “To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday” was a powerful piece of theater, laden with all the emotional strings that pull on the heart — and soul.

So did the American Association of Community Theatre judging panel, which selected the play to be performed as part of next month’s AACTFest national festival showcase in Carmel, Ind.

The honor is a first for the local community theater.

“We are very proud of this production and the efforts of director, cast and crew,” Brown said. “This is a first for OnStage and we are thrilled to represent our community and region as one of 12 best-of-the-best productions nationwide.” 

The OnStage production, which ran March 15 to April 13, will serve as the official entry for Region 8, which includes community theaters in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and Guam.

The seven cast members — Michelle Burkhart, Allison Edmonds, Alyssa Anne Schechter, Stephen Schmitz, Justin Allen Slagle, DeNae Steele and Janelle Urie — plus four others representing the local theater group will make the trip to Indiana as part of the competition.

Also attending will be stage manager Leah Vianna, director Charles Peters, Brown and board president Betsy Keller.

Bob Christiansen, a longtime actor/director/producer at OnStage, also plans to attend, though not as a member of the official entry party.

The group will fly into Chicago, then rent two vans to move the cast, crew and costumes the remaining three hours to Carmel, which is located about 30 miles outside of Indianapolis.

They will rehearse, then perform the following day — June 20 — in whirlwind fashion.

One cast member, however, will arrive separately. Edmonds will be leaving June 19 after graduating earlier that day from high school.

The AACT community includes 7,000 member theaters, more than 1.5 million volunteers and 46,000 productions each year.

The festivals, which are held every two years, are major events. More than 600 people participated in AACTFest 2011.

The 2013 AACTFest showcase will run June 17-23.

Awards are presented for outstanding work in performance, including production, acting, directing, lighting, sound, sets and costumes.

Participating theater groups are given five minutes to set up, 55 minutes to perform and five minutes to tear down their allotted space. Judges will take that timeline into consideration as well as judging the merit of the play itself.

Brown feels the OnStage production is so well written that it will play well even with minimal set design.

“It deals with love and acceptance, loss and moving on — the story connects on multiple levels,” Brown said. “The writing really carries the production.” 

The cast will rely on costumes and a few hand props to tell the story.

“We’re keeping it very simple,” Brown said. “They called asking us not to bring the sand.”

OnStage estimates it will cost $15,000 to make the trip, including transporting the actors, crew, costumes and props as well as food and lodging. Donations and sponsorships are being sought through the end of June to help defray costs.

All tax deductible contributions are welcomed. To donate, visit the theater’s website at www.onstageplayhouse.org for details.

OnStage’s current production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” runs through June 8.

For more information, call 422-7787.

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