Rod Dahlquist: How Little Theatre’s final season came to beEight years ago East was in transition: a series of directors who did one or two shows and finally an English teacher who directed for a couple of years.
By: Rod Dahlquist, Budgeteer News
Eight years ago East was in transition: a series of directors who did one or two shows and finally an English teacher who directed for a couple of years.
She transferred out of East and Sheryl Jensen — a longtime director who had stopped directing at East but still taught there — decided to do a “final” faculty/student musical. She produced “My Fair Lady” that spring. I was asked to be assistant director for that show and appear as Alfred P. Doolittle, Eliza’s father.
With nothing for the fall or winter slot, I met with the drama club officers and asked them if they wanted to risk doing a play with someone who had never directed before; they were game, so I chose “Greater Tuna” because I had cut it for humorous interpretation when I was coaching speech.
It was a big success and I guess I just stayed on as theater director.
So it seemed fitting that the first show of the last year we would be using the Little Theatre ought to be the first show I ever directed at East.
That is how it came to be that the whole season was conceived.
As long as I was going to reprise a show from the past, I decided to make the whole year a retrospective of some of my favorite shows.
In a year when we have to pack up the whole department and move it to the new school, it seemed like a good idea to recycle rather than create all kinds of new set pieces and props.
Just getting the costumes ready to move is a daunting task.
Each year that I have directed, I have attempted to do at least one classic piece of literature: sometimes Shakespeare, sometimes Molière, sometimes Dickens.
For the season’s second show, we are revisiting Dickens’ “Nicholas Nickleby,” one of the great stories of any era.
Everyone can relate to the hero of the show and the difficulties he faced.
For the spring, we will do one of my all-time favorite comedies, “Figments.”
This is a show about a novelist with writer’s block whose characters come to life and try to help him write his book.
These are not the only figments we meet, however.
For each real person we see, we also see that person as a figment of his imagination. It’s a fun show.
As one of the best-received shows of the last eight years, I thought it would be a great way to end our experience with the Little Theatre.
It is going to be an emotional departing from this intimate little space, so I thought a great show like “Figments” would make the leaving easier to take.
There are lots of memories associated with the Little Theatre.
It has its shortcomings, but there isn’t a more intimate space for theater in our school system.
There really isn’t another place for that kind of actor-audience relationship.
I will miss that as we move into a bigger and more modern space. There will be benefits to a new theater, too, however. We will be able to do more musicals in the space we will have. But anyone who has appeared on the Little Theatre stage will carry lots of fond memories with them as they leave — me included.
East High School’s Rod Dahlquist can be reached at Rodney.Dahlquist@duluth.k12.mn.us.