Green Bay Community Theater takes the stage in ‘Rumors”
By Janelle Fisher
When the curtains rise Sept. 15 for the Green Bay Community Theater’s production of Neil Simon’s Rumors, so, too, will the comedic chaos.
Craig Berken, the show’s director, said Rumors is a story full of things gone wrong and miscommunications.
Rumors is sure to entertain, Berken said, as the show follows the events and actions of an unlucky group of dinner guests.
“Rumors is about an anniversary dinner party that went awry,” he said. “When Chris and Ken arrive for Charlie and Myra‘s dinner party they hear a gunshot. Ken finds Charlie up in his bedroom bleeding profusely from an ear wound. As more guests arrive the decision is made to keep the situation a secret until they can find out what really happened.”
That decision, Berken said, leads to a series of comical miscommunications before the true story can be revealed.
“This creates a lot of confusing and hilarious cover-ups while waiting for Charlie to tell his story,” Berken said. “Eventually Ken picks up the gun and another shot goes off causing him to be temporarily deaf, creating more humorous cover-ups. Eventually the police are involved and ‘a story’ comes out.”
Berken said some scenes in the show get chaotic, and he and the cast worked hard to coordinate all of the different things happening on stage simultaneously.
“The end of Act 1 becomes a very hectic and frantic scene as all kinds of things go wrong,” he said. “Trying to choreograph and find room on the stage for eight people, all of whom are having various trips, falls, dropping things, all happening at the same time was quite a challenge for the cast and I to figure out.”
Berken said the Green Bay Community Theater board selects its shows to serve one of two alternating purposes.
“They choose plays that will either entertain or teach,” he said. “This one will entertain, the next one, Shining Lives, will teach about the young ladies who put radium into watches.”
In addition to the chaos of Rumors, Berken said there are some challenges that are to be expected when producing any show.
“There is nothing straightforward about producing a full length show,” he said. “There are production meetings to discuss props, lights and sound, costumes, make up and hair and the building of the set. There are many problems along the way, and we approach them one at a time and solve them.”
Berken said the cast of Rumors had to deal with a particularly extreme problem when one of the cast members dropped out of the show unexpectedly.
“One of the most severe problems is when someone drops out of a show,” he said. “In our case, we were three weeks into rehearsal and thankfully someone came forward to accept the role and the huge challenge of catching up with the rest of us.”
Throughout the production of Rumors, Berken said the cast and crew has really come together to create a light-hearted atmosphere at rehearsals.
“Each and every night is a blast working together to create the show,” he said. “There are always humorous things that happen during a rehearsal that bring us together and make us laugh.”
Bekren said the humorous nature of Rumors also helps to create positive memories for those involved with the show to look back on.
“The show itself is very funny which creates some very happy memories for all of us,” he said. “All of these people are volunteers and do it because they love amateur theater.”
Although he is now directing Rumors, Berken said his involvement in community theater productions began more than 50 years ago.
“Over the last 50 years I have done about 70 full-time productions at local theaters in Green Bay, Appleton, Marinette, and Temple, Texas,” he said. “I have worked on at least 200 productions backstage. I have directed for Green Bay Community Theater, Evergreen Productions, Attic Theater and a couple of local high schools. Working with Herb Williams from the University of Wisconsin-Marinette’s theater program, I was able to direct my first show and fell in love with directing. As an actor you get to portray one person, but as a director you get to portray the entire story.”
Berken encourages anyone who may be interested in theater to just make the leap and get their foot in the door with their local community theater.
“To get involved, just do it. Contact a local community theater and ask how you can help,” he said. “Try out for a couple of shows and find out what aspect of theater interests you most. Community theaters are always looking for people to help backstage, on stage, front of stage, wherever. Just do it.”
Green Bay Community Theater’s production of Rumors opens Thursday, Sept. 15 at the Robert Lee Brault Playhouse, 122 N. Chestnut St. Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Sept. 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23 and 4 p.m. on Sept. 17, 24 and 25. Tickets are $19 adults, $10 students. To purchase tickets, call 920-435-6300 or go to gbcommunitytheater.com.