Community hopefuls lingered in Platte Valley Companies Performing Arts Center lobby on the WNCC campus Sunday afternoon as they waited their turn to audition for a role in one of the Theatre West summer productions for its 31st season.
WNCC student Billy Mosher said he’d done this seven times, but still gets a little nervous walking up to the audition room. Despite the nerves, he’s glad live performance is back in town after last year’s hiatus.
“I’m glad to just have the opportunity this year,” he said.
He’s not the only one. Theatre West artistic director Patrick Newell and managing director Tami Lippstreu both said they are excited for this summer’s season.
“Coming off COVID going into this new year, it’s time for us to be in live performance,” Lippstreu said. “We will do what is safe for the community, but things are looking good. It’s time to get back together.”
Theatre West will be hosting the shows “Songs for a New World” and “39 Steps” in repertory for the month of June and the shows “Grease!” and “Almost Maine,” for the month of July. Auditions for locals were held for the July shows on Sunday at WNCC and the cast list will be posted on its Facebook page and website soon.
Along with its mainstage shows, the company will also put on a 10-minute touring library musical called “You’re Awesome, Possum” which was written by Lippstreu and Lauren Newell, Patrick’s wife throughout the summer and a two-week youth camp in which local children will prepare “Frozen Jr.”
“It’s a day camp goes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. They bring their sack lunches, and they’re supervised by the actors of the company, other volunteers in the community, locals,” Lippstreu said. “And they learn all the elements of musical theater.”
Newell said, “It’s really a little training program that … if somebody who starts when they’re eight or nine years old, by the time they’re 12, 13, 14, they’re taking the lead roles.”
Theatre West will wrap up each month of its mainstage shows with its After Party Cabaret at 16th Empire.
Newell and Lippstreu said that the company will be taking the necessary COVID precautions throughout the summer. As of right now, Theatre West does not have a plan set in stone yet for the audiences of each show. They said they will be making those decisions as the performance dates get closer.
“Depending upon what happens with vaccinations … we are probably still at 50% capacity in the theater, still social distancing and still masked,” Newell said. “That’s our safest and most ideal way to go. I don’t see the actors being masked, but the audience for sure.”
Actors for the shows will include both locals and hired actors from all over the country, Newell said. He’s already hired actors from Illinois, Missouri, New York, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia, and one of the directors is from California.
Newell said that he’s not only looking forward to sharing live performance with the community again, but to also get these actors back on the stage.
“What I’m looking forward to is getting all of these actors and technicians back into the theater back doing what they love so much and they miss so much,” he said. “We’re in the process of hiring our technicians and our company actors — a lot of these people have been earning their living, acting full-time, and they haven’t been able to do that for over a year. And they are so excited to come back to get on the stage again.”