Caryl: Can you share an onstage memory or two about shows you’ve done with ABET?
Susan: Oh wow, there are so many. Before an onstage memory though, I have to tell you about the first time I walked into ABET. I think it really sets the stage (pun intended) for how ABET became my home theatre. Back in 2008, ABET opened their season with Nunsense. Shelli Long, who was my music director at Limelight 2 years before that, suggested I audition. I was on time for the audition, and somehow was the first one there. I’d never been to ABET, so I didn’t know what to expect when I walked in. Opened the door, stepped inside and Judy says, “Oh. You must be Shelli’s friend.” Well, that took me by surprise. Walking into a strange theatre to audition for only my 2nd show, and the director knew who I was. It was kind of surreal. I won’t bore you with the other things about that audition though I still remember them all so very fondly. Suffice to say that my tendency to make smart comments didn’t get me in trouble with Judy, and Patty and Jane thought I was “teachable” when it came to dance. (laughs)
An onstage memory has to start with Nunsense, and you know, I don’t know that I can talk about onstage without remembering the rehearsal process. I just love the rehearsal process and am always sad when it’s over. I played Robert Anne in the show and had a solo titled “Growing up Catholic.” The song was difficult for me because it came right on the heels of more of Robert Anne’s comedic antics. During rehearsal, Judy, our director, came up to me one night, put her hands on each side of my face and said, “Softer, Susan, Softer.” Every show when I sat on the stool to sing that song, I remembered that and the song was what she wanted and the show needed. 10 years later, I still remember it like it was yesterday.
Another strong memory is from 2010 when you directed Aussie Song. I had a song in Act II titled “My Daddy Was A Country Man.” You know, that song had similar feelings that “Growing Up Catholic” does – I may be sensing a theme here. Anyway, you worked with me on getting the emotions right in that song, being able to share that story with Stacy, my daughter-in-law in the show. It was a tough song to sing because it hit the top of my belt and of course, you had me sitting on a box to sing it. But, when it all came together, that song soared…. And a lot of that was due to your direction.
Caryl: Well thanks. My favorite part of a production and strongest memories come from the rehearsal process as well. So.. What are you looking forward to the most with ABET’s new space?
Susan: From a photographer’s perspective the last row will be further from the stage! With only 4 rows at the Grange Center, I couldn’t get back far enough to get the entire stage in one shot. Now I won’t be battling that issue. And I’ll say what everyone else has said – parking! Seriously though, I know some folks have stayed away from ABET because it was so hard to find a place to park. We’ve even heard people say they’ll start coming back to shows at the new space because there will be plenty of parking.
I haven’t seen the new space, but know that we’ll have a lobby! Folks won’t have to stand in the heat or damp or cold waiting for the doors to open. We can hang posters and photos in the lobby and have a great place to socialize. Our new space will be more towards a traditional theatre space, something I think our audiences, actors, musicians, and volunteers will like.
You know, I need to interject something that comes to mind as we take this trip down memory lane. Your first question was something like why I call ABET “home” or why I’m there. These memories we’ve talked about, they make me smile. Thinking back on directors like you and Judy, like Dave and Sam, who pulled things out of me, be it the emotions in a song or getting just the right timing on a comedic line, those memories really warm my heart. And the patrons. The longtime patrons of ABET remember the shows you’ve done and when they see you off stage let you know, sometimes years later. It’s like a family; it really is. Everyone involved – board members, actors, directors, musicians, costumers, set builders, stage managers, other volunteers and our dedicated, consistent patrons – they all make this little theatre “home”. Sometimes I call ABET “The little theatre that can,” after that little train. So much vision and creativity to do top-notch shows in that space. Wow.
My “Cheers” may be changing locations, but I know that everything that has made this little theatre special for my last 10 years and for the last 26 for so many will continue to exceed our expectations. I know I’m looking forward to a very bright future ahead for All Beaches Experimental Theatre!
Caryl: Well said. Thank you so much for all the time and talent you’ve donated to ABET over the years!