Theater year bright

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Preparations for the upcoming Allen County Community College production of “Beauty and the Beast” can best be compared to a three-ring circus, Tony Piazza admits.
“You have to consider the students usually have three separate rehearsals,” Piazza said of the Disney musical that comes to the Bowlus Fine Arts Center stage Oct. 8-10. “They’ll have their music rehearsal, then they work on their dance and finally they have their stage rehearsal.”
Oftentimes, the re-hearsals are taking place simultaneously. Students are under the guidance of Piazza, who’s directing the musical, music instructor Brad Herndon, conductor Ed Lammers and choreographer Mindy Covey.
Piazza said the energy from the students predicts that “Beauty” will be a sight to behold.
“It’s such a wonderful story, anyway,” Piazza said. “It looks at what’s beauty and what’s not. It has a wonderful message about what’s ‘real love.’ And of course, there’s plenty of entertainment.”
Elizabeth Otto of Le Roy assumes the role of Belle — the “Beauty” — while Josh Robb, a former Iola High School graduate studying to become a paramedic, portrays the Beast.
Other key performers for the musical are Ryan Cochran as Gaston, Lesa Geiler as Mrs. Potts, Chris Yackle as Lumiere, Garrett Skidmore as Cogsworth, Billy Wicks as Belle’s crazy father, Maurice, and Na-chelle Gonsalez as Babette, the French maid and feather duster.
Aaron Terhune, a local fifth-grader, has been chosen for the part of Chip. Several community members will fill out the orchestra.
The music in the play should appeal to all, Piazza noted.
“And it’s not just the singing numbers,” he said. “There is a lot of musical underscoring throughout the entire performance. It’s almost operatic.”
Special light-up roses that become central to the play’s final scenes will be on sale to audience members before the curtain rises.
“The audience gets to have a lot of fun with it,” added Terri Piazza, Tony’s wife and fellow drama instructor at the college.

“BEAUTY AND the Beast” is the first of a series of shows that should accomplish two major goals — to advance the acting skills of the ACCC troupe, and to entertain the community.
The college’s next performance will be the play “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress,” a play about five bridesmaids hiding together during a wedding reception.
The play is by Academy and Emmy Award-winning writer Alan Ball, who penned the film “American Beauty” and was the creative force behind the HBO hits “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood.”
The comedy looks at each of the bridesmaids and their distinct personalities, Tony Piazza said.
“One of his goals with the play was to examine the human psyche,” he said. “It’s a very well-written piece with some incredible characters.”
But while “Five Women” is thought-provoking, Piazza said, “it’s also pretty darned funny.”
One note: the play is geared for mature audiences.

NEXT UP in February is the college’s annual series of student-directed one-act plays.
The students handle all elements of each of the short skits, from hosting auditions, deciding on scenery and finally directing their classmates.
Two of the pieces likely will be written by students as well, Tony Piazza said.
“It’s very educational for the students,” Terri Piazza said. “It’s their project, and it requires a lot of buy-in from the students to make it work. It gives them some perspective.”
And getting to judge others who are auditioning helps the directors, who may find themselves auditioning for parts later on.
“It really gives them an idea of what we’re looking for,” she said.

IN APRIL the college brings “Arabian Nights” to the ACCC stage.
In it, a young woman scheduled to be executed saves herself through the art of storytelling.
Playwright Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of “Arabian Nights” is highly entertaining, Tony Piazza said.
“It brings a slightly modern twist,” he said. “It looks at Arabian culture in a non-political way.”
“And it brings a broad spectrum to the audience,” Terri Piazza interjected. “There are laugh-out-loud silly moments, and there are tragic events. It covers the whole gamut.”
“Indeed, it looks at how our culture may be different from theirs, but it also looks at how we’re similar in a subtle and entertaining way.”

THE COLLEGE season ends next June with the ACCC Summer Theater in the Park.
Once again, the theme will be melodrama. But unlike years past, the summer play will be an original, penned by ACCC alumnus Nic Olson.
“The audience has a lot of fun with the melodramas,” Tony Piazza said.
“A Happy Gentle Melody, or, The Scandalous Staccato Steals the Show” takes place in the 1930s jazz era.
“We’re excited to support a local young playwright,” he said. “Nic has a great ear for dialogue, and he’s already written a pair of successful one-acts for us.”
The play will be a win-win for all, Piazza predicted.
“The community will be treated to a fun play and Nic gets another notch in his resume.”

TICKETS FOR all of the ACCC productions will cost $6 for adults and $4 for students or children. Advance tickets will be sold at Iola Pharmacy and at the door on performance nights. The exception is the summer play, which carries no admission fee.