June 22, 2004
Mo lly Jacobs gave it straight to her actors.
"I’m going to treat you," she told them three months ago, "like I would any cast."
Which was saying a lot, considering the director was going from working with professional performers in her former job with the Valley’s Theater League to working with mostly inexperienced folks for Queen Creek’s first community theater and its debut production, "Annie."
The show opens Thursday and runs through Saturday at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center, which Jacobs began managing when it opened this year on the campus of Queen Creek High School. Putting a community theater together is no easy feat. And when it’s in Queen Creek — a place known less for its pool of thespian talent than for its reputation, according to longtime resident Jennifer Mortenson, 19, as a "hick" town on the southeastern outskirts of the Valley — well, Jacobs wasn’t sure what to expect.
Some of her "Annie" actors had experience in church pageants. Some had done theater in high school or college. She scouted members of the Trilogy Tappers dance team from the nearby Trilogy active adult community and got five ‘‘gam-tastic’’ seniors to join the show.
Mostly, though, Jacobs has assembled a cast made up of people like Queen Creek resident Tim Allen, a stage newbie who spent early rehearsals learning the show’s dance choreography and even picking up basic theatrical lingo like "upstage" and "downstage."
"It was all new to me," says Allen, 35.
A social worker in Phoenix, he auditioned along with his wife, Shirell, and 8-year-old daughter, Lindsay. They each got parts, and Allen landed the role of Drake the butler after auditioning with a song every father of five young children would know: "Be Our Guest" from Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast."
Jacobs worked her actors hard, holding rehearsals six days a week this month. But success for her isn’t based on acting prowess.
What’s more important, she says, is for "the people on stage to feel like they got something out of it."
By all accounts, the cast has. Mary Jo Williams, who moved to Queen Creek eight months ago, joined the show with her teenage children — Nathaniel, 14, and Elizabeth Breniser, 17 — hoping it would be a good way to meet her neighbors.
Though working in the production has meant a long stretch of what she calls "toast and cereal nights" for her family, it’s been worth it.
"It’s been so much fun," she says.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday
Where: Queen Creek Performing Arts Center, 22149 E. Ocotillo Road
How much: $10, $5 to $7.50 for children and seniors
Information: (480) 987-5964