Ken and Doug Re-Tool Oklahoma! for Rehoboth Debut
|by Fay Jacobs|
|While the new Clearspace Productions Company may be having its debut performance in Rehoboth with the July 19th production of the musical Oklahoma! at the Convention Center, this is not the first time we have heard from Clearspace founders Doug Yetter and Ken Skrzesz.
These two talented theatre folk made their CAMP debut long before they moved here full time to bring musical theatre and dance to the neighborhood.
While weekenders, Ken and Doug have helped out by performing at Sundance and at the annual Rehoboth holiday Tree Lighting, as well as with the hilarious "Keep it Gay" opening number at the first CAMP Rehoboth Follies.
Doug and Ken are now here full-time, transplanted from Baltimore and New York, with a very full schedule of theatrical endeavors.
Their new theatre company, Clearspace Productions, will make its debut with Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! with performances at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center on Tuesday, July 19 at 8 p.m., and at the Village Green of Bear Trap Dunes in Ocean View on July 21, 22, 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Ken, who is directing and choreographing the show and Doug who is musical director, have put together a collection of firsts for this production. Number one, is their choice to form their company with a blend of professional performers and local people studying theatre with Clearspace.
The show's leads are pros imported from New York, Baltimore and Washington, DC and the ensemble consists of a variety of performers ages 16-72. "The great thing is that the company looks like they could be from an Oklahoma town," Doug says.
Principal cast members include Terence Sullivan as Curly, coming from New York City, Catherine Brookman as Laurey, Dan Vidor as Jud Fry, and Zach Fineblum as Ali Hakim, from Baltimore, Lauren Williams as Ado Annie, Patrick Elliott as Will Parker, from Washington D.C. and Lewes resident and Equity actress Roo Brown as Aunt Eller.
The ensemble includes performers from Rehoboth Beach, Lewes, Fenwick Island, Dover, Ocean View, Seaford and Dagsboro.
Another first is Ken's choice to do the show in-the-round at the Convention Center, with no set, just set pieces. The audience will sit very close to the action and it will be a more intimate production of the show than traditionally seen.
"A lot of the budget in a production like this goes into the costumes. We're going for authenticity with pantaloons, knickers, and petticoats," says Doug.
Along with the simplicity in staging comes simplicity in the direction. "The concept driving this production is to find the essence of the people of this period," says Ken. "I've created the choreography based upon traditional figures of American folk dancing from the turn-of-the-century."
In addition, Doug's musical direction has re-imagined the score for a small group of musicians, with instruments suited to the time period. "I've cut the music down to five players using instruments which would have existed in the territory," Doug says. "We have fiddle, banjo mandolin, guitar, spoons, washboards and keyboards."
"The music of this show sings of Americana. Richard Rodgers' lyrics, written in an Oklahoma dialect, conjure images of open space and the problems of prairie life. And Hammerstein's beautiful melodies are unforgettable. We are very fortunate to have found extraordinary voices in this community that have brought the choral singing to life," Doug says.
So what exactly is Clear Space Productions? Doug and Ken have created a non-profit arts organization located here in Rehoboth Beach with the goal of training local talent to form a professional theatre company based in southern Delaware.
And the name Clearspace? "That's from Ken," says Doug. "He believes that art can only be created in a clear spaceincluding your life; everything has to be uncluttered."
With Doug and Ken as the co-artistic directors of Clearspace Productions, Rehoboth resident Nancy Hawpe has taken the helm as Executive Director of the non-profit organization.
"I've seen the rehearsals and there is incredible energy here," says Nancy. "Working with the professionals has brought the standard way up for the ensemble and they are meeting the challenge!"
This first Clearspace production provides a chance for Rehoboth residents and visitors to enjoy a Broadway classic in an innovative and unusual setting, see a reinterpretation of the show and celebrate having Oklahoma! right here at the Rehoboth Convention Center.
The Convention Center performance has two ticket prices: $40 for a pre-show reception and reserved seating for the performance and $15 for a show-only general admission ticket. The entire production is funded by a generous grant from the Carl M. Freeman Foundation. For ticket information call 302-644-3810.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 9 July 15, 2005