One of the best things about being a kid in a small community theater is the opportunity it offers.
Nope, they aren't going to let you play Willy Loman when you're 14 or Matthew Harrison Brady when you're 15. I know, because I tried a number of years ago.
But a small theater will give you plenty of experience backstage with sets, light, props and the millions of other things that go into producing a play. And that experience can pay off big later on.
Or maybe not that far into the future in the cases of Chanel Vismara, 17, and Brianna Grabowski, 18, who threw their name into contention to direct San Ramon Community Theater's production of "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" opening Friday in the Front Row Theater.
After a brief, low-level campaign, the two young ladies from Pleasanton were selected to direct the production, with a cast whose ages run from very young to old enough to do about anything the law allows (i.e. older than the directors).
"It's certainly not all kids," said Terry Cunningham, a cast member and San Ramon's former theater programs manager, "it's a full range of ages, including adults. I play a farmer and there are a few more adult parts, mostly for women. Chanel has been involved with the theater since she was 8, and Brianna got involved a long time later. They've both been active in high school theater as well as here, and I know Chanel's mom has done some stage-managing for us."
Chanel said the theater's committee as well as the cast have been extremely supportive of her and Brianna, and seem eager to see the duo succeed.
We asked Terry for this opportunity, and then the committee," she said. "I think we've found the director's job to be more stressful than we realized. There are so many aspects you have to be aware of. We were worried about being this young age and not getting support. But that hasn't been a problem -- the young kids seem mature, kids our own age. There's a real camaraderie there, and the adults, I think, have a respect for what we're trying to do."
Brianna also immediately saw the array of duties when sitting in the director's chair.
"It's definitely different from anything I've ever done, from actress to stage manager," said Brianna, who in the next few days will enter UC Santa Cruz, where she plans to major in theater and psychology. "But doing it here is good, too, because we've been here so long it's kind of like a family. And with Chanel, we're kind of partners in crime in the theater, so that's good."
The two young women had, just over a week before opening, spent roughly 48 hours working on the play away from the theater. And, what has made it work so well is the friendship the two share.
"We're best friends and know each other and how we work together," said Chanel. "We kind of have a telepathy with each other."
"Sleepy Hollow: The Musical" plays at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 13 in the Front Row Theater inside the city building at 17011 Bollinger Canyon Road, San Ramon. Tickets, at $16 and discounts for children and seniors may be reserved at 925-973-3343 or http://www.ci.san-ramon.ca.us/parks/theater/calendar.htm#092713.
Contact Pat Craig at email@example.com.