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Meet The Cast

By Sharon McIntire The Carlsbad Community Theatre board of directors is excited to welcome audiences once again to their annual Meriendaat 6:30 p.m. this Saturday, August 14. Offering a light Mexican supper, the event is a wonderful opportunity to meet the cast of their summer musical, The Fantasticks, and to get a peek at the remodeled lobby.Audiences often ask how in the world actors can get up on a stage in front of all those people, and why they are willing to spend hours a day for months rehearsing and learning lines when it’s all over in just a few hours?You can discuss all that with them at the Merienda. But to break the ice, hereare the cast members of The Fantasticks, which opens August 27, with a little of their background and their reasons for returning, again and again, to the stage.Tessa Folks narrates the play and describes her role as El Gallo. “Luisa and Matt see the world through rose-colored glasses,” she says. “I like to think that what El Gallo is doing is taking those glasses away in a controlled environment. He’s trying to show them that you can’t just love somebody, you have to go through hard times to make sure you know you love them."Tessa doesn’t remember how many plays she’s done. “Give me a second to count,” she says, then gives up with an estimate of 20. She was terminally bitten by the bug when fellow cast member Reagan Van Soest introduced her to the Missoula Children’s Theatre. In her first try-out,she was given the role of Toto in The Wizard of Oz. With a beaming smile, this graduating senior admits, “I do plays because it makes me really, really happy.” So it comes as little surprise that she plans to bea professional actress, or possibly pursue lighting or stage design. “I like every part of it: lights, acting, costumes, or just helping with sets for one day. It helps me escape.” Just to keep her feet on the ground, she also plans to do “something medical.”Reagan Van Soest is a home-schooled senior playing Luisa, who is in love with Matt. Reagan may only be 17, but she was bitten with the acting bug at eight when she was given a part in The Tortoise and the Hare production of the Missoula Childrens Theatre. She doesn’t remember how many plays she has done: “That might take me a minute,” she said, and then estimated 15-20.Her varied background keeps her busy rodeoing, raising and showing animals in 4-H, and serving as the youth president at her church.Surprisingly, acting is not her first passion. What makes this girl's eyes sparkle is travel, especially international travel. Traveling with her family and doing missionary work in other countries has given her a wanderlust that she plans topursue by spending two of her Southern Nazarene University's semesters at a program in Costa Rica, or perhaps on a ship participating in Semester at Sea, studying on board while visiting multiple countries.When not soaking up the local culture, she will study nursing orkinesiology, the study of the movement of the human body. Daniel Miller is the one actor in the cast who doesn't have to calculate the number of plays he's performed. Although he made his theatrical debut in the fourth grade as Amal in CCT's Amal and the Night Visitor, that was the extent of his theatrical experience until The Fantasticks. However, as the son of former high school music director Ken Miller, performing is nothing new. “I sang my whole life,” he says.

At the urging of music director Linda Servold, he agreed to return to the stage in The Fantasticks as Louisa's boyfriend, whom he describes as a “20-year old nerdy, hopelessly in love, stereotypical teenager who thinks he has the world figured out, even though he's only 20.”“I sing well,” he says, “but I'm not as experienced as an actor –I didn't do it in high school. I do like it, but I like singing more, so I feel like acting is what I need to work on the most.” He plans to do that by participating in more plays in the future, which is great news for the theatre.Paul Loftis is another veteran actor with “15-20” plays under his belt. As Matt's father, Hucklebee, who studied plants during his Naval career, he tends his garden lovingly, and is convinced that if you give your vegetables too much water, they won't grow.Bar and shift manager at Yellow Brix Restaurant, Paul “got the bug” in high school, but for 14 years, life carried him in other directions. Two years ago, he returned to the stage and “refell in love all over again.“TV, movies... Those are all good,” he says, “but in live theater, we have to do everything –we have to create the set and lights, and bring everything to life. I love to see the emotions -what we bring and how the actors interact. That makes it all come alive.”Luisa's father, Bellomy, portrayed by Casey Gadbury, is the “prim, neat” counterpart to Matt's father, Hucklebee, who he feels is a bit rough around the edges. “I do more watering; he does more clipping. I'm always sensitive to people stepping on my vegetables –I love my vegetables.” How many plays has he done? “Oh, my gosh! My first one was Forever Plaid, and the last one was Oliver. I'm estimating 13.”Casey had an unusual reason for becoming an actor. “In my life and when I was a teenager, I was very shy, so through my life I've looked for opportunities to break out of the shell.” Few actors have ventured onstage to cure shyness, but a love for singing was a huge help, and with three fellow choir members from his church he began his stage life in the musical, Forever Plaid.This actor actually did serve in the Navy, joining the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in 1990. Since then he has held positions too numerous to list in his 31-year career which also afforded him opportunities to overcome his shyness as a public speaker, and through conducting interviews with various media. Currently he is a director in the Office of Program Management.Two actors, Dave Kump and Paul Cox, are actors in the production as well. In this case they have been acting together for 40 years. Dave describes his character, Mortimer, as an old, seasoned actor. Paul adds more details, describing Henry as “an old, broken-down, dramatic, forgetful, washed-up Shakespearian actor who can't remember his Shakespearian lines -or anything for that matter.” The two are hired by El Gallo to stage an abduction.Dave has been onstage longer, entering in the 70's with the offer to help build sets as a way to meet people in his new home of Grants, NM. “If you're handy, you're available, and if they lose an actor... you're it!” he warns. “My first play was Bo Decker in Bus Stop in 1974.”He may have been coerced into his first performance, but he's obviously addicted. Acting, he says, “is a discipline. I learn from every role I've been in. It sharpens my wits, keeps me entertained, and I like entertaining other people. I like to get a laugh. Just hearing people respond to you –it's like the feeling of sucess.“A native of Montana, Dave pioneered the new career of environmental engineering. “The degree led me in various directions,” he reminisces. “I was the first of three environmental engineers that graduated from Montana Tech, so the field was wide open. I got to invent environmental monitoring processes, some of which were adopted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for monitoring uranium processing plants.

After leaving a 25-year career in the newspaper business, Paul became a National Park Ranger, working at various places, including Mt. Ranier and the Grand Canyon. In 2010 he and his wife, Pam,came to work at the Carlsbad Caverns. Both theater enthusiasts, they began acting in high school where he estimates he's been in about 10 plays. “I met Pam in the community theatre in Bremerton WA,” he recounts. “We went from there to all over the place, and didn't find another theatre until we came here because we were out in the sticks. When we got out here 11 years ago, Pam was so excited: 'They have a theatre!' she exclaimed. 'They have a theatre!” We've been kind of involved ever since.”Rounding out the cast and moving in and out of the action is the play's mute, Terry Busby. “If you read deeply into this, you can see that El Gallo and the Mute are orchestrating this play. But whereas El Gallo is far more a part of the performance, the Mute is far more part of the scenery. I pretty much fill in the blanks of the stage,” he says.“I like making people smile,” he admits. “And I can –act, that is. The process comes naturally to me. I tend more towards comedy and feel good stuff because I like to make people laugh and smile; I like to make them happy.” Putting it all together are co-directors Carolyn Olson and Mannie Bemis. This allegorical story, which originally opened in 1960, is filled with music, magic, and miracles containing undercurrents of various entertwining themes. “There's certainly a lot more to it than boy meets girl.”Mannie explained their choice for this year's production. “It's the longest running show on Broadway, so it has a big name and a small cast. Coming off of COVID and having been shut up for all last year, we didin't want to tackle a cast of thousands.”Both have been in more plays than they can count. Carolyn started as an actress in one of the theatre's first musicals and, “I acted in most of them since then. My last role was a dead grandma in Fiddler on the Roof.”“To put ona show, you must have creative, dedicated and talented people,” she notes, boasting, “I have the best in Mannie Bemis and Linda Servold. I wouldn't even attempt a musical without those two.“Mannie has great theater experience,” she adds. “She was the theater teacher at the high school. She imagines and builds the sets and 'fine tunes' dialogue. She sees things that I totally miss.” And, “I love watching the progress from the first 'run-through' to performances,” she muses. “And in this play, we have a cast of fantastic players.”Now that you've found something in common with this stellar cast, come out to the Merienda Saturday at 4713 National Parks Highway, and become part of the family. Buy your season tickets and join in the magic. Consider filling in, backstage or onstage. But be warned: theater is addictive.Membership Merienda August 14The Fantasticks Opens Aug. 27Dearly Beloved Opens Oct. 29Love Letters Opens Feb. 11

Now and Then Opens April 224713 National Parks Highwa

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