News Column

Audience participation a must at melodrama [Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, WY)]

July 21, 2013


If you go What: Cheyenne Little Theatre Players Old Fashioned Melodrama: "The Treasure of Sara's Padre or Peril at the Plains or Don't be a Freud, Just Lie Down on the Couch My Dear." When: 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 7 p.m. July 28; 7 p.m. Aug. 1, 2 and 4. Where: Atlas Theatre, 211 W. Lincolnway Tickets: $10-16, available at 638-6543 or 635-0199 or for walk-up sales at the theater one hour prior to show. CHEYENNE - This year's old- fashioned melodrama begins with a joke about Sigmund Freud. "That's how this whole thing transpired - how do you get Sigmund Freud into a situation where he's a bellhop in a hotel?" said scriptwriter and director Rory Mack. The show, called "The Treasure of Sara's Padre or Peril at the Plains or Don't be a Freud, Just Lie Down on the Couch My Dear," is the 57th summer production put on by the Cheyenne Little Theatre Players, and it is described as part mystery and part treasure hunt. The show involves an ambiguous will, a dilapidated hotel, several treasure hunters and a Pinkerton detective. It also includes a lot of humor, running jokes, commentary on local politics and a few puns, Mack said. "In the traditional definition, melodrama tends to be bigger than regular (theater)," he said. "Our melodramas are the very traditional Vaudeville (style, with the) black hat villain with the twisty mustache, (a) heroine in peril and hero coming to rescue." It also represents some of the best traditions of Vaudeville in showcasing local talent through a series of "olio" acts of singers, jugglers, comedians and performers who do brief bits during the play. Audience participation is a large part of the show, Mack said. "The key, of course, being that it is very much an audience participation (event) - you boo the villain, cheer the hero, hiss at the villainess," he said. "The audience gets very raucous, very back-and-forth with the actors. They'll shout back at them or holler jokes at them." This can be distracting for actors until they get used to the shouts from the audience, he said, but it also can be a addictive. "I find melodrama sometimes get a bit of bad rap," he said. "But I always contend that it's a really great place, especially for people who are just starting out doing theater. Because if you can stand up there and say your lines while someone is booing at you, or trying to guess what your next line is going to be, or throwing back a better joke than what the author wrote as you go through it, being in a regular play is nothing." Sometimes, the show itself is its best call for casting. "I saw it last year," stage manager Morgan Martin said. "It was what got me started in Cheyenne Little Theatre, and (I) set my goal to be in it." The show is funny and full of energy, she said, which is one of the parts she loves. Cast member and villainess Maty Cameron said she got her start with the melodrama by watching a friend perform in it. She's back for her second year as a villain. "It's a really fun way to (be) involved in Frontier Days and the parades and stuff and still getting to act," she said. "A lot of people don't realize this is part of Frontier Days, and it really would make a Frontier Days experience (to) come see the melodrama." Though the show does include some jokes about local issues - like the downtown "hole" - it still has plenty to offer visitors, she said. "It's fun to appeal to tourists," she said. "They come because they want that old Western experience." Several cast members said they are expecting to try out again next year, including Wyatt Kimbrough, who plays the hero, Carlton Ritz. "It's been a lot of fun," he said. "It's really funny, the play is well-written, and there are a lot of jokes, and the cast is fun to work with - they're a lot of good people." The return of cast members also is a tradition of the show, Mack said. He played a villain for several years before moving to the director's chair. "People tend to do a few melodramas, at least, in their career with Cheyenne Little Theatre," he said. "If they do one, they typically come back for a few more. Some people have been doing melodramas for 30 to 40 years, and they keep coming back - for a lot of us, it just grows on you like a wart." Audience participation a must at melodrama

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