With its vast expanse of polished hardwood, all that's missing seems to be baskets at either end.
As it is, there's no shortage of markings on the floor, but they have nothing to do with sports. Colored tape marks the dimensions of the set soon to be erected on the Starlight stage. And a row of black numbers borders each side of the floor with zero at the middle. Either side of that zero represents stage left or stage right, measured in increments of even numbers from 2 to 24.
The numbers help a director tell actors where to go. They help actors know where to stand. They help lighting designers know where to place lights and sound designers know where to place microphones.
"It's all these little cheats you do so you can work quickly and efficiently," director
And no doubt about it -- McKinley has been working fast. He's in town to stage Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music," the 1959 classic about the Von Trapp family fleeing
"They really don't write shows like this anymore," McKinley said. "What's wonderful about this piece is the lyrics are truly extensions of the dialogue. ... That's why this endures. I love doing these Golden Age pieces."
This is the only production Starlight is building from the ground up this summer, and it has to be done on a tight deadline. For McKinley, it's a bit like coming home. This is his ninth season at Starlight. Only one other director,
McKinley was particularly busy at Starlight in the 1990s, when he staged more than one version of "The Wizard of Oz" and a lavishly produced "Peter Pan" with
Since then, he's established himself as a
Last week McKinley, dressed in black jeans, a black T-shirt and a black ball cap, went through the tedious business on the fourth day of rehearsal of blocking the big wedding scene, using the numbers on the floor to guide actors to their correct positions and timing their movements to musical measures with the help of music director
"Don't make it fake," he said to actresses playing nuns, who at one point must chatter among themselves, although the script gives them no lines. "Figure out what you're going to say. Figure out what your dialogue is and repeat it every night. Otherwise, you're just doing bad community theater acting."
McKinley sometimes directed from a table where he and his assistants were seated, but often he was on his feet, showing actors where to move and sometimes coming up with new staging ideas on the spur of the moment.
"I never stop talking," he told the performers. "You always have to listen."
Later, staging a scene where Maria and the captain return from their honeymoon and are greeted by the Von Trapp children and the servants, McKinley told the actors they were standing too close to one another.
"There is no intimacy on the Starlight stage," he said with a chuckle. "Stop trying to be intimate!"
Later, McKinley explained that you can indeed achieve intimacy on the big stage, but it's the Starlight version of intimacy. Where actors might stand close enough to touch in a normal theater, at Starlight they may stand at softball-lobbing distance.
Out-of-town actors have been cast in the major roles:
But a glance around the rehearsal hall shows that (a) some of the best actors in town have been hired for supporting roles and (b) some of the finest singers in KC are in the cast.
Braton also happens to be one of the best singers in
The production will have more than 50 performers on stage, including all the professional actors as well as a community chorus full of kids and eager adults.
"It's impressive," McKinley said with a laugh. "When you see them all walk across the floor, you'll think we've hired all of
"You really have to have your stuff together to direct (summer) stock," she said in an upstairs board room.
"When you're doing it yourself, you can double that," he said.
"For us, the quality is extremely important in what we present, and it takes a tremendous amount of money to put these things together," Thomason said.
In the glory days of Starlight -- the 1950s and '60s -- the theater produced most of its own shows, sometimes as many as 10 in a season. Baker said he'd eventually like to expand the number of self-produced shows as well as the length of the season, but that may take some time.
Every week a
Regardless, Baker said audience can expect "at least one" Starlight-produced show.
"One thing I'm looking at is finding a way to expand our rehearsal space," Baker said. "We want to use local actors and that sort of thing. ... I'd like to get back to where we're doing at least two."
Thomason, an actor herself, said it was important to her to hire the best talent from the local acting pool. Even more important is Starlight's mission to keep
"One of the things critical about Starlight is the memories that are made," she said. "We had someone not very long ago who had been married 50 years and had their first date at Starlight. We hear those stories all the time. We still have
Back in the rehearsal studio, McKinley said this production is the textbook definition of summer stock -- producing a classic show in record time. On
"I'm fortunate because I used to do this all the time, and a lot of people hired me because they knew I get the show in on time," he said. "But we can get spoiled. And it was like, 'Man, do I remember how to do this?' Fortunately I do. This is a great company, and there are some veterans in the (cast) who have done summer stock and can tell the others, 'This is how we move.' I'm pleasantly relieved that I can still work at warp speed."
"The Sound of Music" runs
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