News Column

A 20-year habit: Susan Gubsch looks back on long-running 'Sound of Music' role

July 3, 2014

By Jefferson Robbins, The Wenatchee World, Wash.

July 03--Surely that wimple must chafe after a few decades.

Cashmere High School teacher Susan Gubsch originated the role of Mother Abbess when Leavenworth Summer Theater launched its production of "The Sound of Music" 20 years ago. The brief but memorable supporting part -- of the chief nun who dispatches unruly novitiate Maria to nanny the children of Captain Georg von Trapp -- has been hers ever since.

When then-director S. Henry Hettick launched LST's first staging in 1995, Gubsch, who teaches Spanish and drama at CHS, at first thought she'd audition for Maria. He coaxed her toward the Mother Abbess role instead.

"I said, 'I am so not old enough for Mother Abbess,'" Gubsch, 51, recalls now. "He said, "That's what makeup is for.' So now I'm old enough, and I don't need so much makeup."

Gubsch stepped out of only one scheduled "Sound of Music" performance, letting her understudy take the Mother Abbess role while she attended her son's wedding. She also sat out the 2002 season so she could finish her master's degree, but still contributed to music direction.

Gubsch also acts as head dresser, managing the show's many costume changes, which keeps her busy during Mother Abbess' offstage time. During the academic year, she directs Cashmere school plays. The production of "Crazy For You" she and her students mounted back in February earned a special award for educational impact in Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre statewide high school drama competition -- the fourth year in a row a CHS play has taken the honor.

"The Sound of Music's" opening night on Friday will be Gubsch's 300th performance as Mother Abbess. She says the role tends to reinvent itself, which keeps her from getting bored.

"The beauty of the show, and I think the beauty of acting, is every performance has to be new. ... Good actors are active listeners, so you have to respond to what's happening in that moment."

Reach Jefferson Robbins at 509-664-7123 or Follow him on Twitter at @JRobbinsWW.


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Source: Wenatchee World, The (WA)

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