January 6 & 7, 13 & 14 @ 7:00 PM
Sunday January 15th @ 2:00 PM
Doors open 30 minutes prior to show
TICKETS: $10 at the door, no advanced sales
WHAT TO KNOW: Sister Elizabeth Donderstock is feeling unappreciated in her Squeamish community and decides to try her luck in the outside world. She abandons her fellow brethren to their own devices in making her famous cheese balls. They quickly discover that her cheese ball recipe cannot be recreated and panic that she has sabotaged their recipe. Can the Squeamish be saved? Will the cheese balls ever taste the same again?
Spotlight on The Hussey Family
Interviewed by Anne Andersen
Theaters survive on the shoulders of behind-the-scenes workers who create sets, operate tech, build and collect props and sew costumes, all without a single standing ovation. We are so lucky at The Merc to have an entire family that has the skills and knowledge and most importantly, the interest and passion for theater to play these critical "roles" in performance after performance. They are amazing, as you will soon realize after reading this interview! Enjoy and thank the wonderful Hussey family, Darla, Dean and Kenny, the next time you see them!
1) How did each of you first get involved at The Merc?
Dean: When we moved here, mom figured The Merc would be a good way to make friends. They needed a sound tech for Willy Wonka in 2014 and zip, zap, zop, here we are. By the way, mom was right — I have made amazing friends here.
Darla: I moved my family here to take a job at the MVN. I tried to get the kids involved in things to help them make friends, The Merc seemed a perfect fit for Dean. As a former (but never re-formed) theater nerd, it was only a matter of time until I followed along. I dipped my toes in when I helped Dean master the tech for the real-time sound mixing used in Diabolical Elixir (it was overwhelming for a 14-year-old guy). And it was all over when Rod Molzhan asked me to do the face painting for Wind in the Willows in 2016.
Kenny: I was the only human in the 2016 production of Wind in the Willows.
2) What different kinds of roles have you filled on stage or behind the scenes? In which productions?
Dean: With the exception of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, my contributions have been in the sound category. I’ve been the go-to sound tech for years and I’ve done a lot of sound editing and mixing. I have even written some original music — Bike America’s soundtrack was my senior project & I’ve done some original songs for The Nutcracker this year. I took to the stage for The Curious Incident … because, as an autistic person, I wanted to lend my lived experience to this important production. You asked which productions — there are 28 on my Merc resume, so if you want me to list them, let me know.
Darla: I have run sound, I have run lights, I have been stage manager for a couple of shows, I’ve dressed the windows in balloons, and designed posters & playbills. I have done props, I have done a LOT of makeup and a LOT of costumes. I think I worked concessions once or twice. I don’t know that I could pull together a complete list, but notables: First time with the face paint was Wind in the Willows … I think I helped with costumes on that show as well. Props: Peter Pan, where most props and some costumes were done with balloon twisting. The Nutcracker: Creating 65 costumes.
Kenny: I performed in pretty much every kids' show from Wind in the Willows until Fantastic Mr. Fox (the original cast). I ran the lights for the Fantastic Mr. Fox redux … that was bittersweet. Running the tech booth is fun with Dean and I’m doing lights for The Nutcracker now. Recently, I’ve been hired as a custodian for The Merc. Mom ropes me into modeling a lot of costumes, but we won’t talk about that.
3) What is your favorite experience at The Merc? Explain!
Dean: Hands down, Bike America. Writing the entire soundtrack and experiencing the cast & audience's reactions was amazing. It inspired & emboldened me to write other soundtracks … you should check my Sound Cloud account https://tinyurl.com/35m4kckv to hear one I’m writing for my favorite book. Bike America showed me that my disability doesn’t define my ability to do important things with my talents. I didn’t use to know that.
Darla: Watching my kids grow from young boys struggling to fit into the world into talented, confident young men who know they are valued by the entire Merc family. As a single mom to two kids with some extra challenges, the acceptance, support and love we’ve found in this theater have made all the difference in our worlds. I am somewhat obsessed with making sure other people — especially kids — who need a place to belong can find it here.
Kenny: Being a crocodile with a balloon tail. It was ridiculous and the metallic leggings were the height of fashion.
4). What has been your biggest learning curve/challenge working at The Merc? Your biggest success?
Dean: My biggest challenge is trying to balance “hell week” and help my mom run our store. This is a lot harder to do when working than it was when I was going to school. My biggest success was being the second recipient of the Carolanne & Egon Steinbach Volunteer Award … my mom was the first ever & I got the award on my birthday. It made me feel like I had done something very important.
Darla: Costuming the Nutcracker has been the biggest logistical challenge … it’s a lot of costumes that need to be staged in a tiny little space. Logistically, it will also either be my biggest success or … unsuccess … depending on how it all goes! Painting the faces of 20 wiggling actors in an hour is a pretty close second (that’s 3 minutes per face, by the way) …
Kenny: Early on, it was hard to figure out how to express emotions with physical actions. Nonverbal communication skills are a struggle for many autistic people — acting has helped me with that a ton. Recently, my brother needed me to take over as sound tech for a show and I only had a couple of days to learn it … that was scary … but I did fine. He’s a good teacher.
5) As our premier theater “family,” what is it like being involved with The Merc together? Could you recommend it to other families?
Dean: It’s fun, but it’s also exhausting. Watching the costumes come together is pretty cool — I’m learning things from my mom I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. The way she imagined, invented and then made The Nutcracker’s tea bandoliers was super interesting.
Darla: It’s like being that crazy, embarrassing parent at your kids' sports games except there aren’t any referees and they let you play as well. Every time I am part of a multi-generational production, I see adults discovering newfound respect for young people & young people realizing that adults aren’t actually evil overlords. I love it every time I get to work side by side with my kids, even when it’s hard … I am always learning new things about them. I highly recommend it to other families.
Kenny: We don’t do a whole lot together except theater. We used to hike sometimes, but now that we’re older and mom & Dean run the print shop, theater is the thing we all do together. And I have a lot of memories of doing theater together. I would absolutely recommend it to other families … spending time together however you can is good.
6) Finally, what are some of your most memorable moments at The Merc? Funny, scary, embarrassing, etc.
Dean: I had to learn a new sound software & do one of the hardest sequences I’ve ever done for Chicago — that was scary.
Darla: Fixing someone’s costume by cutting apart hair ties and tying them together to make elastic. I think we were trying to hold up pants … I was terrified that one of the knots would come untied. I now pack an entire toolbox of costume rescue options to every production.
I just spent pretty much the entire Thanksgiving Day working on last-minute costumes with my mom. While it may not have been a Norman Rockwell-worthy holiday, it was an amazing way to spend time together building memories. Every production has new worst/best/mosts and they are always priceless.
Kenny: The backstage shenanigans of young actors are many. Getting dressed in a closet with 8 other boys is the only really unpleasant thing I can recall. The live band in Twelfth Night was a very memorable experience and very different.
7) Anything else you want to say??? Last chance!!!
Dean: I really appreciate all of the opportunities that The Merc has given me and the things I’ve been able to do because of my work at The Merc.
Darla: So many things. The arts are SO important in a community, but what The Merc brings to the actors & the community transcends cultural contributions. Theater can make audiences see things from a point of view that doesn’t come naturally to them … our theater also helps the cast & crew see themselves in ways they might never have otherwise believed possible.
Kenny: I like the opportunity that it gives me to be part of a larger team effort and make it come together. It’s beautiful to see the culmination of everyone’s hard work come to life. It’s painful when we have to strike the show, but also wonderful knowing we made something unique together.
Spotlight: Melody Langan
Interview by Katie Otte
Melody Langan is a familiar face at The Merc, having evolved as an actor in children as well as adult theater. Her acting skills began at the tender age of four in the cast of Robin Hood, and most recently, Melody performed on our stage in Adrift, a Liberty Bell Drama Company production. We are looking forward to seeing her again in The Nutcracker, opening December 2nd. As she embarks on her final year of high school and prepares to leave the valley, it seems fitting to feature Melody for the November spotlight.
In between her first time on stage and her work this fall, Melody has performed in Willy Wonka, The Wind in the Willows, Charlotte’s Web, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Twelve Angry Women, and her most memorable show, The Laramie Project. Sometime along the way, Melody volunteered to operate sound and lighting in our tech booth.
About The Laramie Project: it was one of the many theatrical partnerships The Merc and the Liberty Bell Drama Company have had through the years. During this production, Melody played multiple roles and shared that she “embodied many of her characters.” This experience resulted in self-growth, discovery, and a heightened awareness of her values. When asked what theater means to her, Melody commented that it’s her daily motivator helping her to wake up and embrace the day. She added that theater helps her make connections with her peers and our community.
Melody is currently applying to art schools and plans to obtain a musical theater degree. She hopes to act on Broadway one day and then perhaps become a drama teacher, as her teachers and directors have shaped so much of who she is. Melody’s advice for young actors is to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, let go of insecurities, and become someone else for 90 minutes on stage! See you all at The Merc, where you’ll probably find Future Theater Teacher Extraordinaire– Melody Langan.
We aim the spotlight for the month of October on Phil Quevillon, board member, actor, and director extraordinaire, who has been a familiar face at The Merc Playhouse since April, 2019, when he first landed in the Methow Valley via Kansas and Illinois and auditioned for and was cast in Diner on the Way.
Since that time, Phil has been on stage in Rope, Breaking Legs, A Christmas Story, and curated/directed Coronanthology. He is a member of our programming committee, which reads, discusses and selects the shows for our season, and he is set to direct a readers’ theater production called The Battle of the One-Acts, which opens on November 4; in addition, Phil has signed on to direct a readers’ theater called The Book of Liz,opening in January, 2023 and a full production called Ripcord, which opens in September, 2023.You can understand why we love him so much!
Phil has been a consummate actor since high school in Quincy, Illinois (lots of improv and full stage productions) and later when he was a “regular” in community theater for 12 years, acting in at least 2 shows a year. He says that in addition to honing his memorization skills as an actor, community theater has afforded him dancing and singing lessons as well as free haircuts and cool costumes.
Phil’s “spare time” is taken up by running a farm with his partner Rose Weagant, operating a land/stonescaping business called Gardens West, and working with students in several after school programs. Right now it’s Dungeons and Dragons, which spun off from a gaming club established by Phil during the pandemic at Liberty Bell and Disc Golf, played on a 9 hole course Phil designed and built somewhere in the vicinity of the ski trails.
When asked, “What draws you to support The Merc?” Phil responded that because the theater is small, he finds the space a creative challenge, thinking about how to make the stage visually stimulating with lights and sound. He shared further that as a director, he makes creative choices about how to make more out of the dialogue. The selection of a good, solid play is number one on his list of all considerations.
Something else the community should know about Phil is that he loves to emcee events. That’s good to know. He will be called!
Thank you, Phil, for being part of our community and our theater!
"The Battle of The One Acts"
Time Flies, Mere Mortals, The Butleress
Three One-Act Plays
Directed by Phil Quevillon
Sunday, September 18th, 4 p.m.
Wednesday, September 21st, 6 p.m.
Monday, September 26th, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, September 27th, 6 p.m.
Casting 6 actors 50/50 gender split for 3 short plays;
No prep necessary. Bring your calendar, contact information, water bottle, and details about potential activity conflicts. Rehearsals will start in early October.
Performances are November 4th - 13th
Boo & George Schneider
Interviewed by Jane Hill
This month we shine the Merc Spotlight on Boo and George Schneider, two loyal volunteers. Boo and George support the programming of the Merc through their donations, and they are also often found behind the concessions counter serving refreshments during productions.
Both “mostly” retired now, George continues to promote his love of music throughout the Valley – his flute, a well-known and welcome sound –, while Boo enjoys volunteer activities at Twisp Works, creates her own copper jewelry, and works with Hospice.
The outdoor opportunities, the arts scene, and the sense of community drew the couple permanently to the Valley in 2010. They note that Twisp is unique in having a vibrant community theater in so small a place. “Many small towns do not have this unique resource that offers coaching, the opportunities to be in front of an audience, to create on the stage and behind the scenes. We want to keep that going for all ages,” they assert.
Boo further explains the value of community theater by citing her grandmother’s words of wisdom to her as she left home to begin her first teaching job. “Join the community theater,” Grandma advised, “You’ll meet people there you wouldn’t otherwise.”
We are truly grateful that you followed Grandma's advice.
Spotlight: Ron McCollum
Interviewed by Christine M. Kendall
Methow resident Ron McCollum, a former Merc Playhouse Board member, was born and raised in Struthers, Ohio. A child of the 1950s his upbringing might easily have been featured in a Norman Rockwell painting in his early days as a paperboy or Boy Scout. He was a young man with goals, one of which was purchasing his first Ham radio set with money earned from his paper route and getting his operator’s license, an interest he continues to enjoy today. (An interest that proved highly useful during the 2014 fires when communication was limited for valley residents due to less than optimum phone service and being without electricity.)
As a teenager Ron loved the bebop days of rock ‘n' roll, sported traditional tan buck shoes and as a high school graduate had his first tailor made suit. He was recruited by the Air Force Academy to play football as a lineman, but in rigorous boot camp training he shed so much weight he was too light for the team. Ron was in the Academy’s fifth graduating class and following graduation went to Chandler A.F.B. in Arizona for pilots training learning to fly a KC 135 or the Boeing 707. He did three tours of duty in Southeast Asia. After leaving the military in 1969, despite a degree in engineering and science, Ron was intrigued by the world of finance and began job hunting in Seattle when he and his first wife Mary decided to settle where she had family (Mary passed in 1986.) Ron was offered a position with Paine Webber Jackson & Curtis where he was a financial advisor for 41 years even following the company’s acquisition in 2000 by UBS Switzerland AG.
Ron and Mary Lou bought a vacation home in Edelweiss in 1989 and were frequent visitors to the Methow Valley making many friends in this area.
Ron’s interest in theatre was sparked by clients in Seattle at PW & J who encouraged him to become a member of the Intiman Theater’s board. The thought of doing so intrigued Ron as an opportunity to mix with a community far different from people he associated with at work or at his church, and he discovered it was fascinating to learn the inner workings of theater. He moved from the theater board to the Foundation Board during a capital campaign at Intiman and was also involved at that time in the search for a new artistic director. He enjoyed working with Intiman’s Managing Director Laura Penn, and they were able to bring Bartlett Sher, considered a wunderkind in theater, to Seattle. As luck would have it, Mary Lou and Ron saw a show Sher directed in New York that was only in preview and were very impressed with it.
Ron said being associated with Intiman and people like Penn and Sher was exciting and a great experience. The Intiman also was winning Tony awards for a regional theatre and it was rewarding to be a part of such highly recognized work.
Mary Lou and Ron moved to the Methow permanently in 2011 remodeling a home on Wolf Creek, and in that year Ron met Julie Wenzel, then Artistic Director of the Merc Playhouse, and she asked Ron to join the Merc Playhouse Board. Given his experience with Intiman Ron was more than happy to do so. As part of the board he met a wide array of people in the Methow Valley involved in theater either on stage or doing the additional technical or stagecraft work necessary in putting on productions. Ron served as the board treasurer and helped guide the budgetary process working with Missi Smith when she became Executive Director. Missi and Ron attended educational seminars on non-profit stewardship and worked on streamlining its financial procedures.
One of the things Ron emphasized was the quality of productions the Merc Playhouse does, and how our community has so many opportunities to be a part of them. There is volunteering to work concessions, serving on the board (which is in need of more board members) or getting involved in shows at the Merc as an actor, stagehand, stage manager, costuming, set design or in the Tech booth handling sound or lighting. He encourages people to consider doing so because it’s a fantastic way to meet people of all ages in our community.
Ron spoke of his enjoyment of the Merc Playhouse Reader's Theatre productions and pointed out they can be less intimidating for those new to theater to be involved in, or those with limited time to be part of a show. Reader's Theater productions don’t require people to memorize lines and they have short rehearsal schedules usually taking place for limited hours in the week prior to opening.
Going forward it’s an exciting time to be involved with the Merc as the board and community members consider strategic plans for the Merc Playhouse’s almost 100 year old structure and the property they own beside it.
Since Ron no longer serves on the Board he has time for many other pursuits: traveling, bicycling, golfing, but the Merc Playhouse and its future is still important to him. He and Mary Lou support the Merc as donors and by attending productions. One show that Ron hasn’t forgotten was Venus in Fur. He fully expects to see more unforgettable live theater on the Merc’s stage.