The Reston Community Players have kicked off the 2004-2005 season with their production of Jerry Herman’s musical “Mame,” the story of a free-spirited woman whose life is changed when her young nephew comes to live with her.
“This is a classic play that we haven’t done before,” said Sue Pinkman, producer of the play. “It’s got great tunes,” she said, including “Need a Little Christmas” and “If He Walked Into My Life.”
Kay Vakerics, whom Pinkman describes as a “Jill of All Trades,” said the group likes to start the season with “a blockbuster, something recognizable, always a musical.”
Rehearsals started shortly after Labor Day, and the play opened Friday night for a four- weekend run that will end Nov. 13.
“We have 19 set changes and only three lead characters, but we have so many minor characters it’s a huge cast,” Pinkman said.
The cast of 30 crowds backstage in the Reston Community Center, where the plays are rehearsed and performed, to change costumes during every performance. And after every performance, the set must be taken down and stored in a 12-feet-long by 8-feet-wide storage space set aside for the group.
“The stage here is used all the time, so this is always a challenge in designing a set,” Vakerics said.
THE STORY is about an unconventional woman who takes in her nephew and their adventures together.
“This isn’t just about a crazy lady,” Pinkman said. “She believes there’s more to life than sitting behind a desk in an office. She believes in living life to the fullest and brings other people along for the ride with her.”
Kat Brais, cast as Vera, Mame’s best friend, said Friday’s opening night performance went very well.
“It was so much fun and we had a full house,” she said. “Considering all the technical work that goes on with the show, it went really well.”
“Vera’s a lovely character,” Brais said. An actress who perceives herself to be a bigger star than she actually is, Vera is a superstar in her own mind.
“She doesn’t pay attention to bad reviews, but I think deep down she may have a clue, which is probably why she drinks so much,” Brais said.
Vera and Mame have been “best friends and enemies their whole lives. They admire what each other has and does,” she said.
“This is one of the best character roles I’ve ever had,” Brais said.
Gilly Conklin plays Mame and said she likes her character’s “magnetic personality.”
“Everyone wants to be near her, she’s very warm to all her friends and that really comes through when Patrick comes in because it’s something she’s never experienced before, that kind of love,” Conklin said.
Although Mame and Vera both have theatrical aspirations, Mame’s is more fleeting than Vera’s, she said.
“Mame was excited about being in the theater, but she wants to experience life all around, whereas Vera wants to be onstage and drink. Mame wants to do it all,” she said.
“This is probably one of the more complex roles I’ve done,” said Conklin, a longtime veteran of the stage.
BOTH WOMEN said working with director Joanna Henry made the performance better.
“I’m very stingy about my time and I’m going to choose the directors I work with,” Conklin said. “Everything came together seamlessly, the music, the acting and the choreography, and a lot of that is due to the director.”
“The cast is amazing,” Brais said. “Everyone’s worked so hard.”
“We love being onstage but we couldn’t do it without the backstage crew, moving the sets and fixing the lights and everything else they do,” Conklin said. “It’s been a really nice experience and I’ve enjoyed this cast tremendously.”
“Mame” will be on stage at the Reston Community Center Oct. 29, 30, 31 and Friday and Saturday evenings through Nov. 13. Sunday matinees are at 2:30 p.m., and all other performances are at 8 p.m. Tickets are available by calling the Reston Community Center at 703-476-1111 or online at www.restonplayers.com. Seats are reserved, so it is strongly suggested to purchase tickets prior to show time.