‘Spice up’ your weekend with Vail Valley Theatre Company’s latest production
If you go ...
What: Vail Valley Theatre Company presents “The Actor’s Nightmare” and “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and again June 19 and 20.
Where: Montana’s Smokehouse, Avon.
Cost: $18 online or $20 at the door.
More information: Tickets are expected to sell out. Get them in advance at www.vailtheatre.org.
During the day, you’re likely to find Franny Gustafson reading aloud to a group of fidgeting, exuberant toddlers or stocking the shelves at The Bookworm of Edwards, where she manages the children’s department. Gustafson, who’s lived in the valley for almost four years, is passionate about children’s literature and she’s also devoted to musical theater; she studied voice in college and lets her vocal talents shine as a member of the Vail Valley Theatre Company.
Her first performance with the troupe was in “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” by Steve Martin in 2012. You might also recognize her from her role as Janet in “The Rocky Horror Show” and as part of the cast of last year’s sold-out “Chicago.”
Tonight, she returns to Montana’s in Avon with the rest of the cast to perform in two one-act plays — “The Actor’s Nightmare” and “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You.”
“People should expect to laugh, to cringe, to be surprised and to have a wonderful time,” said Gustafson, who took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily. “It’s something different and exciting to do in the valley and will spice up your normal weekend. You get two plays for the price of one, and since the venue is Montana’s, you can also enjoy a cocktail while you watch.”
Vail Daily: What is the best and worst thing about community theater?
Franny Gustafson: The best thing about community theater is the people. There is so much talent in this valley! You just never know … the person pouring your coffee could be a trained actor, dancer or singer and it’s so much fun to see them on stage. There’s also a lot of creative license in community theater. We aren’t answering to a bunch of “higher ups” in suits, so we are able to perform shows we really care about and know our audience will love.
The worst thing about community theater is that schedules can get tricky because we all have day jobs. We have to get a lot done in a short amount of time. But because we’re all so passionate about theater, we always work hard and make it happen.
VD: Tell me about the parts you play.
FG: In “Actor’s Nightmare,” Bart [Garton] plays a man named George who is having a terrible nightmare. He dreams that he has to go on stage and play a part he has never rehearsed. Talk about scary! Obviously, he doesn’t know the lines and things start to get really funny! The rest of the cast, including me, plays a variety of characters that pop in and out of his dream. My most notable character is a wacky girl who stands in a garbage can picking her nose — inspired by absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett, of course.
In “Sister Mary,” I play one of Sister’s former students, Diane, who returns as an adult to put on the pageant she did in the fifth grade. She has roped a few of her former classmates into joining her but she has a darker, ulterior motive. Diane is a really meaty character and I’ve loved this role. Through a series of terrible events, she has realized that life isn’t as simple as Sister Mary taught her. Then things take a shocking turn!
VD: How did you guys choose these specific one-act plays?
FG: The original plan was to perform “Actor’s Nightmare” by itself. It’s such a funny, wonderful show! But we realized that the play was awfully short and that it would be great to pair it with another, slightly different comedy. The playwright, Christopher Durang, wrote these two one-acts to be performed together. So it just made sense. The plays really balance each other out and I couldn’t imagine performing them any other way.
VD: What do you think will appeal to people?
FG: These plays are just plain funny. Anyone who has a great sense of humor and enjoys sharp wit will enjoy them. And if you ever attended Catholic school as a child, you’ll enjoy a whole extra layer of laughs!
VD: It sounds like the “Sister Mary” subject matter might be a bit controversial. Are you afraid of offending some folks?
FG: When “Sister Mary” was first presented in 1979, it was definitely a bit controversial. But I really don’t think it will be a problem here. Our valley tends to be quite progressive and open minded, so I think everyone will be able to see the play for what it really is. It’s not making fun of Catholics as a whole. Every religion has its zealots and fanatics and those are the people we are poking fun at in “Sister Mary.”
VD: What’s the most interesting or funny or memorable thing that’s happened while you’ve been on stage?
FG: I was performing in a large production of “The Wizard of Oz” in Minneapolis and all of the women wore wigs. During a particularly raucous dance sequence, one woman’s wig got stuck on a button on her partner’s jacket. Of course, the wig flew off. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the wig stayed stuck on the button and flopped around on her poor partner’s chest for the rest of the dance. The beauty of live theater is that absolutely anything can happen! I’ve seen people forget lines, I’ve seen people trip … you name it, it’s happened! That’s what makes it so exciting.