Backstage at Midland Community Theater, January 2016 (KXWT/Tom Michael)
The Midland Community Theater opened its new season with The Little Mermaid, which is production number 500 for the troupe. The play’s run was just extended to March 5th. West Texas Public Radio takes a look backstage at the making of this musical.
For community theater, this is a spectacle. Popular songs, elaborate costumes, and underwater effects. It’s a stage adaptation of a Disney blockbuster, so whiz-bang is part of the formula. And that’s a challenge, says Set Designer Lauren Lusk, because of “the scale, along with the preconceived notions of the show. Because it is a movie – and it’s a beloved movie – but it’s also an animated movie.”
She operates a lift where she’s been painting an underwater world, on the back-wall and on the floor. “So it gives us a little bit more of a movement feel so it’s not just static water .. for when we’re in the palace.”
Tracy Alexander, Production Manager, says, “for everything that you see, there is hours of labor.”
Aiden Benaci is back stage, scraping foam. “And these will get coated and painted to look like actual rocks.”
Bill Dingus is a volunteer who’s trying to make waves. Literally. “And see my waves that I’m making right here, they’re going to look awesome.”
He also plays King Triton, a character who doesn’t want to see his daughter leave home. “Every father has this happen. My youngest daughter is going off to college.” In the play, his daughter is the red-headed mermaid Ariel. “And he’s a frustrated guy because he doesn’t understand humans.”
Although high-end, Midland Community Theater is categorized as amateur theater, not professional theater. Lusk explains that “most professional theaters have unions involve.” As Lusk says, a combination of paid staff, community volunteers, and consistent financial backing, allow the MCT to rise above.