For almost half a century, The Fantasticks has been a constant. It played forever (it seemed) in New York, and practically everywhere else as well. The show is one of those "touchstones" of theatre for many, both patrons and participants.
Try to Remember
The director of the upcoming Ankeny production, Thatcher Williams, has his own connections with that past.
"The last two times I have seen The Fantasticks - well, the last time I saw it, it was directed by Ann Wilkinson out in Pella about 11 years ago. Oh my gosh, 11 years ago! The last time I was involved with a production was when I portrayed Mortimer performing at the First Unitarian Church. Ankeny Community Theatre is celebrating their 35th season and The Fantasticks was their 2nd production."
"The quaintness of this show is the timelessness. Not unlike many classics, it is a familiar old friend. While each director and cast brings their own uniqueness to the show, the essence is similar. Two conspiring parents, two young lovers, and a course of adventure for them all to learn the true meaning of love and the beauty of the world. Though the show was written in the 1950's and inspired by Les Romanesque from the 1890's, the story is so universal we have set it today in a neighborhood no too far from your own."
I Can See It
While the story is grand and timeless, each production of The Fantasticks can be as simple or elaborate as necessary. This is a creative choice for many, and an absolute boon to those who have to keep their eyes on a production budget. Adam Haselhuhn is the current President of the Ankeny Community Theatre, and also the assistant director. Aside from the history of the show with ACT, there are also some presentation realities that really work in favor of this production in their venue.
"For those who have been in our space, we have a small, black box style theatre, with seating capacity for 90 audience members. This affects our play selection simply because of space available. While we are always willing to push a director's vision for laying out a show on stage, realistically we don't have the space to put on some of the typical classic 'big' ensemble productions."
"We've become familiar with the glitz and glamour of broadway with extravagant sets and costumes. The Fantasticks is set up so that 'everything that we need can come out of this box,' the prop box on stage."
"It is a classic tale of two lovers. There are hilarious comedic scenes and touching romantic moments. I think just about everyone can find a relatable moment or character. We are setting the show in a bit more modern times for costumes in our production. But I'm hoping our production brings some of the qualities I mentioned previously."
"A simple set, a piano, and the actors creates an experience for an audience that will allow you to have very few barriers between you and the actors. I think audience members will find moments where they are connecting with a character. In our intimate space, eye contact with actors by the audience is inevitable. I think The Fantasticks at ACT will be a reflection of what theatre can be, and I think audiences will really enjoy it."
Back to director Thatcher Williams, who echoes those ideas about connection and intimacy.
"One of the reasons I am drawn to The Fantasticks is that it offers actors an unusual opportunity to give full access to showcase their talents. The production isn't weighted down by ornate costumes, fickle head mics, glittery sets, large orchestral movements, or garish lighting. As a director, it affords me the ability to not be distracted by the 'Disney-fication' of modern musical theatre - and work one-on-one with actors to help them edit their performance to be one they will look back upon with fondness, and remembrance of when they had full access to explore their love of the craft - along with the community, communication, and communion with the audience."
"It is important for me that theatre thrives for people to be able to communicate ideas with each other. They might be ideas which are the antithesis to their being, they might be harmonized with your likeness... but the importance in sharing is the thing."
You can share in The Fantasticks beginning February 3 at the Ankeny Community Theatre. Check the Gentle Guide calendar for more information, and ACT's website or with Midwestix for tickets.