Watching the Clock
- By gentleguide
- On Thu 31 May 2018
Like so many other movie properties, Dolly Parton’s 1980 comedy 9 to 5 has now been turned into a full-fledged musical. ACTORS up in Ames starts their work day with the show on June 7 and runs for three weekends. Like any group of workers (and the characters in the show) there is a wide variety of experience involved in putting it all together. And in this case (like so many other theatre endeavors), you don’t just punch a time clock….
Welcome to the Company
One of the directors for the show is Lynn Lloyd. She’s been involved with ACTORS for forty years of productions, and she still has a passion for the group and the theatre that is unmatched. “I have loved this community theatre since my first show, both on and off the stage. As with all community theatres, we have had good times and bad times, but the common feeling is that live theatre is important as an art form both for the participants and for the audiences. It builds self-confidence, leadership skills, artistic skills, and is just plain entertaining to come and watch your friends and neighbors perform.”
Every show brings a different challenge, and doing 9 to 5 is no different, especially when your company is located in a college town and your potential talent pool can vary quite a bit, even from show to show depending upon the calendar.
“We are a totally volunteer organization and the tryouts for the shows are always a problem,” says Lloyd. “Occasionally we have people driving in from Des Moines, Ankeny, Boone, or even Webster City to audition for a specific show. Some have a lot of experience, and for many it is their first show since high school. Some years we have a large number of college students participating, but that is not true in most cases. Our final show is at the end of the school year and therefore they are heading home.”
“Our big musical, such as 9 to 5 this year, has a cast of 25. Dancing is always an issue, but we try to adjust according to the overall talent and skill level. 9 to 5 is a very complicated musical with many changing costumes and settings, as well as fantasy sequences with cowboy western themes and woodland animals! Most of the show is very similar to the original movie, but of course a huge Dolly Parton score was added to introduce all the characters and involve the large office staff chorus. This show is very complicated and has been difficult to stage. But, I don’t think anyone will be disappointed in the show. It is great fun and full of nostalgia and energy.”
Starting the Shift
One of the new faces at ACTORS is A’ja Lyve. She’s a transplant from Texas, and in 9 to 5 she plays office manager (and all around annoyance) Roz Hart. Even with a great singing voice and a wonderful show stopping number in the production, she’s honestly a bit surprised to be doing all this, as that wasn’t her original intention.
“I met my wife in Houston auditioning for student-directed one-act plays at University of Houston downtown,” A’ja tells us. “We both had been wanting to get back into it. So, I auditioned for 9 to 5. Everyone knows the movie, it’s an American classic, we love Dolly Parton because we’re lesbians. I was reading more about it because I hadn’t seen the movie since 1998, and I thought I should go back for the second day of auditions and read for the part of Roz Keith and some of the other characters.”
“I expected to get the part of Maria, who is one of the ladies in the office bullpen who is a Latina woman, more of an ensemble part. And because I was one of the two women of color who auditioned... and then I get the call saying ‘you get the part playing Roz Keith’ I thought ‘Me? NO!!’ I was so nervous I felt that my musical audition wasn’t strong enough, because I get a bit of stage fright, especially when I’m a bit out of practice. I mean, I was in my high school musical, I was Fruma Sarah in Fiddler on the Roof. Again, I auditioned for the student directed one-act plays, but I didn’t get a part (my wife did!) I auditioned for a western at Iowa State, didn’t get that either, so I didn’t expect to get this one because I felt there were others who were stronger actors, but they saw something in me and took a chance on me and I really appreciate it!”
“I was flattered that they thought I could do it. When it’s just me in the shower, I think I’m Whitney Houston... or it’s just myself and the pianist I think I’m belting it out. I get out on the stage and I have to add all of the dance moves... my part is heavily choreographed. It’s pretty elaborate, especially for a small community theatre. Me having to sing and dance and act, when I have such a little bit of experience, I mean, I get pretty winded! There’s a lot going on, pat your head, rub your tummy! It takes a lot of practice, and I think I’m starting to piece it together!”
Lyve is also proud to be doing 9 to 5, as her feelings about the message of the show are strong. And she gets to be instrumental in both the story and the ultimate message. “My character has to belt the song, it’s sort of cabaret/gospel, so I cannot be shy, I cannot have my stage fright, I have to really get over that. But I definitely feel that I capture this piece because of the state our country is in, say radical, pro-woman. I mean, for its time, this was extremely forward. It’s fun, but it’s incredibly political. There’s so much message in this. With the musical being from the film, there’s a little twist ending that might piss some people off but I think others, especially me, will appreciate.”
“We’re doing it as a period piece set in 1979, and yet that doesn’t mean the commentary isn’t about today. I think it absolutely is. It’s sort of a gentle way to say ‘look, this is what happened in the late ‘70s/early 80’s, and look at how this is still incredibly relevant to today. What can we do to change this? Here’s what these ladies did. What can you do?”
Director Lloyd agrees. “9 to 5 is specifically set in 1979. All of the themes of women’s empowerment in the workplace and harassment are very essential to that era. Since it is based on the very familiar movie, audiences will expect the look of the times. The contract for the show of course is very specific in not changing the content. The show still holds it’s own in today’s world however, since women are still stuggling with some of these issues in a very public way.”
ACTORS in Ames starts up their production of 9 to 5 - the Musical beginning June 7 and runs for three weekends, ending with a special Sunday matinee performance on June 24. Tickets are available through their website at ACTORSinc.com, or from Ames business sponsors Alpha Copies, Ali Cakes, and First National Bank.