Olympia Little Theatres Premiere, opening Friday night, is a premiere of sorts but not for the 2008 play about a playwright who yearns to be taken seriously. Instead, its a premiere for the theaters new lighting and heating systems, and for the director.
Julia VanDerslice, 19, has worked at the theater since she was 14. She has been part of the crew and done lighting and sound, stage managing and acting. Finally, she felt ready to direct.
She discovered Premiere about a Neil Simon-esque writer of comedies who writes a tragedy and passes it off as the work of Shakespeare on a publishers website last year and pitched it for her debut.
Ive always been a huge fan of Shakespeare, but I didnt think I was ready to direct a Shakespeare play, she said.
The Dale Wasserman play follows playwright Gil Fryman as he plays a prank and pays the consequences.
He doesnt like being stereotyped as a comedy writer, said Toni Holm, president of the theaters board. Everyone thinks hes a lightweight. Hes always wanted to write tragic verse.
Its poking fun at the whole Broadway experience, at what people become famous for, she said.
Wasserman, the Tony-winning playwright for One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Man of La Mancha, knew Broadway. He was a friend of Simon, on whom the character is reportedly based.
Dont let the Cuckoos Nest reference scare you off, Holm said. I would say its a lot gentler than that.
VanDerslice has had her hands full during rehearsals, with construction going on in the theater through last week. The theater had its reopening gala last Saturday.
We were behind schedule, she said. I wasnt sure when our cast was going to be able to rehearse in the actual space or when our set was going to be done.
Now things have settled into place, she said, and the experience has been worth the wait.
I was very fortunate, she said. I have a wonderful cast of talented actors who are very hardworking and very patient with the construction process.
She started acting in middle school and got involved with the theater when she came to an audition for Moonlight and Magnolias.
I didnt get the role, she said, but I checked on my audition form that I was interested in working backstage. They gave me a call. I figured, What the heck? so I worked backstage on that show and havent stopped since.