It happens every August: The amateur thespians of Stewartville and Chatfield take to the stage to present community-wide productions that draw audiences from near and far.
And, wouldn’t you know it, the shows almost always happen on the exact same dates.
“We usually get one day to see their show, and they get one day to see our show,” says Aaron Rocklyn, director of “Cats” at Stewartville Community Theatre.
Sure enough, this year “Cats” is performed Aug. 5-6 and Aug. 12-14, while “The Little Mermaid” by Wits’ End Theatre in Chatfield is performed Aug. 5-6 and Aug. 11-13.
In fact, these two shows have other things in common besides performance dates. Here’s what else they share:
This is the first production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” in this corner of the state. “The rights were just released for theater groups like ours,” says Joseph Chase, of Wits’ End. “We really decided to just run with it. Our only concern was, ‘Is the theater going to be ready?’”
The theater in question is expansive Potter Auditorium in Chatfield, which is undergoing a major renovation this summer. “This is a huge production,” Chase says of “Mermaid.” “Some plays you could produce in a cracker box, but not ‘The Little Mermaid.’”
When it comes to firsts, Stewartville Community Theatre has one of its own with “Cats.” “We were the first nonprofit in the state to do it,” Rocklyn says. That was in 2006. “People came from all over the place to see it,” he said.
Ten years later, Stewartville has another “Cats” ready to go. “There was so much interest, everyone wanted to do it again, but we have a general rule that we wait at least 10 years before doing a show again,” says Rocklyn. “We just made it.”
The costume crew in Chatfield, led by Debra Collum, has been working on sea-worthy costumes since April for the mermaid, the sea gulls, Flounder, and other characters. “These are really fabulously fanciful costumes,” Chase says.
In Stewartville, actors have been invited to bring in a base costume with which they are comfortable, and it is then embellished with cat accouterments. “You can’t just go to another theater company and borrow or rent cat costumes,” Rocklyn says.
Songs and singers
“Cats” consists almost entirely of music, and Rocklyn has assembled a cast to sing it, starting with Leslie Meyer, seen in lead roles in several area musicals, as Grizabella. Her signature song in the show is “Memory.”
Meanwhile, Mariya Maragos, most recently seen in Rochester Civic Theatre’s “Mary Poppins,” returns to Chatfield in the lead role of Ariel in “The Little Mermaid.”