With their production of Sand Mountain only days away, the SOAP Players hasten to complete the last few backstage details for the show. Sand Mountain, a pair of funny Appalachian folk tales by Romulus Linney, is set in the rolling mountains of Alabama in the 1800s.
The first act, Sand Mountain Matchmaking, is a tender romance coupled with some bawdy humour. The second tale “Why the Lord Come to Sand Mountain” is a moral fable with some magical elements and a dose of slapstick comedy. The Lord and St Peter, disguised as travel-worn circuit preachers, visit Sand Mountain for a mysterious reason. Pictured at left are Darryl Mackenzie as St Peter, Patrick Turner as the Prosper Valley Farmer, and Paul Everest as The Lord.
A huge set dominates their large rehearsal space at the Quail’s Nest Arts Centre. The air prickles with the smell of sawdust and fresh paint. The set backdrop is a frame outline of a rustic cabin and risers are painted to resemble wide wooden floorboards. Earlier in the day, a crew headed by builder Larry Raincock has been sawing, hammering and painting the last part of the set.
As the cast enters for the evening’s rehearsal, set designer JoAnn Turner is intent on painting in the stone fireplace. “How does it look from where you are?” she double-checks with the production team. “Is the chimney wide enough?” She reviews her design for the fireplace, a complex set piece that calls for a number of special effects, and ticks off items on her job list: “I need to set up that fresnel behind the fireplace, hook it up to the lighting board, find some orange gels, and purchase some clear corplast for the lighting effects to show through.”
Costumer Bernice Myllyniemi enters with an armload of pioneer dresses, denim overalls, and wide-brimmed hats. “Come get your costume,” she calls cheerfully to cast members. “I need to see how they fit when you move around on stage.” Turning to director Penelope Johnson, Bernice reminds her, “I still need to distress some of the costumes to make them look authentic and worn, so I’m taking them back home tonight.”
Teenage cast member Wesley Frederick (pictured at left) shrugs into his baggy overalls. He plays the unusual character Fourteen Children, a role requiring the actor to represent all the siblings in one Appalachian family. Wesley’s last appearance with SOAP was as one of the von Trapp children in The Sound of Music. “I am excited to have more acting and lines than I did with Sound of Music. I ‘ve been enjoying the challenge of portraying this new character ” Inspired by his experiences, Wesley’s goal now is to become a professional actor.
David Badger (pictured at left) plays Wesley’s father Jack. He pauses to reflect on the weeks of rehearsal. “I marvel at the process from first read to performance -.the memorization, blocking and creating the mood and manner that will best serve a scene.” After weeks of hard work, Badger can see the process paying off.
Diane Gludovatz, assistant director, powers up the sound equipment and helps to fit cast members with their head mics. At the Tinhorn Creek Winery venue, voice amplification will be a necessity. “Can we run a level test, please?” she calls. Next, she points to the youngest cast member, eight year old Kaleb Mailey (pictured at left as Vester with Aimee Grice as Rebecca). “And Kaleb’s head set doesn’t fit properly. We’ll have to use a lavalier mic instead.”
Meanwhile stage manager Jen Jensen pores over a revised sound and lighting cue sheet. “OK, how are we cueing that opening scene?”she asks. Then she turns to the props list. “And who’s responsible for picking up fresh ginseng and sandpaper?” Jensen grabs a pen and starts jotting down a to do list. As she does so, intro music fills the room, and the rehearsal gets underway.
Sand Mountain runs Friday July 18 and Saturday July 18 at 7:00 p.m. at Tinhorn Creek Winery Amphitheatre. Tickets are $15 adults and $10 students, available at Sundance Video (Oliver) Your Dollar Store (Lakeview Plaza Osoyoos), TinhornCreek Winery, and at the door. Wine will be available for purchase. Lounge cushions or blankets are recommended.
Photos by Penelope Johnson