A Q&A with Huron Playhouse Artistic Director Jennifer Wertz as the season nears

Reflector Staff Writer

In less than a month, the curtain will go up on the 2015 season of Ohio’s oldest continuing summer theater.
This year’s Huron Playhouse season appears to be a bit more drama-oriented than the seasons I’ve covered in past years. To view the season’s lineup or to buy tickets, log onto www.huronplayhouse.org.
The following Q&A with artistic director Jennifer Wertz covers the show selection process and other details about this upcoming season.

Norwalk Reflector: What is your overall impressions of the season?
Jennifer Wertz: I am absolutely delighted by our line-up of shows for 2015. We surveyed patrons last season asking them what they’d like to see and, boy, are we ever delivering. These are all top-requested shows. But they’re not only popular; they’re classic, iconic, smart, funny and thoroughly endearing. This is a season no one will want to miss.

NR: Is there a theme to connect all the shows?
JW: There’s no particular over-riding theme to the season, other than offering solidly entertaining, classic theater.

NR: From glancing at the season, it seems to have a little more “meat” to it. In other words, there are some shows (i.e. “West Side Story”) that aren’t just “escapist” fare, but serious, thought-provoking drama. … Was that a deliberate choice from audience feedback?
JW: “West Side Story,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and even “Footloose,” to a lesser degree, all deliver “thought-provoking drama.”
Our primary goal is to provide our patrons with shows they really want to see. But we are delighted that these popular shows will also have audiences thinking and talking well after the curtain has closed.

NR: How many are in the company and is that number bigger or smaller than usual?
JW: To most efficiently use our limited budget, we have reduced the size of our acting company from the traditional 24 to 18. Our musicals this year offer opportunities for local talent to participate and work alongside our acting company.

NR: If you could, explain briefly the process the company goes through during the entire season.
JW: On day one , the company transforms McCormick Middle School into a working theater while Woodlands Elementary (School) is transformed into a dormitory. Classrooms become the box office, costume shop, scene shop, etc.
Auditions are held for all the shows on day two, to determine who gets what roles. Rehearsals begin promptly by day three. Actors are learning lines, songs, blocking and dance moves while the crew builds sets, collects and creates props and costumes, designs sound and lights, etc.
Because the (Huron) Playhouse is an educational theater, the actors rotate through all the various departments to expand their knowledge, experience and appreciation of each aspect of theater. Since four shows are produced and performed in eight weeks, multiple shows are in production/rehearsal at the same time.

NR: I guess the last question would be is the playhouse here to stay. I know a couple years ago, there were questions as to whether there would even be a season. Readers might be interested to know if they can rely on having shows each year.
JW: Like all theaters everywhere, it is important to stress that ticket sales only cover 25 percent of operating expenses.
That is why we continue to seek additional financial support from the community. But if we continue to offer outstanding theater and create it as efficiently as possible, the Huron Playhouse will remain Ohio’s oldest continuously operating summer stock theater.