Sweet Home, Lebanon theater groups collaborate for musical
April 19, 2023
LAFTA was looking to regroup as a performing arts organization after its founder moved away. SHOCASE wanted to do a musical but wasn't sure how.
It just made sense, said spokespeople for the two groups, to see what they could do together. They're now planning their first show, "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," for two mid-valley stages this July.
A musical version of the 1988 Steve Martin comedy, the play centers on rival con men scamming wealthy travelers on the French Riviera.
Auditions will be 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, May 2-4, at Lebanon High School, 1700 S. Fifth St. Shows will be the last two weekends in July, one at Lebanon High School and one at Sweet Home High School, 1641 Long St.
Begun in 2009, LAFTA stands for Lebanon Association for Theatre Arts. Its mission is to support performing arts throughout the Lebanon Community School District and to to update and help maintain the auditorium at Lebanon High School.
Summer musicals and Christmas variety shows performed through 2019 helped pay for a new light and sound board at the auditorium, along with air conditioning, a projection system and costume and prop rooms.
But the effects of the global pandemic in 2020, combined with the departure of founder Terri Krebs, slowed the group's momentum.
LAFTA struggled to find participants for a 2022 summer murder mystery, extending auditions three times to cover the 16-person cast. An effort to put together a holiday show that year ended up sputtering out.
Meanwhile, in Sweet Home, SHOCASE had its own challenges.
The six-year-old group, which stands for Sweet Home, Oregon, Coalition for Artistic and Scholastic Enrichment, grew out of the Sweet Home Auditorium Remodel Committee. Like LAFTA, it works to support community arts and upgrade the high school's stage.
Until this year, SHOCASE was mostly known for an annual fundraiser gala choral event. Its first was in early 2020, just before the pandemic struck.
It has also taken on "Chips 'n' Splinters," the costumed variety show featured during the annual Sportsman's Holiday weekend in Sweet Home.
The group was really interested in putting on a full-fledged musical, said SHOCASE board member Shirley Austin, but didn't know where to start. Organizers had considered bringing in a traveling show but hadn't had any success.
It was early February and the group hoped to have something ready for summer. And that was about the time, Austin said, that LAFTA called.
"We'd had such an awful time trying to get off the ground last summer," said Patty Crenshaw, who had worked with Krebs to get LAFTA going and has been with the group since. "But everyone doesn't want it to go away."
Board members discussed next steps, she remembered, and someone said, "Why don't we check with Sweet Home? They've got a group up there. Maybe we should band together."
It felt like fate, Austin said, "When Patty called me, I was like, yes! This is what we've been trying to do."
SHOCASE had already decided to pursue "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," Austin said. With just six main characters plus an ensemble, the show sounded funny, family-friendly – and eminently doable.
"We wanted something that was familiar, that people would say, 'Oh, I know what that is,'" Austin said.
Both organizations are tapping their go-tos for help with the details: props, sets, costumes and vocal directing, for instance. They plan to share venues - one weekend in Lebanon, one in Sweet Home - and will split profits equally. Sweet Home is still working on its curtain system, and Lebanon has been looking at speakers.
Both spokeswomen say their organizations can still use help. Volunteers with time, cash or other donations are asked to contact SHOCASE through its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/shshocase?mibextid=LQQJ4d, and LAFTA through its email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
If "Scoundrels" goes well, both spokeswomen said the plan is to work together annually. They might try additional performances, too, maybe even going for more children's theater.
Community theater entertains, sparks imaginations, builds community and quite literally showcases local talent, both women said. Therefore, both want to keep working on its development.
"It's people helping people," Crenshaw said. "And if you can have fun while you're doing it, what better thing?"