This article is from the June 2012 issue of KC Stage
Rumor has it the Martin City Melodrama is being renamed the Marcus City Melodrama. Is this true?
This was originally a joke because every once in a while I would answer the box office phone at Martin City with “Marcus City Melodrama, how may I help you?”.
Is that your job for the Martin City Melodrama, to answer the phone?
I help Jeanne run the theatre business and act in all the shows.
Can you describe a typical day at work?
Running a small business has new surprises every day. Helping run a small theatre business never has a typical day. Last weekend, we took Rumpelstilskin ... Recycled!?!, an original show for children that I co-wrote, to the Great Plains Mall in Olathe. We brought in the sets, costumes, and music and I play the title role of Rumpelstilskin. After performing the show, we tore down the set and so forth and drove back to our Metcalf South location to perform our evening show. All the while we are still answering the phone and selling tickets. After the load in, we prepared the Metcalf theatre to be audience ready. Sweeping, cleaning the bathrooms, getting the snack bar ready, setting the cabaret tables and chairs and then perform Completely Hollywood with as much energy as required. After that show, we cleaned up the theatre along with cast mates Nino Cassi and Dianne Brown, then you and I had a production meeting to cover some issues before the next day’s performances.
Was that considered a long day?
Running a small business reminds me of my recent time in college. There are times when everything is crazy and deadlines are due and you keep going and going to make sure everything gets done. Other times are not so crazy and we continue writing our original productions and marketing our unique theatrical product. Even when I am out of the office, I continue to think of show ideas and really enjoy that creative process that keeps spinning and spinning.
When and where did you graduate from college?
I graduated from Sterling College, in Sterling, Kan., spring of 2011 with a BA in theatre communications.
So how did it happen, you weren’t out of college for barely a year and now you are helping run Martin City?
It happened all at once. I graduated May 13, 2011 from college and by May 15 I was hired by the Great Plains Theatre in Abilene, Kan. I took on work as an actor, set construction, and the box office. I also worked with stage management in the company. This contract lasted until August 14. During my employment with the Great Plains Theatre, I made a trip up to audition for the Mystery Train Theatre. I couldn’t audition for you yet, because you were in New York performing at the International Fringe Festival. The Mystery Train Theatre offered me work as a stage manager. The next week I received a phone call the day before I moved to Kansas City that the lead quit in the mystery production and I would be playing the lead role in Extra! Extra! Murder All About It! The Mystery Train helped me realize I could think on my feet and improvise in front of an audience. It also helped me realize I could learn a lot of lines in a short amount of time. Working at the Mystery Train was a stepping stone for my work at the Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville.
When did you start to work for the Martin City Melodrama?
Two days after my first rehearsal with the Mystery Train, I auditioned for Martin City Melodrama. After checking my references, you offered me a lead role in the Christmas show playing eight different characters. You also offered me part-time work beginning in September. I accepted. I was working at the Mystery Train and Martin City Melodrama at the same time. I was literally running two different directions. By November, you offered me full time work with your company that included actor housing. In January of 2012, a position opened up and I became the associate director for the Martin Melodrama & Vaudeville. Co.
Do you like wearing all those hats?
I am very lucky. Being associate director is nothing short of a miracle. I have the opportunity to grow in so many theatrical areas. When I graduated from college, I envisioned the stereo-typical actor’s life of waiting on tables and praying the phone would ring. Instead, everything fell into place so quickly, that I am completely convinced that this is the life for me.
It sounds like you wanted to be a full time actor and now you are a full time actor and helping run a theatre business. Do you like doing both?
I knew nothing about theatre as a business before working at the Martin City Melodrama. Now I love being immersed in the business side of theatre. Most actors think theatre is a way for them to express themselves and it is. However, you have to accept the reality that it is show BUSINESS! We treat our non-profit theatre business like a for profit theatre business. We use our earned income to pay bills, pay the staff, and produce shows. We know the ultimate payoff is that we can perform all the time shows that we create.
What are your next shows?
The theatre begins its 17th year of comedy camp June 11. I am thrilled to get to learn how to throw a cream pie and work with the students. Our Martin City, Jr. production of Rumpelstilskin....Recycled!?! is being extended through July 31. We are going to start casting for our original holiday 2012 show that I will be directing. Auditions will be set with actors calling me at the theatre and/or sending me a resume by July 1.
We are in rehearsal for a full length original show with the mentally challenged adults at Lake Mary in Olathe and Paola. Creativity knows no boundaries. The melodrama has been working with this group for two years and now we will be producing and writing a show with this wonderful, creative group of adults.
When is the show?
We hope to mount the show for fall of 2012. We received some generous donations to put this particular production together and we are having a ball.
Based on all your new experiences, what would you advise theatre students to do upon graduation from college?
Have a good attitude and work ethic, first and foremost. Be grateful for what work you do get, don’t expect that you deserve anything. If you choose a professional life in show business it is not an easy ride, but if you love theatre, nothing else will do.
Jeanne Beechwood is the artistic director for the Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Co. and is currently mentoring Marcus to one day rule the world of melodrama.