How many dancing actresses
does it take to change a light bulb?
Five, six, seven, eight!
Yes, we’re groaning, too.
But the pointe of our little joke (sorry–it’s hard to stop once you’ve started…) is that great things happen when you get a group of community theater actors together on one stage. “Stepping Out” opened last weekend and performed before three very appreciative audiences. Call us biased, but it’s one of the most charming shows we’ve seen all year.
We sat down with Sandi Nauman, Shelby Cihak, and Charlotte Dougherty, to get an idea of what it’s like to put together a show like “Stepping Out.” It’s a diverse group: a retired preschool teacher, a playwright, and a real estate agent. But one thing they have in common is a love of performing and they were eager to share with us why that is.
The Matthews: First things first. Of all the scripts, in all the theaters, in all the world… why did you want to be involved in “Stepping Out?”
Charlotte: As a playwright, acting is a powerful tool. The process of being on stage helps give me perspective and a deeper awareness of how to develop a script. …that, and Julie asked me.
The Matthews: The director? Julie Walkins?
Sandi: Yep! Julie was telling me about the play during line dancing at the Senior Center and I thought it would be fun.
The Matthews: You’re really a line dancer? It sounds a little like art imitating life. Do you have any other special skills?
Sandi: I play the bells at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.
The Matthews: A dancer and a musician? You sound like a really upbeat person.
The Matthews: Okay, moving on. I imagine each story brings its own set of challenges. What was the most difficult thing about bringing a script like “Stepping Out” to life?
Shelby: Well, the original script centers around a tap-dance class so it’s been hard changing it to a more eclectic dance class and adding a bigger variety of moves.
The Matthews: Could you describe the show in only four words?
Sandi: Ten dancing fun ladies.
The Matthews: Studies have shown the benefits of the arts in all areas of life. What’s one thing you’ve learned through your experience in “Stepping Out” that has helped in your day-to-day?
Shelby: I’m actually not really an artistic person but being in theater has given me a creative outlet.
The Matthews: I suppose creativity is a requirement when you’re creating a fictional character like “Lynne.” What do you love most about her?
Shelby: She’s so sweet!
The Matthews: That’s nice. Is there anything you don’t like about her?
Shelby: She’s sooooo sweet!
The Matthews: Putting together a show like this has got to be taxing. What do you do when you have a five-minute break during rehearsal?
Charlotte: We get a five-minute break?
The Matthews: You’ve all been on stage a number of times. How did you get into acting?
Charlotte: I’ve written a number of scripts but at one point I couldn’t get anyone to play the lead in one of my shows. They all wanted to play the sexy waitress. So, I stepped up.
The Matthews: How many shows have you been in?
Shelby: I’ve been in five–this is number six. My favorite role was as “Cee Cee Windham” in the “Red Velvet Cake War” trilogy. It was so much fun because I got to do the entire trilogy with my dad!
The Matthews: Do you have a “dream role?”
Sandi: The Lion in “The Wizard of Oz!”
The Matthews: Live theater is unpredictable but that’s part of the fun of it, right? So, what would you do if the lead performer–the lead, mind you–actually broke a leg on opening night?
Charlotte: Oh, I’d offer to take the part and use the script to help. In “Stepping Out,” the character of Mavis has to read her notes a lot so that could cover for reading lines. …But then who would take my part? Uh oh. Okay, scratch that. I’d turn to Julie and say, “Any ideas?”
The Matthews: Certainly you have routines and traditions. What is the last thing you do before you step on stage on opening night?
Charlotte: I think to myself, “Why did I think I could do this?”
The Matthews: Theater is undoubtedly a group sport and it’s wonderful how you all support each other. Besides yourself, which actor in this show is going to blow people away?
Sandi: Oh that would be “Rose!” (Oliv Devine)
The Matthews: Alright, one more question, the burning question, the one that’s been keeping us up at night…is cereal technically soup?
Thank you for the backstage pass, Sandi, Charlotte, and Shelby! Good luck on your final performances, tonight and tomorrow afternoon.
If you haven’t yet seen “Stepping Out,” at the Matthews, you’re missing out! Tickets are available at https://www.matthewsopera.com/event/stepping-out/all/ or by calling the Matthews Opera House at (605) 642-7973.