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Play experience is rewarding

With my daughter in Ethiopia serving in the Peace Corps, I decided I needed to find something to keep me busy. With all my kids out of the house, it’s time for me to find me again.

Last summer I was in the Theatre Oxford’s production of “Harvey,” and had a blast. I had loved doing theater in my youth and last summer was the first time I did anything in a theater for about 15 years. I figured why not get more involved with the theater since it’s something that’s always brought me joy.

So I volunteered to work front of house during this summer’s production of the female version of “The Odd Couple.” I sold tickets and recruited people to help me with ticket sales, ushering and tending the beer and wine bar. It was more work than I anticipated but I enjoyed meeting new people and seeing old friendly faces.

At some point I mentioned I’d like to get into directing. I loved performing but honestly, it’s not as easy once you’re older. Being 48, I’m often too young or too old for parts.

During “Harvey,” I found myself thinking, “I think this should be blocked this way,” or resisted the urge to suggest to another performer maybe a different way to say their lines. Not saying our director Andy Douglas wasn’t awesome. My ideas might have been horrible, but it was feeling and thinking in a director-way, is what made me wonder if I could be a good director.

I have never directed a show, other than a skit in high school, which I have to admit, was great — at least to me.

Someone mentioned needing directors for Theatre Oxford’s annual 10 Minute Plays. Next thing I know, my friend and former co-worker Melanie Addington speaks up and says, “Alyssa said she’s interested in directing.”

And that was it. I was handed a play and congratulated.

The play is called “Lip Stick,” and it focuses on the relationship of a terminally ill woman and her 32-year-old daughter. It takes place in the woman’s hospital room. There are only two cast members and one simple scene. If I wanted to get into directing, this was the way to do it.

I was nervous going into auditions. I Somehow all this uncertainty went away pretty quickly and I was already planning the show in my head as I watched people read from the script. Several great women read but there was one pair who gave everyone goose bumps when they read the scene together. It may not be how professional directors select a cast. There was no science to it. I didn’t take experience into consideration. I felt it and it was magical.

My two cast members are Toni Coleman and Chasity Williams and they are going to make my first directing gig an amazing experience.

We have a couple weeks before the show and the real directing comes soon as my cast learn their lines and the stage is planned out. I have little to worry about. I have an amazing cast and an awesome stage manager, Andy Douglas — my director from “Harvey” who taught me so much. And I’m backed by Theatre Oxford and all the great people who spend their time bringing theater to Oxford.

Another first in my life at 48. Pretty cool. Now I just need one of those director’s chairs and a megaphone.

My play is one of six that will be performed Oct. 8, 9 and 11. For information, visit www.theatreoxford.com.

Alyssa Schnugg is the city editor of the EAGLE. Contact her at alyssa.schnugg@oxfordeagle.com.