Clear Space offers trio of Broadway hits at the beach
The whole theater is in a whirl.
Actors are running their lines in the lobby. The choreographer is on stage making sure every movement is perfect. The people in the box office are busy working on Clear Space Theatre’s summer 2016 repertory.
Throughout all this, the young actors, many of whom are still in college, find time to relax, whether perfecting a flip or just chatting with a fellow actor.
It’s just another day at Clear Space in Rehoboth Beach.
The theater, which was established in 2004, has shown productions ranging from “Grease” to “Camelot.” This season, Clear Space is putting on three different productions: “Shrek,” “Chicago” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” Each is produced twice a week.
The productions have a mix of people, both young and old. Some of the actors have studied at Syracuse University, some are veterans of the stage and some are still in middle school. The actors hail from all over the nation, from California to the Delaware coastal area.
The company chose three very different musicals to put on this summer.
“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” is set with music from the 1980s and describes the journey of two men in drag and a transgender person as they journey across the Australian Outback on a bus named Priscilla.
“Chicago,” one of the most popular and successful Broadway shows in American history, is set with in the 1920s with jazz music and details a murder trial during the Roaring ‘20s in Chicago.
“Shrek” is based on the DreamWorks Pictures movie, detailing the life of an ogre who sets off on a journey to save his beloved swamp while finding love along the way.
The company rehearses all day to prepare for the upcoming season, beginning in the morning with “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” moving to “Chicago” in the afternoon and finishing up with “Shrek” at night.
It is hard work, and 20 of the 34 actors this summer are what theater owner Wesley Paulson call “the core cast,” which means these actors appear in all three plays for a total of six plays in a week.
As actors prep for the upcoming season, a two-man crew is hard at work preparing the scenery for the upcoming season. Pieces for the set includes a three piece bus for “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” which comes apart to give the audience a glimpse of what is happening on the bus. The two work in the hallways to ensure the performers are not disturbed.
The stage at Clear Space Theatre is unlike most stages. The stage is not set back from the audience; rather, it juts into the audience, giving those sitting along the side an unusual vantage point.
On a rainy June morning, the cast members are finishing up blocking (choreographing where they will be on stage) for “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” which opened the season June 23.
While rehearsal is going on, Paulson sits in his office.
“Today was the first day that we get to work with the younger kids,” Paulson said.
Paulson then explained how Clear Space Theatre selected 15 of its cast members for the upcoming season.
“It’s what they call ‘straw hat’ auditions in New York,” Paulson said. “It is a single point open audition attended by theaters such as Clear Space. Every 90 seconds a new person comes across the stage. Some will get called back for dancing and singing auditions.”
The process performers use to prepare for the productions is not easy. Some of the actors have parts in all three productions and must maintain a balance to ensure everything goes smoothly in each. Paulson said Christopher Peterson, the lead in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” also performs in a show at Clear Space Theatre called “Eyecons,” where Peterson does impersonations of some of Broadway’s most successful female performers.
Devon Frieder is hard at work preparing for the upcoming season.
She appears in all three plays, as a Diva and Marion in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” Roxie Hart in “Chicago” and the Sugar Plum Fairy, Queen Lillian and part of the ensemble in “Shrek.
Frieder is also in charge of the choreography in “Chicago,” as well.
“The choreography is wonderful and I get to work with some wonderful actors and dancers that do (the choreography) justice,” Frieder said.
Frieder added it is hard to keep all three plays in her mind at once.
“It really pushes you to be on top of your game at all times,” she said.
Frieder, who holds a degree in musical theater from the Boston Conservatory, said she started choreographing the moves for “Chicago” two months ago, before she even started rehearsing for the plays.
“Now, the dances are set,” she said. “It’s a relief because I can now focus 100 percent on my roles.”
IF YOU GO
All three shows play at 7:30 p.m. and cost $15-$32. The theater is located at 20 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach. Find tickets and information at www.clearspacetheatre.org.
"Shrek": June 29-30, July 8-9, July 11-12, July 20-21, July 29-30, Aug. 1-2, Aug. 10-11, Aug. 19-20, Aug. 22-23, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.
"Priscilla, Queen of the Desert": July 1-2, July 5, July 13-14, July 22-23, July 25-26, Aug. 3-4, Aug. 12-13, Aug. 15-16, Aug. 24-25, and Sept. 2-3.
"Chicago": July 6-7, July 15-16, July 18-19, July 27-28, Aug. 5-6, Aug. 8-9, Aug. 17-18, Aug. 26-27 and 29-30.