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  • Writer's pictureRenae Perry

Thespians Travel To & From Town & Gown

During most productions at Town & Gown, our audiences are likely to see a mix of veterans and newcomers. Our directors take pride in casting people who have never graced our stage before, because fresh faces fill our productions with excitement, variety, and new ideas that ultimately make us better. 


Most of the time, the newcomers who audition at Town & Gown are Stillwater residents; however, occasionally we choose a production that entices folks to travel from other nearby communities to participate. Kalista (“Kali”) Grizzle is one of those newcomers. A resident of Yukon, Kali will be making her debut on the Town & Gown stage as Belle in Beauty and the Beast. I took a moment to connect with Kali about her experiences at Town & Gown. 


Scott Martin (Maurice) and Kalista Grizzle (Belle) in rehearsal for Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"


Renae: Why did you decide to audition for Beauty and The Beast in Stillwater?


Kali: I’ve been auditioning at community theaters here and there for the past four years. I stumbled across Town and Gowns Facebook post holding auditions for Beauty And The Beast after an unsuccessful audition. I debated with myself if I should give it a go until about an hour before I needed to leave and ultimately decided to go for it.


Renae: The drive from Yukon to Stillwater takes approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes. How has the process of commuting back and forth been?


Kali: I’ve grown to enjoy it! It gives me time to prepare mentally and run through lines and music. Coming back home, it gives me plenty of time to listen to my favorite podcast. 


Renae: Please tell me a bit about your overall experience at Town & Gown this summer.


Kali: My experience at Town and Gown has been incredible. I’ve only been surrounded with love and respect. Theatre tends to be competitive and with that can bring hostility. However, at Town and Gown it’s apparent that they are benevolent and passionate with everything they do.


Renae: What is your favorite part of playing Belle?


Kali: My favorite part with Belle is all of her ballads. They are dynamic and do a wonderful job of showing her change of mindset throughout the show.


Renae: What are you most looking forward to audiences seeing in this production?


Kali: I’m looking forward to the audience seeing Be Our Guest! Town and Gown has put a great effort into this iconic scene and I believe it will hit the audiences nostalgia perfectly.


Beauty and the Beast opens on June 5th and runs Wednesday - Sunday until June 16, with evening performances Wednesday - Saturday at 7:30, and matinees at 2:30 on Saturday and Sunday. That means there are twelve opportunities to see Kali represent Yukon in our little theater! Tickets go on sale on Monday, June 3rd at 11 am.




 

In addition to including new folks from other communities in our productions, several Town & Gown “regulars” like myself have decided to travel to other nearby theaters to perform. During the 2022 - 2023 season, Sydney Wehmeyer (recently Vera in And Then There Were None), Timothy Cole (recently Phil Davis in White Christmas), and I (recently Patsy Cline in Always... Patsy Cline) performed in productions at the Gaslight Theatre in Enid, Oklahoma. Sydney and I were in the musical ONCE, and Timothy starred as Mortimer Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace


Sydney Wehmeyer (winner, Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical), Timothy Cole (nominee, Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play), and Renae Perry (winner, Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical) at the annual Charlie Awards for the Gaslight Theatre's 2022 - 2023 season.

Town & Gown has a lot in common with the Gaslight. That said, we all learned from our participation at a new theater. Doing shows at the Gaslight gave us the opportunity to discuss policies, play selection, grants, fundraisers, audience feedback, and much more with the leaders in their community. Each of us made lasting friendships that I’m certain will lead to more collaboration in seasons to come at both theaters. Throughout the 2023 - 2024 season, members of both communities have traveled to support their friends' productions.


This season, Timothy also performed in Spamalot at the Pollard Theatre in Guthrie. I asked him about his experiences traveling to other theaters, and he said the following: 


“Going and acting and being a part of shows at other theaters has introduced me to the wider theater community of Oklahoma. I’ve met great friends and learned a lot from people who do theatre in more than just in the round.”

Members of Town & Gown visit Timothy Cole during his final performance in the ensemble of "Spamalot" at the Pollard Theatre in Guthrie. Left to right: Keith Sheets, Cindy Sheets, Becki Klauss, Jacob Boyd, Timothy Cole, Sydney Wehmeyer, Cameron Cheek, Chloe Cavins, Scott Martin, and Christopher Weimer

I'd be remiss if I did not mention that, at the time of this blog’s publication, I'm in the middle of the run of a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George at the Ponca Playhouse in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Being a part of Sunday has been a huge joy for me. The friends I have made, the talent I get to witness, and the things I’ve learned about how another theater operates have been well worth the 50-minute drive five nights a week. I look forward to sharing the insights I’ve gained over the last eight weeks with the leadership at Town & Gown, as well as seeing some of my new friends from Ponca City and Tonkawa (hopefully) venture down to Stillwater for auditions next season.


Members of the cast of "Sunday in the Park with George" at the Ponca Playhouse pose during their rehearsal. Left to right: Shelby Baker, Tim Muniz, Chad Anderson, Renae Perry, Truman Hague, Alee Hunt, Emily Rose Parman, Blake Brown, Caden Coffey, Sam Shook, and Katie Nichols

There are three more opportunities to see Sunday in the Park with George: Friday, June 7th and Saturday, June 8th at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, June 9th at 2:00 pm.


Participating in productions outside of one’s community provides a wonderful opportunity for exchanging ideas and making new friends! I’m confident in speaking on behalf of the theater when I say that Town & Gown has benefited substantially from inviting in actors from other Oklahoma communities, just as we have benefited from our members traveling to other theaters.


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