The Manatee Players had already completed the toughest challenge of the competition the morning before the troupe’s 9 p.m. Wednesday performance at the national AACTFest11 in Rochester, N.Y.
Here’s the deal:
Each company only has 80 minutes to “tech” its show,
That means preparing lighting, sound, projections, set pieces, props and working out the blocking.
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It’s difficult to finish on time for any production.
But especially problematic for Stephen Sondheim’s elaborate “Sunday in the Park with George.”
“Tensions were very high,” said Rick Kerby, the managing artistic director of the Manatee Players, when he called from Rochester around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. “Not finishing tech within the 80 minutes is the biggest reason for disqualification.”
The Manatee Players made it with about seven minutes to spare.
The Bradenton-based company’s staging of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical with a book by James Lapine opened its two-week Bradenton run last September.
The next month, it won at the Florida Theatre Conference Festival. The production then placed first in March at the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Atlanta.
That’s where Steve Dawson (George) picked up the Featured Actor award and his wife Dianne Dawson won for Best Actress.
“It’s very nice to be recognized but my very least favorite part of this is the competition,” she said several hours before performance time. “It’s nice just to do the show again.”
Her husband said he just hoped he could get wrapped up in the show and not think about anything else while on stage.
“I’m definitely not performing for the judges,” Dawson said. “That can drive you crazy.”
The Manatee Players won six awards, including Best Production, for “Metamorphoses” at the 2005 AACTFest.
That’s the highest honor for a community theater company such as the Manatee Players.
Two years later, “Sweeney Todd” earned three awards -- including Best Director for Kerby -- at the same event.
“There were a few hiccups with projection area this morning,” Kerby said. “But it all came together and I feel pretty good about going into the performance tonight.”
The AACTFest11 awards will be announced at a ceremony on Saturday night.