If you go
What: "Disney's The Little Mermaid"
When: 8 p.m. Saturday and April 28, 29 and May 5 and 6; 2 p.m. Sunday and April 30 and May 2 and 7 (some shows were close to being sold out as of Wednesday morning)
Where: Arts United Center, 303 E. Main St.
Admission: $29 adults, $24 seniors ages 60 and older, $17 youth ages 23 and younger; tickets.artstix.org
A mermaid longs to trade her tail for legs so she can walk on land and find the prince she has fallen in love with. Sound familiar, Disney fans? Civic Theatre opens its production of "The Little Mermaid" on Saturday.
Ariel is played by Rebecca Nelson who took some time to answer a questions by email. Responses have been edited.
Q. How are you dealing with the challenges of portraying on a stage someone who spends a great deal of time swimming underwater? Does the preparation differ from another production?
A. Our talented choreographer, Olivia Ross, has doubled as a movement coach for the entire cast. She taught us basic body and limb movements to help with the underwater illusion. Olivia then gave us creative liberty to add personality (in my case a healthy dose of ambition and sass). I also began practicing yoga to focus on whole body flow, flexibility and core strength. This is the first time I've had to rewire how I hold and move my body for a role, so I've found myself living as my character more often than in past productions. I frequently practice movements while talking with my coworkers, one jokes that I make her feel seasick! As for the rest of the swimming, we'll have some Disney magic happening behind the scenes, you'll have to come and see it for yourself.
Q. Disney's "The Little Mermaid" is one of the first movies I remember seeing. What was your first experience with "Little Mermaid"?
A. To be honest, I don't have any personal childhood memories about "The Little Mermaid." I was born after the movie was released; I fall more into the “Lion King” generation. However, the movie did spark a small divide in my family. My cousin, who lived in Michigan, was obsessed with "The Little Mermaid," so much so that she wore out her VHS copy of the movie. This was back in the day of the Disney Vault, you only had a limited time to purchase each movie. My aunt attempted to buy my copy of “The Little Mermaid,” way above market value as my mom tells it. I can thank my lucky stars that my mom wouldn't sell. Kayla, if you're reading this, sorry that I deprived you of a few more years of watching "The Little Mermaid."
Q. If you could add three things from Fort Wayne to Ariel's collection of found objects, what would they be?
A. Is it bad that I immediately thought of three food items I want to hoard? Grilled cheese from The Dash-In, buffalo chicken salad from O'Reilly's, and the brew-ger from Trubble Brewing. As I would immediately consume that collection, I'll pick more durable items as well: My team's "most social" trophy from the Fort Wayne Sport and Social summer 2016 kickball league, the old-school scuba helmet in Don Hall's Gas House and the bicycle I use for all the summertime actives like the Adventure Games and le Tour de Fort.
Q. What have you learned from the audition process that you would share with someone looking to get involved in local theater?
A. Don't let anything hold you back and be prepared. Every musical theater audition is different, but most have three key components: singing, dancing and acting. Weeks before the audition, read through the posting and pay attention to what the directors are asking for. Choose a song that showcases your vocal range, and if possible, find a piece that is similar to the songs from the show. I like dressing up for my singing audition, and have workout clothes handy for the dance audition. The dance audition is usually fast paced and personally, I can never learn the complete dance in time. Instead, I practice during the breaks, ask for help from the choreographer or the auditionees who are more graceful. You'll be surprised how much you can learn just by observing the people around you. When in doubt, I smile and have a good time. Attitude and personality are equally important as talent. I find it comforting to remember that the directors want you to succeed just as much as you want you to succeed.
Last thoughts, it's never too late to get into musical theater. I went on an eight-year hiatus from musical theater while I was going through college, grad school and getting my start in Fort Wayne. It's never too late to get back out there, or make your theater debut!
Q. Imagine it's Act I, Scene 1 in a stage production about a formative moment in your life. What is the setting, what is the first stage direction and what genre is the play?
A. The scene opens on a high school biology classroom, the kind that never quite loses the smell from animal dissection week. There are four rows of tables, positioned in front of plastic chairs with clinically-cold metal legs. Two students, lab partners, share each table. The teacher, Mrs. Talle, stands at the front of the classroom. On the overhead screen, a black and white picture of a monk: an older gentleman with a widow's peak, glasses and resembles a slightly heavier Jude Law. The words "Gregor Mendel and His Peas" are displayed above the man's picture. The students display a variety of emotions. Being an early morning class, some are raring to go: sharpening pencils, organizing binders, crossing off assignments in their planners. Others slump in their chairs, desperate for their coffee to kick in, or the lights to dim. Near the back, Becca Nelson, an eager and awkward freshman, drums her fingers on the table, apathetic about starting the class' new unit on genetics. Genre: coming of age, with the clear use of humor as a coping mechanism.