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Letter to the Editor: 'White Christmas' was a team effort that paid off

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I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning and got to thinking about "White Christmas," and what a wonderful experience it was. And what a monstrous team effort it was. Hopefully, the 2,500 people who attended the five performances these past two weekends enjoyed it as much as the 100-or-so people who were involved in putting it on.

It always takes an astoundingly intricate team to put on a show, and "White Christmas" presented its own special challenges...but those challenges created an end product that each and every participant is proud of.

Who are the team members? Without naming names, here's a look at who they are. As I write this, it makes me shake my head!

-Director has the challenge of finding the right person for the right role. And of assembling the production team and keeping them all on track. And of injecting the countless creative nuances that make magic on stage, while allowing/encouraging actors to create their own personas and nuances.

-About 60 or so actors and singers face the challenge of morphing a scripted character into a real-life person on stage. So you don't think that actor is somebody "playing" a person - they "are" that person. And of mastering scripts, scores and dances.

-Orchestra faces the challenge of knowing when to command the auditorium, and when to complement what's happening on stage. Theirs is a delicate dance, (sometimes they lead, sometimes they follow) making sure the pit and the stage are in step with each other.

-Choreographer brings a creative flair to what's happening on stage. And determines when to unleash dancer athleticism, and when to subtly rein it in. An integral part of the magic!

-Set designer has to figure out how to transport audiences to WWII. And to a resort in Vermont. And inside a barn. And to dressing rooms. And inside Perham's biggest gift box! (And the designer, director, cast members and other volunteers get the task of carpentering these conceptuals into stage sets!)

-Sound man has to "herd" about 14 cordless mics into compliance. And figure out what to do when batteries or microphones die mid-performance, and to react when a mic gets into a scrap with another mic. And to elevate soft-voiced actors, while toning down the boisterous-voiced ones.

-Light man has to know when to use a spotlight left, or a spotlight right. And when to flood the stage in blue. And when to fill the stage with lumens. A good light man is one you don't even notice. Betcha nobody noticed the "White Christmas" light man.

-Stage manager has to keep things flowing for three hours. Sets to change. Scenes to announce. Curtains opened, curtains closed. Make sure everybody and everything is ready for the next scene, then launch lights, sound, orchestra and actors. Then do it again. And again.

-Makeup artists have the task of making sure there are no "ghosts" on stage. Stage lights tend to do that to people. And what about all those retro hair-dos? They don't do them in 2012 like they did in 1944 and 1954.

-The school is the ultimate team member, providing an umbrella for the whole operation. Costumes? Check. Personnel? Check. Lumber for set construction? Check. Snow-making machine? Check. Venue? Check.

-And finally, moms, dads and spouses are important members of the team. A lot of give-and-take has taken place in the three months of preparation for "White Christmas." Cast members have nearly 100 on-stage hours invested by the time it's "show-time." And that doesn't include memorization and choreography. There were a lot of proud family partners in the audience these past two weekends.

So there you have it. It takes a "team" to raise a "play." Now, maybe I'll be able to sleep a little later tomorrow morning.

P.S... Although I said I wasn't going to name names, I'm going to go back on my word. I want to say "thanks" to my dad, Staff Sgt. Gil Johnson, for leaving a bride of three months to spend the entire WWII in the South Pacific. He contacted me from the permanent residence in Fort Snelling that he shares with that same wife of 54 years, and said he'd be honored if General Waverly wore his WWII dress uniform for "White Christmas." I was proud to honor his request.

Chuck Johnson

Perham, MN

Johnson played General Waverly in this year's Perham community musical, "White Christmas."

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