Repeating history |

Repeating history

Poor Sharon Winegar. It seems she cannot remember history – for she is doomed to repeat it.

In 1999, Sharon directed “The Complete History of America (abridged)” for the Nevada Union High School drama department. Now she’s directing it again – this time for the Foothill Theatre Company. I asked her to reflect on the similarities and differences between the two productions.

GW: Will the FTC production have anything in common with the one you directed nine years ago at Nevada Union?

SW: Sure. Lots of water flying around, a few cream pies getting tossed about and several hysterically funny actors playing multiple characters from American history. Best of all, Crystal Finn, one of the actors in the 1999 production, is coming back from NYC for the new one.

GW: Any notable differences between the two versions?

SW: Well, the play is traditionally performed by a cast of three men. But as the drama teacher at NUHS, I felt the responsibility to involve as many students as possible, so we performed it with a mixed-gender cast of about fifteen.

Another student accompanied the actors on an electronic keyboard, providing musical underscoring and sound effects. And since that production was performed on the cusp of the Millennium, we used a lot of technology: televisions, computers, Power Point presentations, video transmissions, etc. The Foothill production will be more rooted in the authors’ notion of “reduced” – like a traveling circus sideshow act. Less techno, more clowning.

GW: What made you decide to buck the all-male casting tradition for the FTC production? Did you see something in the audition that changed your mind?

SW: There were several terrific comediennes at the audition, but I knew going in that I wanted to cast a woman. My experience at Nevada Union showed me that girls could do this stuff equally as well as the boys. And Crystal’s remarkable!

GW: Finally, Sharon, level with me Ð any danger of learning anything about American History from this show?

SW: No. Well, yes. Um… maybe. There are some interesting historical facts revealed in the script, but the show is more satire than documentary, very much in the Saturday Night Live vein. It pokes fun at some commonly held perceptions of historical folks like J. Edgar Hoover, Betsy Ross, Amerigo Vespucci, Lewis and Clark. And you may recognize one or two more recent figures as well.

Gary Wright has spent the past 14 years as a resident actor, playwright, director, gadfly and dogsbody for the Foothill Theatre Company.

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