is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pride and Prejudice's Gretchen Shoot Takes Aim at the Arboretum

As SummerFest gathers steam, the ball of talent keeps rolling along, with Pride & Prejudice opening tomorrow night, directed by Sully White, who certainly has assembled some of the best actors the region has to offer, but she also has a secret weapon in her arsenal to Shoot.  Gretchen Shoot.

As stage manager, when the sun goes down and the curtain goes up tomorrow night at the arboretum, Gretchen will be working to oversee that all lights and cues go as they should.  When we're all pouring another glass of wine and settling into our blankets, she'll be busy at the light board making sure the music plays, the lights go up or down, and that all goes as planned for Jon Jory's entertaining adaptation of the Jane Austen classic.

Stage managers are the folks who have to not only see the big picture, but they have to deal with every minute detail of a production, and Shoot is well known in area theatre circles as one of the best.  Many will be familiar with her work for the Woodford Falling Springs Arts Center.  "The last play she stage managed was The Foreigner directed by Patti Heying at the Woodford Theatre this past February.  As far as what she's doing next, she says, "I plan on sleeping for about 3 weeks solid and then thinking about what’s next. I actually don’t have another show lined up at this time, so if someone wants to hire me…"

She explains how this show is different from others she's managed. "This play is tricky in that it doesn’t really have 'scenes' like your average play. Basically, once you wind this show up at the top of Act I, it spins until intermission. Then you wind it up again for Act II and let it go until the end. That doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to do in between. It’s actually the opposite. There is so much going on so quickly with no real time to breathe (for the actors or the stage manager)!  People are constantly entering and exiting. I never would’ve thought I would say it, but in many ways it reminds me of Noises Off!. Who would’ve ever thought that Noises Off! and Pride & Prejudice could possibly be alike? Take away the sardines, and there you go. They’re twins." 

Gretchen believes having women directors this year in all three SummerFest shows is not unnatural at all.  "It feels completely normal to me! Three of  the four times I’ve stage managed at the Arboretum, it’s been with a woman director.  It’s pretty impressive, I think, that not only do we have 3 women directors, but also 3 women stage managers and a woman production manager!  If you look closer at Pride & Prejudice specifically, we have 11 women in the cast, 3 women assistant stage managers, a woman costume designer, dialects coach and properties mistress. Frequently, if you observe the men in our show, they tend to look a little overwhelmed. But I don’t blame them. They’re being overrun….though I don’t think they mind too terribly much. ;) "

She has not worked with Sully White before, but "I’m thrilled to be finally working with her now. We’re having a blast. Even our cars like each other."

Shoot told me a few weeks ago the greatest challenge at that time for her role as stage manager in shows at the arboretum had everything to do with rehearsal space (at that time they were still at the Guignol Theatre on UK campus).   "Right now, my cast and crew are rehearsing every night on a flat stage with lots of colored tape. This is the third floor they’ve worked on since we started rehearsing. It’s one big, flat, surface with a lot of confusing markings on it. We’re all having to imagine a set with multiple levels, windows, doors, curved staircases and entrances through walls. The first time any of us will be on the actual set (or even see it in anything other than a computer generated drawing) will be on Monday…and we open on Wednesday. I try to give them the best idea I can of how it will look, but let’s face it, right now it all just looks like purple tape. That’s the biggest challenge for arboretum shows, especially this year since all three sets are so vastly different from one another…that and the dive bombing bugs that mercilessly pelt me and my script nightly."

"Despite my intense aversion to insects of any kind (I have to have an outerbody experience to get through calling a show with spiders and beetles crawling all over me and my script.  If I didn’t, all my cues would sound like, 'Standby GGGGGEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!')."

Gretchen has actually stage managed four times out at the Arboretum - Comedy of Errors, Merry Wives of Windsor and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Lexington Shakespeare Festival and Jekyll & Hyde for SummerFest. 

Lastly, does Gretchen Shoot have a secret talent?  "I make a really mean potato salad and batch of fudge. There’s also the telekinesis. And I have exceptional gift wrapping skills. Those all come in handy while stage managing…especially the fudge."

Whether it's a confection or a production, whatever Gretchen does is sure to be delicious.  Pride and Prejudice will be a sweet way to spend a summer evening with her at the controls and Sully's marvelous cast and crew doing their impeccable work. 


SummerFest continues a 29-year tradition of outdoor summer theatre at The Arboretum: State Botanical Garden in Lexington, KY. This year's season includes:


by William Shakespeare

Directed by Ave Lawyer

PRIDE & PREJUDICE (July 14-18)

adapted by Jon Jory

Directed by Sullivan Canaday White

RENT, THE MUSICAL (July 21-25)

Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson

Directed & Choreographed by Tracey Bonner

Music Direction by Mark Calkins


The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare will open 2010’s SummerFest on July 7 and play through July 11, 2010. Ave Lawyer (recently seen directing On The Verge’s productions of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes and Another Part of the Forest) will make her SummerFest debut directing one of Shakespeare’s most intriguing tales of love, greed and revenge. Audiences can look forward to a unique and timeless interpretation of this classic that hasn’t been produced in Lexington for over 20 years.

The Merchant of Venice Cast Includes:

Shylock - Adam Luckey

Portia - Lisa Thomas

Antonio - Carmen Geraci

Bassanio - Bob Singleton

Gratiano - Evan Bergman

Salarino - Ryan Briggs

Lorenzo - Tanner Gray

Jessica - Joe Elswick

Nerissa - Rosanna Hurt

Launcelot - Patrick Davis

Duke - Jack McIntyre

Aragon - Jeff Sherr

The Prince of Morocco/Stephano - Whit Whitaker

Salerio - Nick Swartz


Sullivan Canaday White (2008’s The Lord of the Flies) returns to SummerFest to direct a critically praised adaptation of one of the most beloved novels of our time, Pride And Prejudice. The adaptation is written by Jon Jory, well known in Kentucky as the celebrated, former, longtime Artistic Director at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Pride And Prejudice will play July 14 through July 18, 2010.

Pride And Prejudice Cast Includes:

Mrs. Bennett - Trish Clark

Mr. Bennett - Walter Tunis
Elizabeth Bennett - Ellie Clark
Jane Bennett - Holly Brady
Mary Bennett - Annie Barbera
Kitty Bennett- Erin Cutler
Lydia Barrett/Georgiana - Avery Wigglesworth
Mr. Darcy - Tom Phillips
Charlotte - Sarah Levy
William Lucas/Mr. Collins/Mr. Gardner -Tim Hull
Miss Bingley/Mrs. Gardiner - Vanessa Becker
Lady Catherine - Stephanie Peniston
George Wickham - Drew Davidson


SummerFest concludes with the show that transformed the definition of musical theatre, rocked a generation and changed Broadway forever, Jonathan Larson’s blockbuster musical, RENT, playing July 21 though July 25, 2010.

Tracey Bonner, no stranger to the Lexington musical theatre scene, makes her SummerFest directing debut with this Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning musical.

RENT Cast Includes:

Mimi Márquez -Jessica Lucas 

Roger Davis - John Dawson
Mark Cohen - Chip Becker
Maureen Johnson - Caroline Griffeth
Angel Dumott Schunard - Emanuel Williams
Tom Collins - Nick Vannoy
Joanne Jefferson - Sheronda Piersall
Benjamin 'Benny' Coffin III - Thomas Gibbs
Seasons Of Love Soloist - Andrea Johnson

The Ensemble Includes:

Casey Mather
Justin Norris
Brandon Smith
Cate Poole
Beth Kovarik
Wood Van Meter
Katie Berger
Nick Covault
Taylor Eldred


All SummerFest 2010 performances will begin nightly at 8:45 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays, at the Arboretum: State Botanical Garden of Kentucky on Alumni Drive. SummerFest tickets will go on sale in June 2010 and will once again feature very affordable single ticket prices of $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Season Passes to see all three shows will also be available at $25 for adults and $12 for kids.

For more information on SummerFest, or the Conservatory programming, please visit them the web at

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