Litres of paint, hundreds of screws, phone calls and promotional emails are among the building blocks for backstage crew at the Boathouse Theatre in Blenheim.
Entertaining Angels, the 2012 spring production for the Marlborough Repertory Society, opens on Wednesday evening. Repertory member Kate Parker knows the show will be a good one but the Kiwi custom of purchasing tickets at the last minutes is making her nervous.
Kate has volunteered to be the Entertaining Angels' project manager and one of her responsibilities is promoting the 10-show season so seats can be filled. Posters have been displayed, newspaper and radio advertisements booked, emails sent to selected businesses and community organisations and an outline of the show added to the repertory's Facebook page.
Emailed correspondence must be followed with telephone calls. She and Kate know people who attend won't be disappointed.
Described as a "poignant comedy", Entertaining Angels' is set in an English rural vicarage where the vicar Bardolph (played by Jim Rawdon) has died. His widow Grace (Tessa Nicholson) starts to enjoy her new-found freedom to do and say exactly as she pleases until her missionary sister Ruth (Pam Bailey) arrives and revelations must be faced about her marriage. Soon, questions are being asked whether God can be trusted to do anything right.
The show's cast is completed by new vicar Sarah (Sarah Taylor) and the dead vicar's daughter (Sonia Beal).
"It's a fantastically strong cast," repertory member Christina Mackay says. "And strong direction - and terrific work going on backstage. Now you need the audience . . . support for live theatre."
Blenheim has long boasted a vibrant theatre scene with widespread community spin-offs, the women say. Every year or two a student from the girls' or boys' colleges is accepted for the New Zealand Drama School Toi Whakaari, the New Zealand Dance School or New Zealand School of Music.
"And theatre moves you . . . because it's actually real" says Christina, an amateur actor and former stage director and publicity officer.
Audience members are a part of the emotions, suspense, intellect and comedy on stage in a way that can never be repeated when watching a film, she says.
"And you can't come out at the end of a film and meet the cast!" Kate laughs.
She and Christina are sitting in the Boathouse auditorium. In front of them the stage-set is nearly complete and set designer Mike Youman is on it with has a hammer and saw, finishing off a few smaller props.
He works as a coffee roaster at a Blenheim store but enjoys his handyman skills in his spare time.
Carpentry tools, brushes and paints were among the "toys" his father encouraged him to use as a boy, he says, and he confidently tackles most challenges.
Director Pam Logan asked him to design the set and once he had a plan in mind it was just easiest to build it himself.
He has created a patio outside the vicar's house, built a potting shed and, at the back of the stage, a garden with a narrow footbridge across a small stream.
Back-stage space was borrowed for the garden scene, Mike says, and ceiling supports became trees with the help of expansion foam, cardboard, wallpaper and paint.
● Entertaining Angels opens on Wednesday at the Boathouse Theatre for 7.30pm sessions until September 15, except on Sunday when there is a 4pm matinee, and Monday, when the cast takes a break.
The Marlborough Express