This year, the Yuba College Theatre is gearing up for their fall production of Snow White: a traditional British Panto. When I first heard the word “Panto” I immediately thought of painted white faces in black and white striped shirts, pretending to be trapped inside a box– this is not quite the right interpretation.
Carl Weddle III, who plays The Cook, explained what a Panto really is. It is a traditional British comedy production in which everything is dramatized to the extreme, and some of the roles of each gender are switched (men play women and women play men). Essentially, Pantos aim to poke fun at the original stories.
This is also a musical production. A few classics– Bohemian Rhapsody and the Age of Aquarius, to name a few– have been adapted into the storyline.
Weddle is an accounting major who decided to join the cast of the last Yuba College production, Talk Radio, which he said he auditioned for “just to check off of my bucket list.”
This is only his second role in his acting career, which he wanted to take for his kids. Talk Radio’s content was so adult oriented, and he wanted to be in a play that his children could come see.
His role of The Cook is a female, which is a comical contrast to his particularly deep voice. The director, James Gilbreath, really wants him to use the lowest parts of his voice.
The Cook interacts with the audience along with his onstage partner called Muggle, played by Corey Dickinson. Together they move the story along in front of the curtain while people change the scene behind them.
I asked what auditioning was like for him this time, and he said, “Auditions were kind of crazy because they were at the same time as the [Cascade Fires], so not everyone could actually get there.” Despite the fires making it difficult for everyone, the auditions progressed as smoothly as they could.
Weddle explained the process. Everyone was given a song to sing together, and then they had to sing sixteen bars of a song of their choosing, individually. After that they were asked to read a few scenes of different roles to see what the director liked.
“I really wanted to play a dwarf,” Weddle, who is a six-foot-something man, said. “But as soon as they heard me read the role of the Cook, they said ‘Nope that’s it! You’re done.’”
The play is constantly changing; they are always cutting and adding little things to and from the scenes. “When you miss one day, it’s hard to adapt. It’s almost like a whole different play.”
Weddle says that his favorite part about acting in these productions is the camaraderie between all of the actors. He says, “it’s natural to keep referencing inside jokes from the last production.”
Even while I was there watching rehearsals, they made a little joke out of a line they had been rehearsing that evening. They had been adjusting an argument between the Cook and Muggle in which they throw back and forth “No it doesn’t!” and “Yes it does!” Throughout rehearsals, they all made a point to put a “no it doesn’t” in wherever they could.
I asked if anyone had any pre-show rituals, hoping Weddle would tell me that he had to hop on one foot three times before he could go out on stage. Although he doesn’t do anything like that, he mentioned an old theatre superstition: The M- word. Saying “Macbeth” apparently brings bad luck if anyone says it before a performance, so people sometimes like to make a joke out of it and hide hints of the M-word on stage
Laurel Capps, who plays the Evil Queen, describes her character as “super crazy and a little off her rocker.” She says that the role is tons of fun: “I get to yell at people, which is fun– and cathartic.”
The Evil Queen’s stage laugh that has been coined “The Cackle” is possibly Capps’s favorite part of the role. She says that her least favorite is “the fact that I’ll have to wear a dress.”
Elizabeth Sutton plays Snow White. This role she describes as very “sweet and nice,” to which Capps chimed in, “and ditzy.” Sutton says that the role is kind of new to her because she usually plays less sweet characters.
Sutton says that she has never been the lead, but that the added pressure of the role is lessened because this group is so much like a family
Sutton’s favorite part about acting is being able to affect the audience. She is excited about getting to play a role that kids might like rather than a role aimed for adults.
Her least favorite part about the role is, “frolicking.” She says, “I can’t– I’m working on it.”
Both Capps and Sutton are theatre majors and have acted many times before. They hope to continue acting in the future.
I asked for advice for anyone who might want to audition for the next production, and a few wise words came from Weddle. He says, “Just do it. Don’t talk yourself out of it. Get a thick skin. You might get corrections, but you can’t take it personally.”
Snow White opens on December 7th at 7:30 p.m.