All the world’s a stage

Published 7:01 pm Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Summerset Theatre will be kicking off its 50th anniversary season with open auditions in April and May. This season is dedicated to the late Frank W. Bridges, who founded Summerset Theatre in 1968 while he was working at what is now Riverland Community College.

“The theatre has really grown a lot,” said Randy Forster, co-director of Summerset Theatre. “It started out being a collaboration to get the community members involved as well as students.”

Forster has been involved in Summerset Theatre since 2003 and has been co-director for the past two seasons.

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The first show to be performed at Summerset was “The Fantasticks.” Since then, 168 Summerset Theatre shows have been performed on the same stage.

“That’s kind of unusual for a theatre company that’s been around for 50 years has done all of their productions on the same stage,” Forster said.

This season, Summerset Theatre will be presenting three shows, which Forster says has not always been the norm.

Edgar Hollister, played by James Zschunke, reacts as he talks to his wife, Mavis Templeton Hollister, played by Jennifer Bute, during a Summerset Theatre rehearsal of “The Murder Room” last season at Riverland Community College’s Frank W. Bridges Theatre. Herald file photo

“Summerset started out doing three shows a season and they would do them in repetition, so they would do more than one show at a time,” Forster said. “After awhile they started to add in a children’s show during the summer in cooperation with Matchbox Children’s Theatre. In the 70s, there was a time when they were doing five shows a season. Those were really aggressive seasons. Once it got into the 80s they scaled back to doing three shows a season.”

The variety of shows performed by Summerset Theatre brought some challenges.

“Probably one of the most challenging roles was when I was in ‘God of Carnage,’” Forster recalled. “It’s a four-person, adult dark-comedy show and it really made the audience think. From my perspective, it was challenging because there were four people on stage the entire time and it was done without an intermission, so it was 90 minutes onstage and you were out there. There was nowhere to hide.”

Forster said the 1974 performances of “Hello, Dolly!” were Summerset’s most successful, performing before almost 3,000 people.

Although Summerset Theatre shows hold open auditions, there have been some familiar faces over the years.

“We do have a lot of regulars that we see on stage year after year,” Forster said. “It depends on the roles that are available and depends on the plays we’re doing that season.”

Actor David Dahlquist holds the record for most seasons with Summerset Theatre, performing with them for 46 straight seasons.

This season, the Summerset Theatre will perform:

• “Peter and the Starcatcher” by Rick Elice: June 14 – 17, 7 p.m. and June 18, 2 p.m.

• “On Golden Pond” by Ernest Thompson: July 5 – 8, 7 p.m. and July 8 – 9, 2 p.m.

• “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” by Hugh Wheeler, based on the play of the same name by Christopher Bond, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim: July 28 – 29, 7 p.m., July 30, 2 p.m., and August 2 – 5, 7 p.m.

“We picked ‘On Golden Pond’ because of the golden theme and the 50th anniversary,” Forster said. “‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ is a new work; it’s only been around for a couple of years, so we looked at that as an opportunity to show new works, particularly since it’s such a fun show. We picked ‘Sweeney Todd’ because it’s never been done in Austin. It premiered on Broadway in 1979 and has won so many awards. The music is so difficult and we really thought that would be a challenge for the 50th season.

Open auditions will be held on Saturday, April 29, 9 a.m. to noon, and Monday, May 1, 6 to 9 p.m. at the Frank W. Bridges Theatre, Riverland Community College. For more information about the available roles, visit, click on “Get Involved,” and select the show.

“We strive every year to get more and more people involved,” Forster said. “We’re looking for people who aren’t afraid to get up on the stage. We encourage everybody to come and try out. It should be a great time.”

Forster also said they are looking for backstage crew volunteers and ushers.

“If you have an interest in getting involved in Summerset Theatre, we’ll find you a place,” he said.

To commemorate the 50th season, Forster said they are working on a special dedication that will be revealed during opening night of “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

“We want everybody to come out and celebrate the 50th season,” he said. “Get involved, and support your local community theatre and actors.”