Not so long ago -- in 1994 -- Stephanie Whitcomb was flying across the stage of the Arts Center of the Ozarks in Springdale, instructed to "run around and flail wildly." It was ACO's annual production of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," and the moment Whitcomb was hooked on acting.
Now she's artistic director of the Theatre Collective of Northwest Arkansas, which in its short life as a nonprofit has given dozens of actors that same opportunity. Its third production, "A Night of One Acts," is making room not only for 18 actors in six short plays, but for new directors to try their wings in the captain's seat.
Whitcomb doesn't count herself as a new director. She has directed four original plays for a post-apocalyptic themed summer festival called Atomic Falls.
Either way, she says, "I like to tell people what to do, and I don't have to learn any lines!"
Her selection, "The Weird Sisters" by Adam Douglas, stars Lynn Manning, Allison McElroy and Miranda Burger as witches. (You'll remember Manning and McElroy as the moms in Arkansas Public Theatre's "It Shoulda Been You" this summer.)
"I wanted to direct a show that was clever, funny, and featured women," Whitcomb says. "'The Weird Sisters' hits all those marks, and has some fun references for any fans of Shakespeare."
But what she wants you to notice is the moment when the "older sisters discover their younger brother has become a woman. I want audiences to pay attention to how the sisters react to this change, and how quickly and easily they accept it." Because, she adds, "telling a story, live in front of a group of people, connects us all in a way no other entertainment medium can. Anything can happen, and that's magical."
Among the other offerings scheduled Sept. 23-24 at Brick & Mortar in downtown Rogers are:
"Sure Thing" by David Ives
& "On the Porch One Crisp Spring Morning" by Alex Dremann
First-time director Juliette Robinson is also currently in rehearsal on stage with Smokehouse Players in "Other Desert Cities."
"I chose 'Sure Thing' because it made me laugh," she says. "The play calls for young actors, but I deliberately cast older actors. The play is about falling in love and connecting with another person. It's funny, smart, and ultimately really sweet. I liked the idea of telling that story with an older cast.
"I chose 'On the Porch...' because it's very funny and well written -- you can't look away for a moment, or you'll miss it (not that you'll want to). It's witty and challenging. I just really love a good comedy."
Cast members are Lauren Levine, Bill Burchit, Caity Church and Jenny Knowles.
"Left to Right" by Steven Dietz
First-time director Brittany Tavernaro, a veteran of the APT stage, says she loves performing, but "my love for theater came from experiencing it from the audience perspective. I always sit in the audience and think about decisions I agreed with or may have done differently, so it's fun to get to dabble this time around in making those decisions myself!
"The plot of the show centers around four people who have big secrets and the fallout of those secrets coming out. There's a lot up to interpretation when it comes to the relationships between all the characters. I love a good ambiguous storyline!"
Cast members are Anna Adams, Carena Hasara, Keila Manjarres and Rachel Mills.
"Hidden in This Picture" by Aaron Sorkin
First-time director Amy Eversole has appeared in Northwest Arkansas theaters in "Hillary & Clinton," "Meteor Shower," "'Night, Mother" and "Talking With" and will also be in "Other Desert Cities."
Actually, she says, she directed this show in college while pursuing her teaching degree. "I've always wanted to revisit the script and see what else could be done creatively," she says. "The play is a satirical look at movie making, and at the same time it reminds us not to take life so seriously. Your 'perfect' plans can change in a nanosecond, and it's out of your control -- or is it?
"I hope the audience leaves the theater saying they had a thought-provoking, entertaining, laugh-out-loud evening."
Cast members are Gerald Geile, Robert Mayfield, Ethan Hunt and Lily Jo Ayers.
'A Night of One-Acts'
WHEN -- 7 p.m. Sept. 23 & 2 p.m. Sept. 24
WHERE -- Brick & Mortar, 120 W. Walnut St. in Rogers
COST -- $15-$20
INFO -- Theatre Collective of Northwest Arkansas on Facebook