Army spouses find niche at local theater
Marcie C. Wright,
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream began its monthlong run at the El Paso Playhouse Aug. 17 under the direction of Fort Bliss spouse Melissa Spalding.
Spalding has been stationed here with her husband since 2006 and has been involved with the Playhouse since 2007 when she performed as assistant director for one-act plays there. By 2008 she was a director and hasn’t skipped a beat. Now with five under way, she continues with the second play of the season, and one of the largest casts for the volunteer theater, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
At the Playhouse, directors are able to make adjustments to original scripts, and spruce it up to modern times, sometimes even changing the final outcome of the play. Spalding, who is a self-proclaimed Shakespeare admirer, said she chose to keep most of the script, while only making a few changes for understandability.
“I cut out some of the dialogue but I kept Shakespeare’s language,” said Spalding, “and I didn’t change any of the costumes, it’s still set in ancient Greece.”
Once the play was approved, auditions were held and the cast was chosen. However, there were some wrinkles to be ironed out. The first of which was that “there weren’t enough males to cast the play,” said Spalding. “I had to call in favors from some male performers we’ve worked with in the past.”
With the cast laid out and practices in session, there was no qualified volunteer to do the sound and lighting until a miracle came to them two days before the opening performance.
“I had nobody [and] got lucky when she asked,” she said of Angelin Clarke, another Fort Bliss volunteer. “Else, I would have begged and pleaded until someone said yes.”
Being the sound technician was not an easy task, but with two days of practice, Clarke was able to pull it off. Her master’s degree in special education has nothing to do with theater, but she had other experience.
“I studied theater when I was an undergrad and I wanted to get back into it,” said Clarke. “I prefer to do backstage stuff.”
Clarke also appreciated the sense of community it gave her.
“I think sometimes in El Paso, people have trouble figuring out where they want to be and finding things off post,” said Clarke. “That’s the biggest thing, it’d given me an outlet to meet people off post. Even though I ended up meeting spouses, it was still in a non-military setting.
“I think it’s nice to not always be Army all the time,” added Clarke. “I love being a military spouse, … but every once in a while it’s nice to be around people who don’t understand that. They’re not thinking about deployments and where people are.”
Little did Clarke know when she ventured off post to find her niche, she would meet and befriend others who had done the same, all hailing from Fort Bliss.
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