COLUMBIA — An hour before the final working rehearsal of Columbia Entertainment Company’s production of “My Fair Lady,” everyone was moving.
One member of the cast showed up with dinner in hand, ready to change and put on makeup. Members of the band started creating a makeshift orchestra pit to the right of the stage — just barely able to fit the stool of the piano offset. And members of the lighting crew reviewed cues and drew names for cast and crew gag gifts.
What: "My Fair Lady"
When: June 11-14; June 18-21; June 25-28. Benefit show on Wednesday. Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances begin at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday performances begin at 2 p.m.
Where: Columbia Entertainment Company (1800 Nelwood Drive)
Cost: $12 for adults, $11 for students with valid ID, $10 for seniors and children. $22 for the Wednesday show benefiting League of Women Voters Columbia-Boone County.
“Be careful hanging around here too long, you’ll get sucked in,” said Bev Pheffer, who started helping with light costume work and eventually found her way directing the spotlight.
“We’re all just a family,” said Judy Olson, lighting designer and long-time member of the company. “I have a family at home, and I have a family here.”
And like a family preparing for company, the cast and crew worked together throughout the rehearsal process to get ready for their benefit performance at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday for the League of Women Voters Columbia-Boone County, followed by the company’s official opening night performance Thursday night.
Director Jim Boomershine said everyone who has a role onstage also has responsibilities behind the curtain.
“There’s no, ‘I’m the star. I don’t do this,'” Boomershine said. “If there is a need, we have someone cover it.”
Many of the actors are helping with scene changes, Boomershine said.
“They move. They’re busy. Once the show starts, (the actors) are doing something,” he said.
Olson said having the cast do work to help the crew behind the scenes reminds actors that it is important to know that theater is not just about getting on stage.
This will be the company's second production of “My Fair Lady.” Olson directed the first production when it moved into its space on 1800 Nelwood Drive in 1991.
“For how many different directors you have, there are that many different ways to interpret a show,” Olson said. Although the message remains similar, she said, the set is much more complicated this time around.
Boomershine said he came to Columbia about a year ago, and with a more than 45-year history in theater, he found himself talking to Olson about working with the company.
“It has been a labor of love since I first knew I would be directing” "My Fair Lady," Boomershine said.
Barbara Kopta, fundraising chairwoman for the League, said the company and the League began the benefit performances in 1998 with a production of “Fiddler on the Roof."
“It’s a win-win,” she said. “We pay them a fee, and we get the benefit of their performance.”
The League "gives us an educated audience,” Boomershine said. “It gives us a good gauge on how our production is working.”
Kopta said tickets for the benefit performance will go toward helping the local branch of the League with advertising and mailing newsletters to members, as well as sending one of its members to the national convention each year.
“They bend over backwards for us,” she said.
Only $5 from each member's dues goes to the local branch, so these productions are a way to raise money.
“The League of Women Voters has the goal of creating a fair, vibrant and strong community, and this is our part of the effort,” she said.
With a leaky air conditioner, a new sound cue and last-minute spotlight work, Boomershine said there are still a few pieces missing. But he said “My Fair Lady” has a lot of good humor and a strong script based on the George Bernard Shaw play "Pygmalion."
When audience members arrive on Thursday, he said, he thinks they will appreciate the intimacy of the approximately 150-seat theater.
“’My Fair Lady’ is a play everybody knows,” Pheffer said. “Audiences will enjoy the music, tap their feet and quietly sing along. I think they will walk away with good feelings — feeling happy.”
She said she has loved being a part of the production – her first for the company.
She echoed Olson’s thoughts: “When you start working on a production, it becomes a family.”