COLUMBIA — The red doghouse is partially painted, half of the seats are covered in plastic and Snoopy has only half a costume.
It’s less than a week before opening night, and the members of the Columbia Entertainment Company are putting the finishing touches on the first show of their 31st season, "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown."
What: "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown"
When: Friday through Sunday, Sept. 17 to 20, Sept. 24 to 27
Where: 1800 Nelwood Drive
Tickets: $10 to $12
Information: 474-3699 of go to cectheatre.org.
A group of actors, stagehands and directors sprinkled throughout the auditorium are discussing the decisions that need to be made before the show opens Thursday.
Casey Palmisano is waiting for choreographer Carol Odor to arrive so they can finalize the dance for Snoopy’s song and dance number, “Suppertime.”
This is the Palmisano's second engagement with the community theater. After unexpectedly earning the part of Henry Higgins in last June’s "My Fair Lady," the graduate student in music at MU is now undertaking the role of Snoopy.
Performing as Higgins, known for his deliberate articulation, followed by a beagle “driven by food and fun,” is a world of difference, Palmisano said.
For Palmisano, taking on the role of a hyperactive dog is an enormous release from everyday life. As a teaching assistant at MU, Palmisano conducts Philharmonic Orchestra practices three times a week. The delight of completely letting go — handstands and somersaults included — was a draw for the young man.
Tony Killian, a veteran of both the Columbia Entertainment Company and Maplewood Barn Theatre, is Charlie Brown.
The 45-year-old professor of history at Moberly Area Community College said he has been taking part in community theater for years, as a director as well as an actor. The "Peanuts" role is a departure from the majority of his performances, often intended for mature audiences, including "The Full Monty" and "Guys and Dolls."
The challenge of playing Charles Schulz’s iconic figure is not lost on Killian, who was concerned about meeting audience expectations.
"People have such a set image of Charlie Brown that you don’t want to disappoint them,” he said.
Arguably one of the more adorable members of the cast, Emma Plott-Olson, bounced around the theater as the others discussed serious matters.
The 10-year-old fifth-grader from Robert E. Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School has been acting in theater camps and already has three CEC productions under her belt.
After playing a Who and a cadet in last year’s "Seussical the Musical," Emma returns to the Entertainment Company stage as Woodstock, Snoopy’s yellow, feathered friend.
Emma's grandmother, Judy Olson, is co-director of the production, along with Mary Paulsell. To dispel rumors of favoritism, Olson quickly mentioned that Paulsell cast her granddaughter.
This is Olson’s fifth encounter with "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown." Although she prefers darker material, she said she is confident that theatergoers will be happy with the performances, even if it has been a while since they were children.
She believes the play’s message will strike a chord.
“I don’t mean to make it sound like this big drama-tragedy-comedy thing, but it’s basically very simple. The statements made by the characters in their own childlike way are very, very true and very succinct about things that are going on in the world around them.”
Olson has been directing performances at the theater company since 1987. A favorite aspect of theater is working with other volunteers.
“It’s so great to take a group of people who don’t know each other and watch them during the course of the rehearsal period turn into a family," she said.
The rest of the cast seems to feel equally positive about the experience. Killian refers to acting as his “fun job, even though I don’t get paid.”
Palmisano agreed: “This is such a joy and a passion. It’s not really work.”