By Shannon Frazeur
Lindsey Collins has been running around for months, spinning the plates that is directing a theatrical production.
The musical Sister Act marks her 30th — that’s right, 30th — production at the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas. But it is her first time calling the shots.
Collins, her crew, and her cast of almost 30 are in final rehearsals for Sister Act, which opens at ASC on Thursday, July 26, runs until Sunday, July 29.
Sister Act tells the the story of a nightclub singer named Deloris Van Cartier, who witnesses her gangster boyfriend murder one of this cronies. She is put into protective custody at a convent full of non-singing nuns. Deloris uses her singing abilities to help the choir become a sensational singing group, all while learning valuable life lessons and the value of sisterhood, Collins explained.
“It’s a very fun little story.”
“The music is all original, written for the show,” Collins explained. “It’s actually written by Alan Menken, who did all the music for The Little Mermaid, Little Shop of Horrors, and a bunch of other very popular musicals. And it’s all ‘70s disco music. It’s set in the ‘70s, so it has that fantastic disco vibe to it.”
Sister Act is also a heavy ensemble show. “Usually you have a few ensemble numbers and mainly solos, but in this show, it’s mainly ensemble numbers and a few solos.”
It’s also music heavy, she said. “It’s probably 80 percent music, and 20 percent dialogue.”
NEWCOMERS AND VETERANS
For most of the cast, Sister Act will mark their first time on the Catherine M. Bellamy Theatre stage.
“We have a cast of 28. And 20 of the 28 have never been in a show before — this is their first time ever being in a play here,” Collins said. “And they all heard through word of mouth and through Facebook, through the marquee outside The Center, and they just decided, ‘Hey, I love Sister Act!’ The name drew them in. Everyone sees the name and thinks of the movie.”
A production with so many new actors might seem daunting, but not for the Sister Act cast and crew.
“They are very very committed to what they’re doing for this show, and that makes my job a whole lot easier,” Collins said. “They're all super talented. Pine Bluff has way more talent than I think we've ever knew, and we’re just scratching the surface with what we’ve done so far here.”
One of the newcomers is Monticello native Angelica Glass, who plays the lead role of Delores Van Cartier.
“She literally came out of nowhere,” Collins said. “We had a not-so-great turnout for our first round of auditions, so I decided to make an audition notice on all the swap shops on Facebook that I could think of. She just happened to see it go through her newsfeed and came to the audition that night.
“The minute she walked through the door, all three of us lit up like Christmas morning,” Collins said.
“She walked in, and she just embodied everything. And she’s one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met, and she’s super talented. As a director, you want someone who’s very easy to work with and takes direction really well.
“This voice comes out of her, and it’s just awesome.”
Collins pride in her entire cast is evident. “Everyone in this cast is so incredibly talented. We have a 17-year-old all the way up to 70-something.”
“There’s some people in this that just blew me away. They’re all very considerate of everybody else. It’s a very wonderful atmosphere to be a part of. We’re all working toward the same goal. There’s not anybody who feels like they’ve got too much on them. It’s a very cohesive unit, and we’ve been working together very well. I want everyone to leave this process, wanting to come back and do another show.”
While most of Sister Act’s cast is comprised of newcomers, the production crew are mostly ASC stage veterans.
Andee Book works alongside Collins as Sister Act music director. He an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where he teaches applied voice, piano, music history, diction, vocal pedagogy, and music appreciation courses. He is also the assistant director of the Vesper Choir and departmental accompanist for various recitals and performances.
”He is amazing and I don’t know how we would have been able to have put this all together without his expertise because he is absolutely wonderful and gifted at being a music director,” Collins said.
Bethany Gere is choreographer. “She has this wonder vision, and she's able to get non-dancers to look like dancers, and that's a huge accomplishment in community theater,” Collins laughed.
“My choreographer and music director have been amazing,” Collins said. “We’ve had moments where we’ll have one thing going on on the stage, one thing going on in the studio, and one thing going on out in the hallway, just to keep things moving. I don’t like downtime, either. I don’t like people to sit there not doing something.”
Joel Anderson is assistant director. Sister Act is Anderson’s eighth ASC production. He played Edna Turnblad in ASC’s 2012 production of Hairspray. Anderson is also a pageant judge for the state of Arkansas. “He notices things I might have missed aesthetic-wise,” Collins said.
“It’s a very cohesive team. The crew is, the cast is. If we don’t all work together, it’s not going to work out right. And without them, I don’t think I would have my sanity left.”
Collins began working on or in ASC productions as a teenager in 2001, and Sister Act is her 30th production to be part of at the Arts & Science Center.
Previous ASC shows in which she has been in the cast or crew include:
- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory ("Mrs. Gloop")
- Hairspray (“Velma VonTussle”)
- Gypsy (“Mama Rose”)
- Bye Bye Birdie (“Ursula Merkle”)
- Chicago (stage manager)
- Rebel Without A Cause (assistant stage manager)
- Alice in Wonderland (makeup and costumes)
- 42nd Street
- Mr. Scrooge (“Mrs. Fezziwig”)
- About a dozen Razzle Dazzle productions (she’s done so many that she’s lost count)
“I love theater. I’ve been a theater rat since I was 15. It’s like putting on a pair of pajamas that fits just right. It may not fit everybody, but it fits me!”
So taking on the role of director was a natural progression for her.
“I got to the point where I wanted to be more creative with what goes on and I wanted to call the shots and make sure we had a great summer production. I was excited when [ASC Executive Director Dr. Rachel Miller] asked me to do it. First, I messaged her and asked if I could direct, and then we when decided on the show, I was thrilled.”
In addition to its theater productions, Collins has had an hand in other ASC projects, such as the biannual fundraising gala Potpourri.
“If The Center calls me, I’m answering the phone to help.”
Collins also helped teach ASC’s after-school shadow puppet program this spring. “That was so much fun. We had a group of about nine kids and they were amazingly smart and well- behaved, and it was a great experience, and I got to work with Leonor [Colbert, ASC’s public programs coordinator], who is a blast to work with.”
“I love The Center. It’s my second home. I might as well have a tent here.”
Collins has a bachelor’s degree in theater from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and did several productions while a student. She is a Pine Bluff High School graduate, and except for the four years she attended UAF, has lived in Pine Bluff her entire life.
She works for CoOperative Life Insurance Company. Collins said that her boss, ASC board member Adam Robinson, is “super supportive” of everything she’s doing with the show. Her family — which includes her husband of 10 years, Jeff, son Dorian, and daughter Caylex — is also supportive. “There are times when it becomes consuming being in charge of something like this, but the outcome is so worth it.”
She has dedicated every show she has been a part of in honor of her father, John Byus III, since he died two years ago.
Collins has enjoyed the collaborative and creative process of bringing Sister Act to ASC.
“It’s a really awesome process. I like that we have a lot of new people because they’re able to share their talents with me, and our cast, and the rest of Pine Bluff. That’s exciting, to share your abilities and your talents, and your love and your passion and whatever it is. That’s why I wanted to direct something.”
July 26 (opening night-SOLD OUT!), July 27, and July 28 at 7:30 p.m., and July 29 at 2 p.m.
Director: Lindsey Collins. Music Director: Andee Book
Music by: Alan Menken. Lyrics by: Glenn Slater
Tickets are $18 for members, $22 for nonmembers, and $10 for students. Tickets may be purchased online, by calling 870-536-3375, or visiting the Center in person at 701 S. Main St. in downtown Pine Bluff.