The Santa Barbara Independent honored Westmont Theater Arts Professors Mitchell Thomas, John Blondell and alumna Paige Tautz ’14 with Indy Awards May 20 at the New Vic. The annual theater awards recognize excellent work in the local region.
“With this new theatrical adaptation of the classic novel, we were attempting to thread the needle: can we satisfy the ‘Austenites’ in the crowd by honoring the source material and also have a rollicking good time in the theater for people new to the story as well?” Mitchell says. “After a sold-out run and critical acclaim, I am thrilled to say, ‘Yes, we can!’”
Blondell, who is in Kazakhstan directing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” says staging “The Magic Flute” was one of the most challenging productions of his career. “Many small colleges don’t tackle these productions,” Blondell says. “I’m proud of the departments and students who want to grapple and engage with this great material.” The show featured 17 musicians and 24 cast members, and required sets to be built at Westmont then hauled to the New Vic in downtown Santa Barbara.
Henrik Ibsen’s drama “A Doll House” features Nora, who like Lady Macbeth, is one of the most iconic theatrical roles for a female actor. “Iconic roles are always completely terrifying and entirely thrilling to play,” Tautz says. “I am truly grateful to John Blondell for casting me; it’s a role of a lifetime. When playing Nora I feel like I’m on a roller coaster in the dark — I’ve been on the ride before but the dips and loops seem to be new every time. It’s a long play with a lot of text with a big stick of dynamite at the end so it takes a lot of stamina.”
Due to the Thomas Fire and subsequent debris flow, the production was postponed for more than a year. “This long, slow cooking time gave so much more dimension to the role,” Tautz says. “I hope we will continue to play it and tour it in the future.”
In October, Westmont’s theater department will stage “The Inspector General,” written by Nikolai Gogol and adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher and directed by Thomas.