The Play’s the Thing

Sandi O’Shaughnessy, Romey Curtis and Roberta Cable make quite the creative combination. The theatrical trio has worked together for more than a decade, making the art of acting available for the community’s enjoyment through the organization Women In Theatre (WIT). It is a fun team, giggling and reminiscing of past performances and the experiences they’ve shared while speaking with Midweek Kauai. It is almost impossible not to laugh with them.

“They’ll never get rid of me. I love them all; they’re like family,” says Cable about her friends and fellow theater buffs.

She and O’Shaughnessy started WIT in 2000. They already had known each other through their work with another theater company.

“She was probably the most competent person on the island,” Cable says of O’Shaughnessy, in explanation of why she chose to develop the grassroots organization with her. “I just always respected and admired her.”

Their incentive for creating the new group was to bring more theatrical flavor to the island by presenting one-of-a-kind shows as well as original plays by local authors.

The first show they produced was titled Girl Talk.

“We had no staff. I don’t know how we did it,” recalls O’Shaughnessy.

“We didn’t worry about anything; we weren’t worried about whether we made any money or not. It was just to have fun,” remarks Cable.

Nevertheless, the show was a success, and those who participated in it loved the experience so much they wanted to perform again.

So they did.

WIT currently produces three to four shows each season — everything from the musical Cabaret to 10-minute shorts written by aspiring playwrights. In fact, last year WIT received 170 submissions from around the world for its playwright festival. Only about 18 made the cut.

“I can’t tell you how much they want to get their babies on stage,” says Curtis, who enjoys giving playwrights that opportunity.

The stage that the all-volunteer organization currently uses to bring these “babies” to light, as well as others, is at Coconut Marketplace and is cleverly called WIT’s End. The last performance there was a Japanese comedy from the 15th century titled Poisoned Busu.

Shows like this not only offer actors an outlet to express their talents, but also provide an alternative form of literature and a chance to do background work on characters and plot lines.

“It’s the easiest, most digestible way to get literature under your belt because every time you do a show, you have to learn something,” explains Cable.

Theater also gives actors an opportunity to learn about themselves.

“It’s like opening their Pandora’s box,” explains O’Shaughnessy, a personal trainer and fitness coach who owns Iron Lotus Core Fitness, as well a jewelry line, Grasshopper and Cricket. “You have to find your own self within the character.”

Stage acting is also an expression of vulnerability.

“It’s really the most honest and raw way to show the human condition,” she adds. “It’s all right there right at that moment.”

Curtis, who currently serves as president of the board and played a role in WIT’s inaugural production, wishes more people had access to these live performances. In an attempt to draw as many people as possible into their theater, she and other board members strive to keep prices affordable and the shows approachable.

Providing this kind of entertainment to audiences is one of the more rewarding elements of producing shows for Curtis, who attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. It also is rewarding for her to see someone step out of their comfort zone and do something they might not have otherwise — like Cable. She recalls performing her first and only show with WIT, admitting that she previously had been only in one college play and responsible for only one line.

“And I even said that wrong,” Cable jokes.

It is the entire journey, from learning lines to the final performance, that O’Shaughnessy, who has been acting since she was a child, finds most inspiring.

“Everybody has to take the steps to make the vision possible,” she says.

One of those visions will open Jan. 31. The play, titled NOW Who Are You?, a comedy about a mid-life crisis, was written as a pilot for a radio series and created by local author SJ Hylton LeHoven. Performances will be held at WIT’s End Jan. 31 at 8:30 p.m., and Feb. 1, 7 and 8 at 8 p.m. Visit womenintheatre.org for more information.

Photos courtesy of Women in Theatre

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