Queen for a Day
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Eight generous local women are making their mark this fall on the Aspen Community Theatre’s production of “My Fair Lady.”
Each of the women will portray the Queen of Transylvania during one of the show’s eight performances, and each raised $500 for Aspen Community Theatre in order to obtain their cameo appearance.
“As a fund-raiser for this great organization that always puts on such great productions, this seemed like the perfect way to support them,” said Sally Hansen, cameo queen on Thursday, Nov. 14.
As many know from watching the musical’s 1964 movie, made famous by stars Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, the Queen of Transylvania glides through the ballroom scene, nodding sporadically at her subjects before coming to a stop in front of lead female Eliza Doolittle.
After speaking three words to Ms. Doolittle (“Charming, simply charming,”) the queen perches on a throne at the head of the room while the dancing begins.
According to the local “My Fair Lady” director, Pat Holloran, the local production’s role is much the same, without all that perching business. The cameo stars walk through the roomful of subjects, pause to address Eliza Doolittle, motion to the orchestra’s conductor for music, and then motion again to raise the curtain as the ball begins before gliding offstage.
The show’s co-producer, Rita Hunter, said the idea for the cameo came out of knowing that the show was going to be more expensive when it came to sets and costumes.
“I thought we may need a little extra money, and this isn’t something we’ll do for every show. This show just has this perfect little part,” Hunter said. “These are women who might not audition because maybe they don’t sing or dance, but they might have a burning desire to be onstage.”
In order of appearance, the Queens of Transylvania are: Lily Garfield (Thursday, Nov. 7), Sandy Iglehart (Friday, Nov. 8), July Wagner (Saturday, Nov. 9), Nancy Epstein (Sunday, Nov. 10), Mindy Karl (Wednesday, Nov. 13), Sally Hansen (Thursday, Nov. 14), Eleanor Meyer (Friday, Nov. 15), and Peggy Hunt (Saturday, Nov. 16).
Putting on a show, especially one with as many set changes and elaborate costumes can get expensive, and the show’s other producer, Jody Hect, said fund-raising can be difficult, especially after 9/11.
“What we projected we’d make was lower than we thought, and the show was going to cost more than we expected,” she said. “This idea was so timely for us, financially and otherwise.”
The producers hope by having a part in the show the women will bring in an even wider base of audience members, who may consider funding Aspen Community Theatre’s endeavors in the future.
“I enjoy seeing how they put together such an elaborate production ? it’s quite amazing,” said Peggy Hunt, who will be queen on the show’s closing night, Saturday, Nov. 16. Hunt has been a longtime community theater supporter, and has seen every production for the last four or five years. “It’s great fun. The cast is very supportive of the queens; they’re wonderful to us.”
Hunt said she jumped at the opportunity to be part of the show since it was one of her only chances to be onstage, and it gives her new appreciation for Aspen Community Theatre.
“I have the utmost respect for what they do. I’ve always just been entertained, and now I know how hard they work,” she said.
Since the queens are all similar in size, it’s only taking three separate costumes to outfit all eight women, Hunter said. A $125 tiara was purchased for the role, and the women are providing their own matching shoes.
“They are all amazing sports,” Hect said of the queens. “It’s not easy since the cast has been together for so long, and they’re coming into that environment that they’re not familiar with. They’ve been very respectful, and so supportive. And they’ve been so complimentary from the minutes they started watching the process.”
The cast and crew has begun to refer to the cameo role as “Queen for a Day,” and Hect said one queen, Eleanor Meyer, said, “You only go around once, so why not as a queen?”
But some of the women admit to having some pre-performance jitters.
“I’m crazed trying to get all of the motions right,” Hansen said. “But we’re all practicing at home in front of the mirror. We’re such rookies.”
Hunter said “My Fair Lady” has been on the list of shows the community theater has wanted to do for years. Director Holloran describes the story as a tale of transformation, as the character of Eliza Doolittle changes from a cockney flower girl on the streets of London, to a lady of high society with the coaching from expert Henry Higgins.
Since the setting is 1912, costume director Kathleen Albert said she did extensive research to determine the fashions of the time, from scarves and gloves for the cockney quartet to the regal gowns and outlandish hats worn in the upper-class gathering at the Ascot Races. As one of the most memorable scenes in the movie, Albert said the local musical’s scene at the races will also be done with black-and-white costuming.
Some of the costumes are on loan from theater companies in the Denver area. The fashions at the time were very specific, and featured long but sleek styles in womens’ dresses, Albert said.
“They went from a Victorian, Edwardian look with more higher necks and fuller skirts to a much sleeker look,” she said. “As that progressed into the ?20s everything became shorter and skimpier.”
Set Designer Tom Ward said his sets are inspired by the gray shades of London, and will help characters truly pop out of their surroundings.
“My Fair Lady” will run Thursday through Saturday Nov. 7-9, at 7 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 10, at 2 p.m.; and Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 13-17, at 7 p.m., in the Aspen District Theatre. Tickets for the evening performances are $16 for adults and $14 for children 12 and under. The Sunday, Nov. 10, matinee prices are $14 for adults and $12 for children. Advance tickets are available at the Wheeler Box Office.
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