Meet the Director of ‘The Velocity of Autumn’
The following interview is part of the ongoing "Meet the Cast and Crew" series for The Actors' Group. Rebecca Lea McCarthy conducts interviews with cast and crew of upcoming productions.
Aloha Friends of TAG. The Velocity of Autumn opens in just a few days and I have the great honor of introducing you to Vanita Rae Smith, the distinguished director.
Vanita Rae Smith retired in 2010 with 42 years in Army Entertainment, (34 years in Hawaii). She was duel hatted as Managing and Artistic Director of Army Community Theatre at Fort Shafter's Richardson Theatre where she produced 24 seasons of Broadway musicals and directed 12 seasons of Readers Theatre presentations.
ACT was the first community theatre in American to get the rights to MISS SAIGON, CATS, and CURTAINS and she produced and directed all three. She also directed IF WE ARE WOMEN at the National AACT Festival and took DOUBT to the AACT Regional competition. She has guest directed 17 plays at Manoa Valley Theatre and directed over 100 plays/musicals and presented over 60 celebrity concerts for the U.S. Army.
Vanita holds the Superior Civilian Service Medal, Army's Commanders Medal for Civil Service and Army's Achievement Medal for Civil Service. She also received the Pierre Bowman Life Time Achievement Award, the MWR Command Headquarters James T. Martin Award and Governor Linda Lingle's Proclamation.
When asked about directing The Velocity of Autumn for TAG, Ms. Smith wrote:
I served 42 years as Manager/Artistic Director of Army Community Theatre at Ft.Leonard Wood, MO, Ft. Knox, KY and 32 years in Hawaii. Post retirement I'm Hawaii's Director for "Keep the Spirit of 45 Alive", a national non-profit organization created to commemorate the Greatest Generation, Historian for the Hawaii State Theatre Council, Director of Windward Readers Theatre at Pohai Nani and Instructor at Pacific Rim Christian University (Acting and Musical Theatre).
I first arrived in Hawaii in January 1969 and took leadership of the theatre program at Schofield Barracks where I met Jo Pruden which has provided us the opportunity to do over 70 shows together counting 40 Readers Theatre presentations. For 10 years Jo was the main force at Richardson Theatre, Ft. Shafter where she ruled the box office. My favorite show with Jo back then was "The Owl and the Pussycat" and our Readers Theatre tour of "Virginia Woolf" (In fact there is a "Woolf" photo in Coger/White's 3rd edition of their Readers Theatre text book.) Even when Jo wasn't on stage, she and her husband, Jip worked backstage, show after show. We all practically lived that the theatre. I went back to the mainland four years later, and was extremely pleased to returned to Hawaii in January 1982 and rekindle our friendship.
I've loved Readers Theatre since I was introduced to it by Dr. Irene Coger, as a freshman in 1962. RT makes music of the spoken word and has the power to bring magic to literature. For those who grew up around an old up-right-battery radio, they know how to sink back into their chairs and fantasize. There is an art in listening and it brings reality to imagination and questions to the listener. It is the art of storytelling, spinning a yarn, and turning a phrase. It brings a child like fascination to the audience who shares in the creation. It is the theatrical cornerstone from which fantasy and dreams are made. All theatrical presentations begin with a read through. "Velocity of Autumn" was part of last years' Readers season starring Jo Pruden and Peter Togawa. It was a very special experience for all three of us AND the audiences loved it. We were all eager to mount the production on stage and this is it. Thank you TAG!
Jo is the most accomplished and distinguished actor in our community and after years of honing his skills at Army Theatre, Peter is perfect to portray her son.
The Velocity of Autumn is running at TAG, October 28 - November 20, 2016.
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TAG-The Actors' Group
The Brad Powell Theatre
The Shops at Dole Cannery
650 Iwilei Road, Suite 101
Honolulu, HI 96817
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TAG is honored to be a member of Hawaii State Theatre Council. The mission of HSTC is to promote live theatre in Hawaii and encourage excellence in its management, performance and production.