By Derek Liebig
Avery Babson and Melissa Clark may be in their first-year as co-directors of the Whitehall Drama Club, but the duo has plenty of experience on the stage.
Babson and Clark, both teachers at Whitehall High School, have worked in a number of local productions, including shows at the Wood Theater in Glens Falls and the Lake George Dinner Theatre. That experience has served them well as they embark on their Whitehall directorial debut. Babson and Clark will replace Marc Pratt and Chris Palmer, who co-directed the drama club for more than a decade. Pratt has retired and Palmer accepted a job outside the district last fall.
“It’s been a transition for the kids and it’s been a transition for us,” Babson said.
Babson, a Spanish teacher, holds a degree in musical theater from Marymount Manhattan College and has appeared in Wright Stage’s adaptation of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” as well as the Glens Falls Community Theatre’s “Guys and Dolls,” among others.
Clark may be familiar to fans of the Whitehall Drama Club. For the past eight years she’s played in the drama club’s orchestra pit and has played in other pits throughout the area.
The two crossed paths on a handful of productions, including “Guys and Dolls.”
“I had worked with her indirectly,” Clark said of Babson. “I knew of her and her talents.”
Last year the two shared a classroom and had their first taste of working with each other. When it became clear that Pratt and Palmer would not return, Clark and Babson were appointed drama club directors, or has Clark described it, were “volun-told” they would be directors.
“When Chris (Palmer) said he was leaving, I ran to Avery’s room and we said we would do it,” Clark said.
Their first task, and perhaps the hardest, was to select this year’s show.
“We wanted a fun, upbeat show that was character driven and would teach the kids the basic of theater, things like technique, stage presence and energy,” Babson said.
The duo ultimately settled on “Seussical the Musical.” The musical, which was written by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, made its Broadway debut in 2000. In 2001, the show was nominated for a Tony Award for best actor and multiple Drama Desk Awards.
“It’s a mix of multiple Dr. Seuss characters,” Clark said.
Popular characters that appear in the show include the Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant and the Mayor of Whoville among others.
“The theme is about having and finding confidence within yourself,” Babson said.
Clark and Babson said the show has both its advantages and disadvantages.
The show requires very costume changes behind the scenes, one less thing to worry about on performance night, and the set changes are minimal. Mnay of the cast members area also familiar with the characters, if not the story.
The show does however present challenges.
“It’s all music. Every line is sung,” Babson said. “Once you get out of time it can be hard to get back in time.”
This winter’s snowy weather has set the production back a few days, but the directors say they’ve received plenty of help. Many of the same volunteers who have helped in the past, have helped this year.
“We still have the same community support we’ve always had. The same people that have helped are still here,” Clark said.
The cast will have dress rehearsals this weekend and the show will be held at 7 p.m. on March 7 and 8 and at 2 p.m. on March 8. Tickets will cost $5.