Suzanne Withem got her first taste of the performing arts as a young child sitting in the Papillion-La Vista High School auditorium watching the school’s performance of “Into the Woods.”
Now 30 years later, Withem is able to put her own imprint on that same production as a director.
Withem, a 2000 PLV graduate, is serving as the director for the Papillion La Vista Community Theatre’s performance of “Into the Woods” this month at the SumTur Amphitheater, 11691 S. 108th St. The performance will take place Friday through Sunday and July 18-20 at 8 p.m. each day. Tickets are available through the PLCT’s Facebook page.
Watching that performance 30 years ago sparked a love of both the play and theater for Withem.
“It’s very cool for me because this is my first time back in this theater since high school,” she said. “I remember sitting in this building watching ‘Into the Woods,’ which happens to be my favorite play.”
Withem has done acting and directing throughout the metro area over the past several years. She jumped at the chance to direct her first play for the PLCT.
“I had expressed an interest to direct for them and when they had an opening this year, I quickly raised my hand,” Withem said. “I acted in this play in college, but I’ve never directed it.”
The story encompasses a young couple who wishes to have a child, but a curse from an evil witch has kept them childless. The witch is willing to lift the curse, but only after they deliver four unique items to her. As they journey to collect and deliver those items, they encounter several familiar fairy tale characters along the way, including Cinderella, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood.
“You involve these fairy tales characters who have persisted over time and we can all relate to them,” Withem said. “Then they go through all these ridiculous circumstances, which we all go through, so we can relate to that as well. There’s a real human element to this.
“It’s just a fun play. There’s some pure shtick, some sight gags and some sarcasm.”
But there’s also a deeper message in the play, one that Withem said is revealed in the second half of the performance.
“The first act ends with everyone getting their wish,” she said. “But in the second act, you find out there’s consequences to those wishes. It’s not a play that ends with everyone living happily ever after. It deals with reality.”
Withem said the cast of about 20 characters contains a mix of actors she’s worked with in the past and a host of newcomers.
Brian Priesman has the lead role of the Baker and as a theater veteran, said he’s excited to be working in the uniqueness of an outdoor venue.
“Being outdoors makes it a whole different piece,” he said. “It becomes more of an event. I talk to people who might only go to one performance a year, but this is the one they want to see.”
Sara Warner, whose husband, Tyler Buglewicz, is the choir director at PLV, is portraying Cinderella. She loves the way the production brings together characters of many different backgrounds.
“People like the idea of a story where we know all the characters so well and it puts them all together in one situation,” Warner said. “It’s a very thought-provoking performance.”
Jack — Jackson Mikkelsen.
Cinderella — Sara Warner.
Baker — Brian Priesman.
Baker’s Wife — Alissa Hanish.
Little Red Riding Hood — Hannah Rembert.
Witch- Katie Miller.
Additional cast members: Sherry Josand Fletcher; River Fisher; Emma Johnson; Robyn Helwig; Megan Smith; Katy Eichhorn; Audrey Saucier; Derek Bonin; Meredith McAdams; Todd Brooks; Aaron Lawrence; Scott Van Den Top; Grace Heldridge; Patrick White.