Dave Elliott has more gigs than a frog farm. His Marco Island-related pursuits include a daily talk show on WGUF 98.9 FM, licensed to Marco, his annual hosting of the tree-lighting bash that’s part of Christmas Island Style and frequent social visits to the island from his home in Naples.
Now Dave is directing a famous stage play, Deathtrap, produced by The Marco Players, which opens on Wednesday, March 20.
“This is the first time I’ve done Marco Players. I didn’t know what to expect. It’s a small theater, eighty-five seats, a very small house. My very first community theater was in a house not much bigger than that and it requires you to be quite creative and inventive with a limited space. But that just makes the actors have to be better at what they do. I think this cast rises to the challenge.
“I don’t think there’s a downside to community theater. You get a passion and desire for learning that you can’t get from professional actors. You get people who are willing to do a lot of hard work for virtually no compensation except applause.
“You usually find out that creativity isn’t about how much money or how many resources your have but how clever you can be with what you do have. And I think you also learn to build great relationships that generally last a long time.”
Dave says it’s a pleasure to work with actors who understand stagecraft, such things as “cross encounters.”
What’s a cross encounter?
“That’s when you have two people standing on stage and one crosses in front of the other person and then person who was crossed steps down to on the same level on the stage.
“One is not upstaging the other by forcing the other to look upstage rather than at the audience. One crosses and the other one counters down so they are both on the same plane across the stage.”
We decided we might understand that after seeing Deathtrap, if there were any cross encounters in Dave’s production.
“No problem there,” he assured us. “We’re loaded with those in Deathtrap.”
After a 16-year break, “I’m having a ball’
Dave says he never aspired to be in show business, but his resume, his world-class broadcast voice and his array of other show biz skills are impossible to ignore.
“I started directing plays when I was 19 years old and I have directed seventy or eighty plays, a lot of them musicals, including “Godspell,” “South Pacific,” “Mame,” “Kismet,” “Three Penny Opera” and more.
“But this Marco Players production, is my first stage play since I did Sound of Music at the Naples Players in 1997. My stage manager there, Jerry Seiff, had been a technical director for The Marco Players and he had been after me to direct for a while, but at the time I just wasn’t ready.
“Then this play came along and I loved the concept. It’s fun because it’s a straight play and not a musical, so I jumped at the chance to do it. I’m having a ball.”
We asked Dave whether he also enjoyed acting on stage as well as directing.
“I got to the point where the last play I was in where I was an actor on a stage was 6 Rms Riv Vu back in 1985. It’s a two person play, a lot of fun to do. I had been a director all that time and I just decided that directing is really what I enjoy because I like to be the guy who paints the whole picture.”
Dave says his work is done after the dress rehearsal is over.
“Then our stage manager, Stephanie Millman, runs the show from that point until closing night. She calls the cues, makes sure everyone is where they need to be and she runs sound as well. She’s very good and dedicated.”
What does Dave hope to get from the audience?
“I don’t want the audience to know this play was directed by anybody. I want them to see it as a play that is so involving as an audience that all they think about is the story and the characters they saw. That’s when I think a director knows he or she has done a great job.”
Chris Curle is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC-TV stations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Don is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and a former news anchor for CNN and ABC-TV, in Atlanta. His Farmer File column appears Fridays in the Naples Daily News. Email: email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
What: The Marco Players’ “Deathtrap” (The longest-running comedy-thriller ever on Broadway)
When: March 20 through April 7.
Info: www.themarcoplayers.com; (239) 642-7270