Editor’s note: Listen Up is a Q&A featuring locals in the arts and culture community.
This week: Marianne Fieber-Dhara, co-director for Menomonie Theater Guild’s “Company,” which opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts, 205 Main St. E., Menomonie.Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through March 4.
How long have you been with the Menomonie Theater Guild?
This is my first directorial experience with the guild. I’m a public relations chair as well and I just joined the board in August. I moved here at end of July from Viroqua, that’s where I’d been previous to this.
What were you doing there?
I was administrative chair at (Pleasant Ridge) Waldorf School there, but my background is in theater. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater performance from University of Minnesota-Duluth.
After I graduated in 1987 I moved to Chicago and worked with a theater company there for about 20 years and a variety of other companies.
But this is my first show (directing) here, and it’s really exciting.
What is “Company” about?
The music is by Stephen Sondheim and the book is by George Furth.
The story is about the main character Robert turning 35, and all of his married friends are asking him “when are you going to settle down?” And he’s beginning to ask that question too. He’s had a string of girlfriends and we meet three of them in this show.
The musical really focuses around relationships and marriages, and how we as human beings are longing to be with others, and that’s “Company,” which is (also) the opening number of the show.
It’s a wonderfully rich picture of the challenges in relationships ... But it’s also extremely funny.
There are some very poignant moments as well. It’s very powerful — I found myself tearing up a couple of times during rehearsals because it’s so real.
What do you enjoy about this show?
I’m a tap dancer, so I’m enjoying there’s tap dance. And I actually get to tap dance in it even though I’m directing. The “Side by Side” number has a tap chorus. I’m enjoying that I get to participate as well.
This particular musical I find the music very rich, challenging, and I love the ideas and the questions that this production poses about what it means to be alive. What does it mean to be in the company of others and where do we feel most whole? That is when we are surrounded by friends and family.
I’m drawn to that idea.
And what is wonderful about this piece is I think every single character in here has a moment to shine.
It’s very much an ensemble show and that is fabulous. It’s not just one person out there, everybody needs to work together to create the whole and that is working very well in this production.
We’ve got an incredible group of performers. From the first sing-through, I was blown away by the talent we were able to attract for this production.
It’s so lively. During rehearsals there are times when I’m weeping and times when I’m laughing hysterically.
I’m being moved even though I’m seeing it over and over again. I didn’t expect that.
What challenges are there with this show?
Sondheim’s music is challenging.
Some of the intervals and harmonies are really tight. That can pose a challenge for people who are not as skilled or experienced in readng music.
Because it’s a bigger cast, to get everybody there is tricky and because it’s such an ensemble show, if one or two people are out it makes it hard to run through certain things, like some of the big song and dance numbers.
Why should people come see the show?
They won’t be disapointed. The music is phenomenal, and the staging is turning out to be really engaging.
In terms of the theme of this, there are opportunities for people to reflect on their own life and relationships.
People will laugh, they will perhaps shed a tear. It’s really an entertaining show.
Would you like to say anything else?
Having this performance at the Mabel Tainter is such a gift. That space is so beautiful.
It has been in the news of late because of some of the difficulties that have occurred organizationally, but it is such a fine space and it is really a gift to the community.
I really hope even if people feel strongly about how some of the things occurred, they don’t allow that to prevent them from actually coming in and enjoying productions that are housed there, whether it is this one or any other show.
For a community theater group like MTG to be able to have access to that kind of space is such a privilege.
I’ve worked in professional spaces that are less equipped. It’s phenomenal.