‘Cassville Canteen’ will return town to a bygone era

Staff Writer

By clare m. masi

AMY GOLDSTEIN  Rehearsing a scene from the Jackson Council of the Arts upcoming production of Singin’ and Swingin’ at the Cassville Canteen are (l-r) pianist Alla Axelrod, Roxanne Southcott-Roberts, Kathy Abline and Mary Clare Riveira.AMY GOLDSTEIN Rehearsing a scene from the Jackson Council of the Arts upcoming production of Singin’ and Swingin’ at the Cassville Canteen are (l-r) pianist Alla Axelrod, Roxanne Southcott-Roberts, Kathy Abline and Mary Clare Riveira.

JACKSON — Attending the Jackson Council for the Arts production of Singin’ and Dancin’ at the Cassville Canteen may well prove to be a trip down Memory Lane, at least for some people.

Seniors will have an opportunity to "remember when," while middle-of-the-road folks may receive a refresher course in World War II history. Children won’t be left out either. They’ll have the chance to experience what they’ve only heard about up to now.

The council will sponsor its third annual summer theater production on Friday and Saturday, July 27-28 at the Jackson Memorial High School Fine Arts Center, according to Alan Downing, chairman of the council and executive producer of the play.

The evening promises to be a wonderful experience that "will cross generational lines," Downing said. "There’ll be a lot of singing and dancing."

Tunes like "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" and "In the Mood" are only a sample of the fare that will be available for the attendants’ listening pleasure. Music for the production is being performed by the Jackson High School Swing Band, which will be directed by Brian Majores.

The music alone may evoke memories of another time, sparking a jolt of nostalgia for days gone by.

Downing said the community theater is dedicated to "allowing families and residents of all ages and backgrounds to put on a show."

The producer explained that the community theater brings about the intermingling and the integration of a cross section of all ages.

"The characters are fictional," Downing said, "but they are based on research and books. We wanted to be historically accurate and portray the feeling as well as the facts of that period."

The original play, written by Council of the Arts member Carolyn Pello, is directed by Bob Taibbi, who is a director of recording at The Juilliard School in New York City.

Kathy Bott-Digesu, publicity chairperson for the council, explained that the two-act play centers around the Clark family, owners and operators of a local canteen. The chairperson said that a canteen is similar to what most will remember as the USO, a place for soldiers to come and relax with some friends or new acquaintances, have a cup of coffee and enjoy some entertainment.

The Clark family has settled in Cassville, and the time is the 1940s. Lead roles are Mrs. Clark, played by Cyndy Montes; her daughter Mary, played by Mara Downing; and Mary’s soldier-husband Charlie Shore, played by Jarrett Grisanti.

Bott-Digesu said the play depicts the support and the community oriented era of the war years.

She explained that the play has a two-tiered effect: the story about the young couple, Mary and Charlie, and their lives; and the seniors in the production discussing actual stories of their past, as fiction joins with fact.

Bott-Digesu said the production is a community effort having players from age 6 or 7 up into their 80s.

Besides the play itself, residents will be treated to additional nostalgia by the 15-minute pre-show, which will display medals, black-and-white photos, and other World War II memorabilia for guests to peruse, while the band plays music from the 1940s to keep people in the mood.

"To sum it up," Downing said, "the community theater is art for community’s sake, as opposed to art for art’s sake. We are trying to strike a balance and involve the community and put on a great show."

Downing said the Council for the Arts encourages the community to work together with each other through the arts.

"We’re trying to do in the community, much like the era of World War II did, when everyone worked for a common goal that everyone could agree on."

Downing said the production is being fueled by the 125 volunteers who have pulled together to make this a success.

"Without them, we would never have been able to pull this off. I am indebted to all our volunteers," Downing said.

The council will also be collecting nonperishable goods that people may bring with them to the play. These donations will be distributed to the Jackson Food Pantry.

Performances are as follows: July 27 at 7:30 p.m., and July 28 at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. For information and tickets, call (732) 928-6044. Advance tickets are $7 for general admission, $5 for students and seniors. Prices at the door will be $9 general admission and $7 for students and seniors.