W. Paul Wade (Paul, to his friends) is a Stage West actor/director who decided two years ago to expand his repertoire to include writing. He’ll see the fruits of his labor come to life on August 18th. That’s when his first play, “Blackwood,” will debut on the stage that he’s called home for 24 years.
In a nutshell, “Blackwood” is a western about an ex-gunslinger who tries to protect his surrogate son not only from a dangerous outlaw but also from his own darker nature.
Writing this play had a few challenges for Paul because, although he had started writing other plays in the past, this was the first one he had completed. When he hit a mental block, Paul reached out to other theater people to bounce ideas off them.
“Sometimes I stepped away from it for a time, and if I was in a particularly tough block, I’d include the show in my prayers and put it in the hands of God,” Paul remarked.
Jay Ingle directs “Blackwood.” This is the second play he’s directed at Stage West, along with co-directing one play. Ingle got his start in theater when he took drama at Springstead High School for four years. He put acting on the back burner for about ten years, but then, in 1999, he auditioned for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at Stage West and got the lead role.
One of the most challenging aspects was that the play had some “flashback” scenes, much like a movie. It took a lot of planning to convey some of these scenes in a way that the audience would enjoy them without losing the theater experience.
Jay has no intention of hanging up his director’s hat. Being a musician, he would like to direct a musical such as “Rent.”
Eric Shelton plays Leon, the father who is trying to keep his surrogate son, Micah, on the straight and narrow, and Mitchell Mathias plays Micah. The 41-year-old Shelton has been acting since he was 13 years old. Some of his favorite roles have been the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz” and Carlson in “Of Mice and Men.”
Although Mitchell has only been acting for eight years, he’s been in 11 productions at Stage West. These cover a wide range, from musicals like “Cinderella” to comedies such as “The Big Five-Oh.” He described his role as that of a young, hot-headed cowboy who wants revenge for his parents’ murders but doesn’t realize the full cost of taking a life yet.
“This has probably been my most challenging role because Micah is extremely different than I am in real life. I’ve had to take extra time to understand him and his personality. Yet, it’s a learning experience that is pushing me to try new things and become a better actor,” remarked Mitchell.
Melody Craven plays the female lead, Sadie, a madam in a saloon who could be described as a bawdy Miss Kitty. Melody is excellent at portraying Sadie’s many sides−risqué madame; tenderhearted mother figure; and confidante to her clients, especially Leon.
In her 40 years of acting experience, Melody has performed professionally in commercials, on television, and in community theater. Most recently, Melody played the fairy godmother in “Cinderella.” “I love that she [Sadie] is a strong, independent woman who knows exactly how to take care of herself. I love that she stands up for those she cares about,” Melody stated.
Keith Surplus plays the part of the villain, an outlaw named Krueger, with a mysterious past. It’s a credit to Wade as the playwright and Surplus as the actor that Krueger doesn’t come across as a stereotypical villain twirling his mustache and making dire pronouncements.
In his 20 years of acting, Keith has played a wide range of roles, from Igor in “Young Frankenstein” to the lead in “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
The cast is rounded out by Jennifer Scalf and Sam Petricone. Jennifer has dual roles as a saloon girl and a female outlaw. Sam Petricone is cast as Zeke, the bartender. Jennifer is also the costumer for the show.
During her ten years in theater, two of Jennifer’s favorite roles have been Annelle in “Steel Magnolias” and Patty in “Grease, the Musical.”
“I like the challenge of playing two characters that have opposite characterizations. I feel it gives me an opportunity to grow as an actress,” Jennifer remarked.
Sam Petricone is a professionally trained actor with more than 23 years of experience. He was a stage actor in Los Angeles, performing in such plays as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “The Odd Couple” before coming to Spring Hill in 2000.
Petricone has performed in twenty-eight shows since then. Two of his favorite roles were Richard Nixon in “Frost/Nixon” and one of the jurors in “Twelve Angry Men.”
Coincidentally, the stage manager for the show is Angela Sarabia, whose play “Duress” was produced by Stage West last year. Although not always recognized, stage managers are important to the success of any play because among their duties are organizing and handling props, running through the lines with the actors, providing prompts when needed, and cuing the lighting and sound technicians.
“Blackwood” promises to be a show that’s different from most of Stage West’s productions. First of all, you’ll get to see the debut work of a local playwright. Secondly, the show will be an “immersible” experience with special effects that haven’t been seen at this venue before.
“I plan on bringing our audience an up-close wild west production that they won’t forget,” remarked Jay.
One last note: The show contains a few obscenities and references to sex, so it may not be suitable for children, pre-teens, or adults who are offended by such things. “Blackwood” will be playing at Stage West on August 18th and 19th at 7:30 p.m., as well as on August 20th at 2:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at www.stagewestflorida.com or by calling the box office at 352-683-5113. The theater is located at 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd. in Spring Hill.