• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Kirchner directs ‘Enchanted April’ at Woodford Theatre

Woodford Theatre artistic director Trish Clark regularly asks her longtime friend, Beth Kirchner, if she’d like to come back as a guest director. And sometimes, Kirchner says – “yes.”

“Enchanted April” was one of those productions that pulled Kirchner back to Woodford Theatre. “She loved the show,” says Clark, “and I couldn’t have been more excited that she did…”

“Enchanted April” tells the story of two British women who leave their bleak lives in 1922 London for a getaway at an Italian villa, where they are joined by two very different ladies. Because the play takes place four years after World War I, Kirchner says much of the story was informed by a time period when women were “way less liberated than they are today. And that really is fun – to watch these women make this transformation” as they rediscover themselves in ways they never expected.

“This show has this wonderful balance of (subtle) comedy and poignant moments that are really meaningful. That is also what makes it challenging (to direct),” says Kirchner.

She will be joined on this production by husband Damon Farmer, a Woodford County artist, whose talents allow “the beauty of the story” to unfold for audiences who are taken to an Italian villa he created.

Clark’s biggest challenge has been locating props and other set pieces to compliment Farmer’s Italian backdrop in the play’s second act.

And Kirchner says she cannot wait “to see the people react to” his set design.

“It’s a joy to see it come to life,” she says.

Because Farmer has traveled to Italy more than 30 times during a career as a world champion sand sculptor, Kirchner knew her husband had the needed experience to capture that European country’s beautiful landscape.

“He instantly had ideas for how he wanted to do the villa,” she says before he later adds, “It (my travels to Italy) made me sort of the perfect person” for designing this set.

“It’s very similar to a mural – except the actors keep getting in the way of the audience’s view of it,” says Farmer, which provokes laughter from Kirchner.

“It’s just like sand sculpture,” he later explains. “There’s no finishing. There’s only stopping. There’s running out of time, but there will always be things to be done to it, to be added to.”

Having worked together on previous Woodford Theatre productions, including “The Wizard of Oz,” Farmer says he always enjoys being “on the same page” with his wife. And designing a set for a stage production gives him a different canvas to express his artistic vision.

“I like to do all kinds of things. And it avoids burnout,” says Farmer.

He and Kirchner typically spend many hours working at home on different projects. He’s busy painting while she’s doing research and other work associated with producing a documentary, but they’re around each other and share meals together.

Being involved with “Enchanted April” actually keeps them apart more. He works on painting and designing the set during the day while she’s busy with rehearsals late into the evening.

“We’re two ships passing in the night,” says Kirchner. “…And we’re missing each other.” So they’ll be happy when they can return to their normal lifestyle.

It’s Kirchner’s love for the stage and directing a story that brings her back to Woodford Theatre, where she served as artistic director for several years before turning her attention to writing, producing and directing documentaries.

“Since I left the theatre,” says Kirchner, “I really did get used to working independently.” With the incredible demands of directing a stage production, she put other projects on hold in January.

Clark describes Kirchner as one of those directors whom actors trust. Her ability to pull strong performances out of a cast of actors made

Kirchner the perfect choice for telling this story, she explains.

“Actors are very smart people,” says Clark, “and they know when the director is going in the right direction,” and they appreciate when an experienced director like Kirchner asks, “What are you thinking there? And why are you responding that way?”

Kirchner has directed four of the actors in her cast, and has liked working with them as well as the four whom she’s never directed before.

“I’m so enjoying this cast,” she says. “There are really talented actors in this show.”

Carmen Geraci (Mellersh) has worked with Kirchner before and he auditioned for “Enchanted April” because he wanted to work with her again – and he hadn’t even read the script.

Kirchner had never worked with Lisa Thomas (Lotty) or Holly Brady (Rose) before, and she now appreciates their extraordinary talent.

“It’s like a painter who gets really good-quality brushes and the best-quality paint. And to be able to mold and shape that kind of talent – it is fun, it is fun,” says Kirchner.

That’s why she had confidence in this cast being able to tell this story while speaking with a British dialect.

“It’ll be more of an issue for our audiences just to adjust to the dialect, but they’ll get used to it,” says Kirchner. “We’re working very hard to make sure that we’re not speaking too quickly. That the storyline gets communicated,” including words spoken in Italian by Patti Heying as Costanza.

Because Tim Hull (Frederick), Gina Scott Lynaugh (Mrs. Graves), Courtney Waltermire (Caroline), Ian C. Scott (Wilding) and the other actors in this cast bring so much experience, Kirchner says, “It is more about (me as a director) learning their individual strengths and personalities, and what do they need. And I kind of just let them go and see where they move and then I go back in and find what’s working and what’s not…”

Weekend performances of “Enchanted April” are Feb. 2 to 4, Feb. 9 to 11 and Feb. 15 to 18, with a special Thursday show at 7:30 p.m. on the final weekend. Friday and Saturday night performances begin at 8 and Sunday matinees begin at 2. Tickets are $22 for adults and $15 for students. For more information or reserve tickets, call the Woodford Theatre box office at 873-0648 or visit woodfordtheatre.com online.

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