Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Spotlight on Prince William Little Theatre’s Honk!

By • Jun 9th, 2008 • Category: Interviews

Listen to Mike talk with Don Petersen and Janel Manning about Prince William Little Theatre’s Honk! [MP3 14:47 6.8MB].

Mike: This is Mike Clark with ShowBizRadio. I am talking with some of the crew of Prince William Little Theatre‘s production of Honk! I am talking Don Petersen, the director, and Janel Manning the producer. Thank you very much for talking with us.

Don: Thank you for being here.

Janel: Thank you coming in.

Mike: What is Honk! about? What is the storyline?

Don: It is based on the story of The Ugly Duckling that we all know from our childhood. The authors decided to take it and turn it into a musical. I think they were trying to do a standard story, but in a different way. It’s a little catchy and fun, an entertaining evening.

Mike: So what is the target audience for the show? Is it kids or is it adults?

Don: That is an interesting question. You would think it would be targeted for children; that it would be a children’s show. However, it really does appeal to all ages. There is humor that would appeal to adults. I think the theme itself of being different and being accepted for who you are is the kind of thing that appeals to everybody from children on up to adults. It’s here for everybody.

Janel: I think that some of the underlying jokes that they have in the show, or in the lines children will take them one way and adults another. Yet they are both laughing at the same line. Listening to the songs as well are very funny. For instance, the Eulogy where everyone is very serious. But if you listen to the words, the song is funny.

Don: It was interesting, too. At our first read-through we all sat round and read the script out loud. The adults would laugh at some of the lines. The kids sat there wondering why the adults were laughing. As we have rehearsed and they have had a chance to understand, now they get the humor that they did not necessarily understand at the first read through.

Janel: I think that some of the songs were very pretty, and I think some of the adults and children enjoyed them. The audience tonight was having a good time with the songs and not thinking it was a kid’s show.

Don: Right. That’s one of the things I did as I was sitting at the back of the auditorium listening. It was nice to hear that when the audience did laugh, the audience was understanding and getting the humor which was the important thing to me, that they would laugh at the right times and everybody did.

Mike: Were there any technical challenges with using the school that you were using?

Janel: There were many. Not necessarily bad, but there were many. For example the heating and air conditioning. You have to take into account that you have to talk and sing louder. The lighting and sound I always think is a challenge when you come into a place that is not pre set up and you are trying to set up in three days and check microphones and lights and catch glitches before they happen.

Don: We are also visitors here and we try to respect the fact that we are using someone else’s space. We are appreciative of the fact that we are allowed to do that. But as Janel said, if you are a community theater for instance like Little Theatre of Alexandria who has their own space, and you can set it up the way you want to and you don’t have to take things down and put things away. That makes work a lot easier. This is more challenging. During rehearsals, we had certain time limitations. We had to make sure the space was ready to be used by the school children so after rehearsal you would have to strike everything and put everything away. So that’s always a challenge.

Mike: This was a fairly large cast it seemed like with a lot of doubling of roles, was that a challenge getting the actors into multiple places and parts?

Don: It’s a challenge, but what I like to do when I go see a show, I love to see a show where someone is playing multiple parts because then I get to see their range and I get to see how they transform from one character to the next. For some of the folks in this show anyway, they have to do that in a matter of a few seconds. They go off stage as one character and they come right back on five or six seconds later as a completely different character with a different wardrobe.

The way that the authors originally intended it was that it would be performed by four females, four males, and four children and they would play all the roles. We have expanded that and I think most community theaters try to give everyone an opportunity. We do not have one person who is playing five or six parts the way it was originally intended, but it certainly is a lot of fun to watch (I know it has been hectic for some of our actors backstage), but for me it is always a joy to see that they have made it out on time and in the right costume, and they are using the right voice. That has been kind of fun, but challenging as well.

Janel: Having the people backstage know when to change and know what costumes to have ready. We do have people backstage who also have family or know someone in the show. One night they are going to want to watch the show so everyone is trained in multiple areas or learning the different changes for the different people. I think that is the most challenging. Some of the helpers have not been to a lot of rehearsals so the actors are prepping them a scene ahead as far as what they will need. It is fun.

Mike: Are the two main roles Cat and Ugly?

Don: The main role is Ugly because it is the Ugly Duckling. In addition to that the Cat and also Ida the Mom. It is really the journey that Ugly goes through trying to find his way back home and the journey of the Mom trying to find him. Then the Cat is preventing all of that from happening.

Janel: He is in and out of all the scenes and locations that he just turns up everywhere Ugly does. I think the song that brought it together was when Ida and Ugly were singing a duet and echoing.

Don: At the end of the first act they were singing ‘Hold Your Head Up High’ and they realized they were about to go on a journey to look for each other.

Janel: They both were doing the same movements.

Don: Right.

Mike: I enjoyed watching the Cat. I enjoyed watching all three of them, but the Cat seemed to be the most expressive and the most free. Did you have to reign him in or pull him up?

Don: What is wonderful about Jake (Higginbottom) is that he tries a lot of things and he is willing to see what works and what doesn’t. He has great physicality and so even within the last couple of nights we have seen things that we have not seen before. He manages to find things that are right for the moment and right for his character. He is continually growing and trying new things which is neat.

Janel: Including his costume. He would bring in things. Even though Susy Moorstein was the costumer, Jake would bring in items and ask Susy what she thought of it. What if I painted this this color? How would it look? He would try a lot of things and if something did not work well with his movement he would bring in something else. His cane, for instance, I think is the third one. He was trying to find one that worked with his movements.

Mike: He reminded me of the MC from Cabaret.

Don: That’s interesting.

Janel: Yes, now that you mention it.

Don: His physical movements and also the MC in Cabaret kind of maneuvers and manipulates the whole thing. The Cat sort of does that in this play as well. That is interesting I had not thought of that.

Janel: I had not either. He is new to Prince William Little Theatre. He has not performed with us before. Many of the cast have not performed with us. It is about half and half.

Mike: We have seen Drew (Prendergast) several times. We really like him.

Don: Yes.

Janel: Yes, he was most recently in The Homecoming which we did for Christmas. He is always a joy to work with. His grandmother comes and auditions also. It is very nice to have family in the show as well.

Don: The last few shows that Janel and I have worked on together, I would say that half, maybe three quarters of the cast are family members. It is a lot of fun. It is something that families can do together. Either everybody on stage. As Janel mentioned earlier there are several moms working back stage and the children are working on stage. It is a family thing that I think works well with Honk!. Honk! is a family show.

Mike: Anything else we should discuss?

Don: You obviously go to a lot of community theater, and you know that it is all volunteers. It is amazing how people are willing to give up their time and their energy and use their talents. I find that working in theater that it is a great joy, but also a sadness because you know that at a certain point all that family and camaraderie that you have built up as a cast and a crew ends. We might work with people on a different show at another time, but that feeling you create just for that individual show coms to an end when the show ends. Then you are creating new families and then watching family members go off. It’s part of a process. It’s a joy to meet people to come together for an intense period of time and then after the show the sadness that it will never be the same again.

Janel: One of the things that we also did was we move our dates back a little bit. We had scheduled our original performances last year and as we started gathering orchestra members, we came to realize that several of the community orchestras were having concerts on one of our weekends and we were almost double casting the orchestra because they were in different groups and some could work one weekend and someone could work this night. It got very difficult. Don and I got together and talked and came to the realization that we really needed to push back just a couple of weeks and, as you heard tonight, we have a fantastic orchestra of eleven members I believe. They are off and on. Some will not be here so they alternate. That was a challenge and very tedious trying to get the dates and get everyone scheduled.

Mike: So tell me how people can get tickets and what nights you are performing?

Janel: You can buy tickets at the door. They are $15 for general admission. $10 for students, seniors, and military and $6 for children six to twelve. You do not have to have reservations, but we would like to know how many to expect on a night.

Don: We never know from night to night so it is nice to have kind of a heads up as far as how many to expect. Tonight was opening night. This is the first time we have done our schedule the way we have done it. We have a matinee tomorrow and an evening show tomorrow and then a matinee on Sunday. Then we skip a week. That is mostly because one of our key members of our team can not be here that middle week. Then we perform Friday night, Saturday matinee, Saturday evening and Sunday matinee. We usually do eight performances that are usually spread out over three weekends, but this time we are doing it all in two weekends.

Janel: We are also doing something different in that we are having two matinees each weekend which we usually have a big turnout on our matinees.

Mike: It will also be friendlier for kids.

Janel: And senior citizens as well. They can come out much easier in the afternoons than in the evenings. You can make reservations or just call in and let us know you are coming. We have recorded number which is 703-330-7796. Or visit our website and we will hold tickets for you there as well at

Mike: Thank you very much for talking with us, we do appreciate it.

Don: Thank you.

Janel: Thank you for coming out tonight and talking with us.

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