By ANNABELLE ADY
Juggling several roles behind the scenes, Shelly Renzelman will mark her 51st performance with the Lewiston Civic Theatre when “She Loves Me” opens next Thursday.
“She Loves Me” is a romantic musical comedy that shows the power of true love. Renzelman serves as the president of the theater’s board of directors and is the play’s set designer and conductor. She gave Inland 360 a behind-the-scenes interview about what it takes to bring it all together.
Name: Shelly Renzelman.
Day job: Teacher at Tammany High School.
What can you tell us about this production?
Renzelman: “She Loves Me” is a Tony Award-winning musical set in a 1930s Hungarian parfumerie. The main characters, Amalia and Georg, are coworkers who dislike each other. Unknown to each of them, they have been writing letters to each other through a lonely hearts pen pal club and they are actually in love. “She Loves Me” is based on a play by Miklos Laszlo that was also the basis for the films “Shop Around the Corner” and “You’ve Got Mail.” The show is full of fun twists and turns and is entertaining for the whole family or for a romantic Valentine’s Day date.
Why are you serving as both set designer and conductor for “She Loves Me”?
Renzelman: Honestly? Because somebody had to do it! There are a lot of moving parts that go into staging a musical and every one of those parts requires volunteers to make them run. My husband will tell you that I am not good at saying “no,” but I really dislike the attitude that some people get of, “That’s not my job” or “Someone else will do it.” If you see something that needs to be done, jump in and do it.
What kind of work has gone into designing the set for “She Loves Me”?
Renzelman: The director, Rebecca Hardin, and I sat down over coffee and discussed what her vision was for the set and what it would take to make it work. I then spent some time researching other productions of “She Loves Me” to see what ideas I could adapt or borrow. I then did a bunch of preliminary sketches that I transferred into a final version on Sketchup (a 3D modeling computer program).
When planning sets, you have to think about things like: How heavy will pieces be to move? How much space will they take up? Does this design fit with the needs of the script and the vision of the director? Since we are sharing the auditorium space with the school district, we also have to think about things like if the set can be easily moved off stage so it’s out of the way of other people using the space. For this show, once I completed my initial design, I passed the plans on to our set builders, Paul Segren and Torry Lewis. They will adapt the design to make it work in the space.
How long have you served on the board of directors for the theater?
Renzelman: I have been on the board since 2014 and board president since 2016. My term is up this August.
You’re very active in the theater, what keeps you involved and motivated?
Renzelman: I love the civic theater. I played in my first pit orchestra in 1984, and I was hooked. All of my performances with the civic have been as a pit musician or conductor. I enjoy the challenge of all of the different styles of music that we get to play. “She Loves Me” will be my 51st show in the civic theater pit orchestra. My children are also involved in the civic, both on stage and in the pit.
I think the theater is a treasure for the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. We present five high-quality, Broadway-style productions every season right here in town with local talent. There are very few other places in town where people of all ages and all backgrounds come together to create something magical.
What has been your favorite experience with the civic theater?
Renzelman: There are so many. One of my favorites has to be our performance of “Beauty and the Beast,” last spring, where I got to conduct the orchestra and my oldest son Derek played the Beast. It’s really amazing to be able to see my kids up on the stage. Along with that, I would have to say that the best experience with the civic is all of the people I have met and friends that I have made.
What is the biggest challenge facing the Lewiston theater right now?
Renzelman: Performance space and funding are our biggest challenges. So many places in town have been welcoming and accommodating, allowing us to continue to put on shows the past three years, but a permanent performance space would be ideal.
On the funding side, we have so many generous patrons and sponsors that help us to put on our productions, but shows are expensive. A single musical production can cost as much as $15,000 to put on. Without the help of sponsors and donations, we can’t continue to perform at this same level because ticket prices do not begin to cover the costs.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Lewiston Civic Theatre’s production of “She Loves Me.”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. next Thursday, Feb. 7-8 and 13-15; 2 p.m. Feb. 9,16 and 23.
WHERE: Lewiston High School Auditorium, 1114 Ninth Ave., Lewiston.
COST: Adults $19, seniors/veterans $16, students $14, and children $11; $2 off on Thursdays. Tickets are available in advance online at lctheatre.org.