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Wigging out on stage: Director brings '1776' to Whidbey Playhouse
Life is slowly returning to normal in Cassandra Woodcock’s home.
No more hum of a sewing machine in the wee hours of the morning.
Her husband Matthew can finally get a good night’s sleep.
“There were times when she was just getting to bed and I was just getting up,” he said.
In charge of costuming for the Whidbey Playhouse musical, “1776,” Woodcock and her wardrobe team had their work cut out for them to create outfits that would pass for the American Revolution period.
Their work will be on display April 4 when “1776” opens at the Whidbey Playhouse in Oak Harbor.
“She’s an amazing woman,” said Gaye Litka, who directs the play. “She’s done several shows here. She just wasn’t intimidated by the size of this.”
Making authentic-looking costumes was one of several challenges that “1776” presented for Litka and producer Sue Riney.
The 26-member cast called for 24 male actors.
Litka found 23.
“One of our men is played by a woman in the show,” Litka said. “That’s because we just could not find that last person. We went through weeks and weeks of trying to find him and couldn’t.”
And there was another obstacle Litka didn’t foresee. It was revealed during a full dress rehearsal performed Thursday night as clear as the shine on Ralph DuBois’ freshly-shaven head.
DuBois, who plays Benjamin Franklin, was one of few actors on stage not wearing a wig.
It was intentional.
The Ben Franklin wig that Litka ordered was “really bad,” Litka said, so she’s waiting for a special bald cap to arrive to dress it up before opening night.
“We spent weeks trying to find a professional quality Ben Franklin wig,” Litka said. “I contacted professional people, wig makers, and didn’t get a reply. It’s really just been the biggest obscacle — finding the hair for Ben Franklin.”
The play, which first appeared on Broadway in 1969 and later was turned into a film, is part musical, part drama and part comedy with plenty of deep-voiced outbursts and humorous one-liners.
It’s a patriotic tale of the events surrounding the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Oak Harbor’s Fernando Duran plays the lead role of John Adams and goes about frantically trying to persuade his colleagues to liberate the American colonies by signing the document.
The cast includes many playhouse veterans, several who played leading roles in other performances.
There’s also a mix of new faces.
“Oak Harbor has something that Anacortes does not because of the (Whidbey Island) Naval Air Station,” said longtime playhouse performer Dann Davies, who plays John Hancock and lives in Anacortes. “So that means we get some really talented people here for three or four years. Then they go off and do community theater in D.C. or in Florida some place.
“You need the fresh blood to keep going. The same people can’t keep doing it. The audience gets tired of them. You find some sort of blend so hopefully you’ve got some veterans around that explain this is the way we do things here and encourage each other.”
Litka said it wasn’t easy selling the idea of “1776” to the playhouse board of directors because of the number of men needed on stage.
But she got the go-ahead a year ago, then began piecing together the cast and those behind the scenes. She gave praise to many, including musical director Heather Good.
“I’ve been here a long time,” Litka said. “I’ve been involved since 1981 and thankfully have a lot of friends within the playhouse and did a lot of schmoozing this year. It just worked out. There are a lot of people who love the show as much as me and wanted to see it done.”
Even if it meant donning an uncomfortable wig for a few hours.
Or some ruffles under the collar called a jabot.
“I usually have a suit and tie on,” said Matt Montoya, a lawyer who plays a member of the Continental Congress from New York in the play, “so this is a different kind of dress-up I guess. It’s really fun.”
“1776” will run April 4-27. It will be performed Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets are $18. The playhouse box office is located at 730 S.E. Midway Boulevard.
For more information, call the box office at 360-679-2237, or go to the website at www.whidbeyplayhouse.com