First things first.
This week, if you see DannyLee Hodnett out and about at Sheridan College or elsewhere, give him a high five. A fist bump. An “atta boy.” Or a thank you.
Certainly, there was a group of volunteers and hosts and helpers, but Hodnett stirred the drink that was the Wyoming Theater Festival for the third straight year. Two weeks of live performances, talk-back sessions with audiences, readings and rehearsals. All in the Mars Theater inside the WYO.
A spark for this festival began five, six years ago. Hodnett, Dr. Paul Young, president of Sheridan College, sat around a table, casually discussing logistics and framework. There’s nothing like it in Wyoming, it was said. It would attract students, professionals from theater. Then again, there’s no community college quite like SC, the only two-year school in the state with a growing enrollment and expansion of arts and humanities programs, but also in traditional curriculum. New buildings dedicated to agriculture, science and the arts have opened in recent years.
The upshot from the conversation: Why not, a theater festival? Yes, why not. And it’s become a good one, steadily growing and with appreciative audiences. These professional playwrights, directors and equity actors return to their home theaters and spread the word. The WyoTF will continue to grow, thanks to these volunteers, business partners and patrons.
Sponsors of this year’s WyoTF included: Sheridan College, The Sheridan Press, Sheridan Media, Avis Rent a Car, Donna’s Dance Company, Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority, Weston Wineries, Whitney Benefits, Wyoming Arts Council, WYO Theater, Inc. And a slew of housing hosts and volunteers willing to do heavy lifting.
One more thought about the WyoTF.
The play, “Hollywood, Nebraska,” by Kenneth Jones is as good as anything I’ve enjoyed. If it opens on Broadway next, I’ll buy a ticket. It’s that good — rich in sentiment, funny, spot-on pacing, terrific dialogue for the actors. It’s the story of two high school theater pals reconnecting years later and re-discovering what’s connected them all along besides small-town roots.
Week two of the fall Sheridan Film Festival will feature, “Maudie,” a biographical story about Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis (1903-1970) and her home in Nova Scotia. Lewis suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, lived in poverty with her husband, a fish peddler and sold hand-painted cards to supplement income. It’s a good film; I happened to catch it while visiting grandkids earlier this month in Colorado. It stars Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke. Show times at the Centennial Theatre Wednesday are 4:30 and 7:15 p.m.
“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.”
— Nathaniel Hawthorne, American author, 1804-1864