The time has come again for Sioux City Community Theatre to produce a classic Neil Simon Comedy, and this time the show is, “Rumors.”
What used to be a seasonal affair, Simon’ shows have fallen off the radar in recent seasons, according to the show’s director, Wayne Blum. The time, though, for a Simon show is fitting now, as the legendary playwright recently passed away in August of 2018.
Blum, a United States Postal Service letter carrier and long-time active member of Sioux City theatre companies, got his start in theatre when he was four years old.
“When I was four years old I got into it (theatre),” said Blum. “I was Snoopy in ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ at the Nativity Center at what is now Mater Dei. I got into it more watching my grandfather do shows up in Akron. I went through high school and college and got my degree in theatre performance and technical direction.”
While acting in theatre is one thing, directing the show is something completely different. Blum believes both jobs are tasking, but while you are acting, you are mainly worried about your own actions as opposed to everything that is going on in the show.
“Acting in a show, you are more concerned about yourself,” said the director. “You are worrying about getting your lines out, being seen, your choreography…not choreography in this particular show because there’s no music. When you are directing, you have to have a plan for everything and everybody in the show. You’ve got to have an idea for your set; when it moves, if it moves. You have to make sure everyone has their lines, that all the lights are doing what they are supposed to be doing. You don’t have to memorize lines while directing, but you have plenty of other things to be doing. I avoid acting in shows that I’m directing, because it’s just too much.”
Blum made his Sioux City Community Theatre directorial debut in September of 2001 with “Kiss Me Kate.”
While “Rumors” isn’t a musical, it is a hilarious farce which brings together multiple couples for a night of twists, turns, laughs and maybe a bit of suicidal terror (only in a funny way). The show debuted in 1988 in San Francisco.
“We always like having at least one strong comedy each season,” said Blum, who is also part of SCCT’s production committee. “We haven’t done a Neil Simon in several years; his shows used to be a staple of our seasons. We kind of did all of them over the years and got away from it for a while. We decided it was time to bring Simon back into the mix. This one is, in my opinion, one of his funniest ones. It definitely has the ‘blue’ humor in it. From my understanding, he wrote this after a bad divorce and his friends in town told him to get back to writing. He wrote this show to where there is not one well-functioning relationship in the show. Everybody has some quirk in their relationship, and it’s a little messed up.”
After the death of Neil Simon, the theatre community mourned the loss of a profound voice that could deliver some of the best plays in modern history.
“He was just a good comedic voice,” said Blum. “He wrote real characters and when I heard of his passing I knew we weren’t going to get his brand of humor anymore. It is an under-toned humor in this show. It is about a couple that you never actually see in the show that this is all revolving around. It is their tenth anniversary. One of them is upstairs and has possibly shot himself, we are not sure…and his wife is nowhere to be found. It is about the four other couples that come in and try to figure things out while discussing the rumors surrounding the issue.”
While casting the show, Blum was looking for compatibility within the actors. He wanted to represent real couples through the story line of the fictitious script.
“I got the casting pretty darn close to what I envisioned,” said Blum. “What I basically looked for was compatibility, especially being married couples. In a perfect world you have the choice of having them look and sound right together. I lucked out and had a great turnout for the casting. I had 14 women and nine men. I had my choice, but it was tough pairing them up to get that dynamic of being married for years.”
Dave Dziurawiec, Jeremy Cotter and Lance Dake play three of the male characters in the play, and each enjoy the style in which it was written.
“It’s about the little comic jabs that come out of the conversations between people in the show,” said Dziurawiec, who plays Ernie in the show and has been involved at SCCT since 2002’s production of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ “It’s just funny. When we went through the first reading of the show, we had a hard time getting through it. It’s just well written.”
“My favorite aspect of this show is that the audience gets to look in a window of people’s lives and the little bickering and conflicts that need to be resolved and the ways of going about trying to fix them,” said Cotter, who plays Glenn Cooper and is also a Sioux City exterminator and father/husband outside of theatre.
“I like the small cast,” said Dake, who plays Lenny Ganz and works at the Sioux City waste and water treatment plant outside of theatre. “I also like Wayne as a director. He’s a good guy. I also like that this is a farce, so it’s more comedic. I’m not into drama, whether it’s onstage or in real life. The quickness and the absurdity of some of the lines and situations is good.”
Rumors runs at Sioux City Community Theatre from Jan. 11 through Jan. 27. Tickets are available at the box office, or online at www.scctheatre.org.