Here, there and everywhere in community theater
Ben Gordon, of Pine River, will be behind the scenes for Pequot Lakes Community Theater’s “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” this weekend, but he’s seen all sides of the stage.
Ben is assistant director and stage manager for the play, which he said means he spends a lot of time making sure people are in the right places at the right time.
He’s been a part of community theater productions for a while. His first performance was in 1992, in a production titled “Big River.” He played a townsfolk, which was a background character.
From there, Ben was a part of several productions in Pequot Lakes, Brainerd and Hackensack. Coincidentally, he was in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” once before, in Brainerd in 1993.
Ben said he’s familiar with the story, having read all three of the books the play is based on. His mother read the books to Ben when he was young, using different voices for the characters. Though she was never in theater, Ben pointed out that there is a bit of a trend in his family history when it comes to performances.
His great-aunt was in a British movie in the late 1940s titled “The Amazing Mr. Beecham.” Ben’s dad was a part of community theater in Burlington, Iowa, and another relative worked on props for MGM in the 1930s.
Ben continues his family’s trend by not only performing and working backstage, but also writing productions.
He wrote and directed a passion play for his church in 2005. The church would have been forced to pay royalties on an already written play, so Ben wrote his own. It was titled “My Deliverer.”
And, Ben’s been making his own home movies since he was 11. Before that, he wrote a Batman script when he was 6 or 7, and he wrote his first video while he was sick with chicken pox.
“I’ve just always liked film,” Ben said simply.
Though Ben got involved in Pequot Lakes Community Theater (PLCT) in 1992, he took an 11-year hiatus, during part of which he travelled to Colorado, where he planned to go to film school. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, and Ben moved back to Pine River in 2011. Within two weeks, he ran into Michael Sander, a fellow PLCT enthusiast who got him involved again.
Ben said he really enjoys directing, but halfway through rehearsals, he always seems to find that he wishes he was acting.
Acting is fun, he said. “You get to step out of yourself and be someone else for a while.”
He said his biggest challenges are the musicals. He can sing, but he’s really only comfortable singing when he’s in character.
“I always say that Ben Gordon can’t sing, but if I have a character I can hide behind, the character sings,” Ben said.
Ben won’t be singing in this play (nor will any of his characters), but he was excited to get to choreograph the two fight scenes in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
There’s a one-on-one fight near the beginning of the play, and a much larger battle scene toward the end. That was challenging, he said. His technique was to film rehearsals, and then post them on the Internet so that actors could see how things looked. Once the basics were down, Ben began embellishing the scenes.
The one rule for actors on-stage during the fight scene is no full swings.
“I can’t tell you how many times I got hit in the head,” Ben said of his own on-stage fighting experiences. For this play, though, there haven’t been too many mishaps.
Ben said “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is a good family show, enjoyable for both kids and adults.
“It’s a quality show and the performers are amazing,” Ben said. “They’re all into it and all having fun.”
He said the play has good messages on forgiveness, family, the nature of good and evil and redemption.
Finally, he said, the play is a great fantasy story, an influence he seems to think people can use in their lives.
“There needs to be more willingness to step out of our world,” he said.
In the theater world, Ben does just that, and so can his audience.
“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” will be performed for its final weekend March 22-24.