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All the world is a stage for David Williams

By on May 31, 2017 in Arts with 0 Comments
David Williams goes all out in a culminating song and dance routine from May’s Apple Blossom musical Young Frankenstein.

David Williams goes all out in a culminating song and dance routine from May’s Apple Blossom musical Young Frankenstein.

By Susan Lagsdin

David Williams greets his third-grade students with a high-five every day at the classroom door, he sings along with them to learn multiplying by 12’s and equivalent fractions, and he admits his lessons get a little theatrical-goofy in the service of capturing and keeping interest.

A dramatic background, or at least a leaning, helps with any age “audience,” and that sense of creative fun is a dominant force in his own life.

When the school day is over and Washington Elementary locks its last doors, David, 51 and a veteran teacher, has a few tasks in front of him. Tidy up and prepare for the next day, finish up paperwork, and, as he has for much of his adult life, get a little food and maybe catch a nap so he can be sharp at that night’s play rehearsal.

David has been an actor starting in high school, through college, then for a five-year stint in two Southern California theaters and since — his happy homecoming 12 years ago — with Leavenworth Summer Theater and Music Theater of Wenatchee.

Married and proud father of three grown children, he adroitly combines his teaching career with a full-on life in theater.

He was interviewed a week short of the opening of Music Theater of Wenatchee’s Apple Blossom Festival production of Young Frankenstein, in which he played the lead.

That day, he marveled at the visual elements: “It’s an incredibly complicated set — so many different pieces… most of the actors will be moving scenery at some point.”

(Updated note upon seeing the play: “complicated” was an understatement: the Numerica PAC stage was jammed with mammoth, breathtaking sets and superslick pyrotechnics.)

David stoically described Hell Week, with the coming weekend’s 12-hour days, the arduous cue-to-cue tech rehearsal where the actors feel like chess pieces, and final dress rehearsals, in which, with a cast of dozens and multiple changes, something always goes awry (a rule of theater?). His summary? “Exhaustion!”

But his overwhelming attitude was appreciation for the closeness of the cast and crew. “It’s always like that,” he said. “Theater people are kind of… free spirits. There is so much camaraderie and laughter. Lots of laughter!”

A volunteer cast and crew means everybody’s doing this for love, and many of the actors are known by day as earnest students or calm, staid professional people.

That changes when they walk into the theater, where zany rules. David said, “They kind of cut loose on the stage — it’s really fun to be somebody else for a while.”

Freeing oneself from the everyday persona and taking on another under the lights is a strong appeal of acting. “I find performing to be much less stressful than actually speaking in front of adults,” he said.

Being “somebody else” was important to him from the start. He said when he was in high school, his home was not a place he wanted to be, and the chance to be a different person after each school day, valued for his singing and acting chops, was alluring.

Musical mentor Dan Jackson at Wenatchee High School pushed him in that direction, Dick Lapo encouraged him to hone his talents after his Wenatchee Valley College drama classes — and he thrived.

Being somebody else is a little tricky when a musical becomes a movie known to most audiences. “You have to make it your own,” he said.

David has tried NOT to play, for instance, Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, Albert Finney in Annie, Robert Preston in The Music Man or, now, Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein.

(Updated note: He adroitly avoided mimicry; this was Dave William’s version of Frederick Franken-shteen.)

Musical comedy, the zanier and more exaggerated the better, is David’s forte. “I played Perry Mason once — that was just too serious! I think I had the most sheer fun as King Arthur in Spamalot … or maybe the really crazy guy in Bat Boy. What I love is the chance to use my voice, facial expressions and comic timing to get the line just as I think the writer intended.

“I’m not going to lie; I love the applause and the accolades — but I also enjoy making people laugh and escape the realities of life for a moment,” David said.

He’s frustrated that some schools are starting to defund and dismantle arts programs. “Some kids are just wired that way,” he insists. “I’m not a mathematician or a mechanical thinker, so I’ve always used my creativity. I believe the arts got me through my high school years.”

David’s not going to let any disturbing budget-balancing trend affect his students, however. He’ll keep reading dramatically, acting out science, singing math and putting on the big holiday show.

“Every year, we put on A Christmas Carol for the school — it’s really fun. I just change the script and the casting around depending on the students in my class.”

David is contemplating taking on a new part — he’d like to try directing his fellow actors on Wenatchee’s big stages sometime soon. After years of practice under various directors, he knows he’s ready for that role.

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