It only seems fitting Teri Quappe would take her turn in the director’s chair of a theatrical production.
The daughter of thespian parents who introduced her to all things stage well before she was old enough to walk, Ms Quappe has been active in theatre virtually all her life. Now, 23 and back in her native Cayman Islands after a stint in college in New York and an injury-shortened tour of duty in the US Air Force, she has reclaimed her spot on the local stage.
On Thursday, Ms Quappe will make her directorial debut when she leads the cast and crew of “Godspell” on opening night at Prospect Playhouse in Grand Cayman, as the Cayman Drama Society begins a three-week run with its rendition of the fanciful folk-religious musical.
Ms Quappe, whose mother, Barrie, and father, Chuck, also figure in the cast and band, will play the multiple-character role of John, Judas and Sonia. From her slot in the director’s chair, she has taken some liberties with an original script dating to 1971. But the performance is still based on the long-running off-Broadway musical smash conceived by John Michael Tebelak with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.
The structure of “Godspell,” which originated as Tebelak’s master’s thesis while at Carnegie Mellon University and served as a coming out party for Schwartz who would go on to write music for Broadway hits Pippin and Wicked, is that of a series of parables celebrating the Gospel according to Saint Matthew.
These are interspersed with a variety of modern music, mixing melodic strains, gentle rock, gospel and folk, all leading to a passion of Christ scene featured near the end. But in a twist on the normal makeup of the play, often featuring all 10 cast members on stage the entire time singing and dancing in the streets of a major metropolitan city, Ms Quappe has called a few audibles to stamp the production as her own.
“Ours is set in a bar,” Ms Quappe said. “Jesus is the bartender. Bartenders are the ones we usually go to to chat about problems and things like that. Everybody (in the cast) is also from different clubbing eras, so we’ve got 1970s, 1920s. Each member is from a different era.
“It’s the same characters for the show, the same music, everything is the same,” Ms Quappe said. “Usually it’s set in a city street. That’s how I did it in college. But it’s just a different take. That was me sitting on my porch having a creative moment. What can I do to make it different? What can I do to make it my own?
“I’ve been doing this since I was literally 1-month-old,” she said. “I’ve been in a lot of shows, mostly musicals. I’ve played lead and been in the chorus. I’ve pretty much done everything, but this is the first time directing.”
“Godspell” was performed once before by the Cayman Drama Society in 1995. The play is a bit unique in that other than Jesus, played by Shane Allenger, and John and Judas, portrayed by actor-director Ms Quappe, the characters within the show aren’t named. The characters in this production performed by the Cayman Drama Society will use the names from the original script. The cast includes Jeffrey (Joe Roberts), Herb (Neil Hamaty), Joanne (Kate Allenger), Robin (Jacoline Frank), Peggy (Lisa Bowyer), Gilmer (Valerie Hoppe) and Babble Voice (Barrie Quappe).
Longtime Cayman Drama Society theatre manager Paul de Freitas said there is an air of anticipation regarding the return of Godspell to the Cayman Islands. He said despite the relative ease in terms of producing a play that is virtually one scene throughout, the audience will get a taste of a local talent whose contributions are likely to keep coming.
“The two most important things about Teri are a voice of magic, obviously coming from her parents, and a stage presence which is correct but commanding,” de Freitas said. “When you see Teri on stage she is a person who knows her way around. Her potential to lead theatre here in the Cayman Islands for a number of years is never in doubt.
“Whether it is drama, or whether it is music, we hope it will be both, she has a vision,” Mr. de Freitas said. “She has an understanding of what she wants to achieve.”
Ms Quappe, who returned to Grand Cayman last year and works as an emergency medical technician, floated the idea last summer of bringing “Godspell” back to the theatre. Upon approval, the script arrived this spring and it has been a constant undertaking for Ms Quappe with decisions to be made concerning choreography, costumes, lighting, set design and casting.
“I’ve had help along the way, but things are still my general ideas,” Ms. Quappe said. “It’s been very interesting, a good learning curve. I’ve never done anything behind the scenes, so there has been all that to deal with.
“I’m really nervous, but I think it will be good,” Ms Quappe said. “It’s kind of a relief to finally, finally get there.”
The Holey Spirits, the band, includes Chuck Quappe, Barrie Quappe, Bugs Wilson and Mark McTaggart.
Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children 13 and under. Pre-book tickets at 949-5054 or purchase at the door. The play will run Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights through 8 October at the Prospect Playhouse. There will be an afternoon show 9 October.