Glenn and Sue Reese have spent some time on the stage, but most of their time nowadays is dedicated to making sure students at Fermi High School are center stage.
Glenn is an Enfield native who graduated from Fermi High School, while Sue moved to Enfield at age 5 and graduated from Enfield High School. They've both been involved in theater since the mid 1970s; in their first show together, they played the Jane Fonda and Robert Redford roles in "Barefoot in the Park". They spent several years acting, directing and producing with the Freshwater Players, and then with Valley Repertory Company.
Sue coached drama at Enfield High for three years, and at Fermi High for seven years through 1996. They returned to the Fermi Lamplighters in 2005, and have expanded the annual season to two major productions, as well as an original one-act play depicting the dangers of drinking and driving on prom night and several community service projects.
This weekend, the Reeses will once again direct a Lamplighter production. The Fermi Lamplighters will present "Mirror Image...A Real Enchanted Musical" on Friday, April 1 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 2 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 general admission, $5 for students and senior citizens and will be available at the door. All performances will be held at Enrico Fermi High School, 124 North Maple Street, Enfield.
In preparation for the performances, the Reeses took a few minutes to visit with Enfield Patch.
Q: Many people know that you advised both JFK and Fermi's drama clubs when your boys were in school. What motivates the two of you to continue the role since your sons have moved on to college?
A: We both love theater and working with kids, so it's a match made in heaven. The experience of being involved in a major production gives kids so many life skills: working as a team, speaking in front of people, a great sense of cooperation and commitment, not to mention the self-esteem building that comes from participating in a successful show. It's a lot of work, but when you see how much it adds to the lives of so many kids, it's worth it.
Q: You have always been good at finding productions that can involve large numbers of students. Have you seen a significant increase in students showing an interest in participating, and is it a challenge to find quality pieces that can support large casts?
A: The number of students participating in Lamplighters has grown dramatically in the last six years. In 2006, we had two graduating seniors; this year we have 22. There are 63 kids involved in "Mirror Image", and over the course of a year, we work with approximately 85 different kids. Lamplighters is one of the largest clubs at Fermi. It is incredibly challenging to find quality shows with large casts. We look for good shows with rich characters, a strong story line and "expansion potential". For most of our shows, we have written pre-show entertainment, additional scenes, staged large choruses and/or added walk-on parts so that new members can test the waters of being onstage.
Q: Can you share the timetable you have when planning for a production? I think people may not realize the significant time commitment on your part and the students, from reading commitees to select the play, set design and construction, to final product.
A: We meet with a Reading Committee of students at our house over the summer. We all research possible titles, order many scripts, and then read, review and rate each one. Our goal is to choose a fall show and spring show before school starts in September. Auditions are typically held during the first week of school, and rehearsals begin within the next week. The Fermi Lamplighters rehearse twice a week for approximately 12 weeks. During the week before the show, the cast, backstage crew and technical crew are practicing every night. There are a multitude of tasks that also happen during those 12 weeks: set design, construction and painting, costume design, construction and purchase, make-up and hair design, prop gathering, lighting and sound design as well as all the business aspects: publicity, tickets, posters, programs, tshirts, volunteer recruiting, refreshments, etc. If the show is a musical, you have to add time for singing and choreography. It's a very busy schedule and teaches the kids the true meaning of "commitment".
Q: Please tell our readers how others in the community, including other parents whose children have graduated, continue to support the Lamplighters?
A: The Fermi Lamplighters are often viewed as a "family". When we asked our graduating seniors to write a short biography for their final program, they were given free reign as to the contents of their paragraph. This year, 15 of 22 mentioned the "family" feel of the group and their gratitude to the adult volunteers. And the adults are just as fond of the kids. Watching them grow as actors and as young adults is extremely rewarding. Bob Liddell (lighting design/execution and set construction) and Jill Liddell (costume design, make-up and hair design, wardrobe) have remained with the group since their daughter graduated in 2008. Shelley Brown (graphic designer, props) is still an active contributor even though her daughter graduated in 2010. Beth Pizzuto (script supervisor) remained with us after her son graduated in 2009 and now has a second son in the program. Maryellen Turgeon joined us last year. These people are at every rehearsal. We also have a large number of parents who come in to help with construction and painting, as well as volunteering their time on show nights: working at the box office, selling refreshments, selling flowers, etc. The students can't help but feel good about themselves and what they are doing with this many supportive adults behind them. It really is one big happy family.
Q: While I know it is sometimes hard to find, what do you both like to do in your free time?
A: Our biggest joy is watching our sons grow at college. Since they are both performers, we are often found watching them at jazz concerts, football and basketball games, operas, ballroom dance competitions, and numerous musical events. At home, Sue loves photography and scrapbooking when indoors, but when the weather turns warm, she spends the summer landscaping and gardening. Glenn enjoys running, golf and woodworking.