Theatrical Asset: Whaley directs pair of plays opening a week apart

Randy Parker/The Daily Tribune News
Bob Whaley is embracing the opportunity to bring a pair of productions to Cartersville’s arts community. Serving as the director for ACT I’s “Treasure Island” and The Pumphouse Players’ “Nightfall with Edgar Allan Poe,” the 32-year-old Cartersville resident is busy fine-tuning the plays, which will open a week apart in October. Pictured, Whaley indicates where the action on stage is supposed to move to. Right, Whaley emphasizes a point to a cast member of “Treasure Island.”
Considering the theatrical offerings “experiments in the abstract,” Bob Whaley is embracing the opportunity to bring a pair of productions to Cartersville’s arts community. Serving as the director for ACT I’s “Treasure Island” and The Pumphouse Players’ “Nightfall with Edgar Allan Poe,” the 32-year-old Cartersville resident is busy fine-tuning the plays, which will open a week apart.

“I’m currently running four rehearsals a week, two for each,” Whaley said. “This is on top of my regular job, and I also have a few side projects in the works. A huge goal for ACT I this season is we are looking for a building to call our home, so I’ve also been squeezing in looking at buildings and talking with Realtors. Very busy, but very exciting.

“... I would say my biggest challenge in directing both shows at once is keeping the rehearsal schedules straight in my head. And sleeping. That’s something I’ve been missing. The shows are so different in tone and content that I really haven’t had to worry about crossover in direction and vision.”

Gracing the stage first will be “Treasure Island,” which will be presented Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at The Grand Theatre, 7 N. Wall St. “Nightfall with Edgar Allan Poe” will be performed Oct. 20, 21, 27 and 28 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 22 at 3 p.m. at The Legion Theatre, 114 W. Main St.

“Our version of ‘Treasure Island’ takes place as flashbacks as the main characters relate their story to the Admiralty, and ‘Nightfall’ takes place entirely in the mind,” Whaley said. “I will say that for me, both of these shows have both been experiments in the abstract. In both productions, I’ve chosen to do a very limited set and focus on lighting and costumes. I do want to take the time to thank my lighting designers — Stevie Roushdi for ‘Treasure Island’ and Jason Branham for ‘Nightfall’ — and costume designer for both, Stacey Bern. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to pull off either of these shows.

“‘Nightfall’ is with The Pumphouse Players and my cast is all adults. With ‘Treasure Island,’ I do have a few adults, primarily alumni, but on the whole, it is a much younger cast. I’ve also got a lot of actors in ‘Treasure Island’ that have never done ACT I before and some that have never been onstage before at all. I do have one actor who is sharing my insanity. He’s in both ‘Treasure Island’ and ‘Nightfall,’ so shout out to Andrew Tucker.”

While “Nightfall” is comprised of eight actors — April Branham, Ashleigh Woodall, Cade Roberts, Caitlyn Keller, Duane Ellis, John Katrek, Juliana Silva and Tucker, “Treasure Island” will feature Tucker as Abraham Gray, Mr. Hawkins and Strong Seaman; Ashlee Bagnell as Admiralty/voice and Captain Jacobs; Evelyn Penn as Allardyce and Dirk O’Brien; Frederick Kittle as Ben Gunn; Reece McCamy as Billy Bones; Christian Jamili as Black Dog; Tyler Rawlins as Blind Pew and Strong Seaman; Adam Nix as Cabin Boy; Aiden Haynes as Cabin Boy; Gannon Kilgore as Cabin Boy; Nick Smith as Cabin Boy; Tanner Jordan as Captain Flint; Noah Ragus as Captain Smollett; Elizabeth Robertson as Dick Johnson; Ashley Elliot as Dr. Livesey; Trinity Haynes as George Merry and Strong Seaman; Jadyn Fortin as Harry; Kevin Owens as Israel Hands; Elena Bern as Jim Hawkins; Elizabeth Penn as Job Anderson; Emma Penn as John Hunter and Strong Seaman; Alex Fortin as Long John Silver; Carter McCamy as Lookout/voice; Celtia Stewart as Mr. Arrow; Tracy Easter as Nathan; Celtia Stewart as Parrot/voice; Chris Milligan as Squire Trelawney; Alex Fortin as Strong Seaman; Elizabeth Penn as Strong Seaman; Chloe Bacon as Tom Morgan; and Jonah Gendron as Tom Redruth.

“‘Treasure Island’ has long been one of my favorite stories, and Poe is America’s Shakespeare,” Whaley said. “With ‘Treasure Island,’ you experience a tale that was pivotal in romanticizing pirates in pop culture. Without ‘Treasure Island,’ we would not have Capt. Jack Sparrow and Peter Pan would have no nemesis. It was Robert Newton’s portrayal of Long John Silver in 1950 that gave us the quintessential pirate accent, full of ‘Arrrs’ and ‘Mateys,’ which has so woven itself into our culture that every Sept. 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. ‘Treasure Island’ is a coming-of-age story full of colorful characters and flashing swords. It’s the perfect adventure tale.

“Edgar Allan Poe was a master in every sense of the word. He was among the first of the Gothic writers to write of the terror that comes from within one’s own mind. The voices in your head are the thing that goes bump in the night with Poe. This is actually my second time directing ‘Nightfall.’ We did this production several years ago with ACT I, and it remains one of my favorite scripts. ‘Nightfall’ is an anthology show in that the cast portrays multiple roles throughout the production. The show consists of four Poe tales: ‘The Raven,’ ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.’”

Excited that Whaley is directing “Nightfall,” Branham, who also serves on the board of directors for The Pumphouse Players, is expecting the show to feature “beautiful and terrifying” moments for patrons.

“To say that Bob Whaley is an asset to The Pumphouse Players or any theatrical organization would be an understatement,” Branham said. “He is not only incredibly talented as an actor and as a director, but he is an amazing builder of sets. The construction of ... most of The Pumphouse Players’ sets is owed to Bob. Whether he realizes it or not, Bob has inspired many people, young and not-so-young, to become and remain involved with theater.

“I was thrilled to hear that he agreed direct this play, because he directed ‘Macbeth’ for last year’s Halloween show, and it was nothing short of amazing. I have no doubt that ‘Nightfall’ will be just as beautiful and terrifying.”

Along with taking part in numerous theatrical productions, Whaley serves as a technical assistant for The Grand Theatre, the same venue that introduced him to the stage 20 years ago.

“The first show I ever did was as part of The Grand Theatre’s Summer Theatre Camp program,” he said. “It was the 1997 Senior Camp production of ‘Grease.’ It literally changed my life. After that, I did as much theater as I could, primarily with Theater for Youth and then ACT I. I first got involved with The Pumphouse Players at the end of 2013 when I auditioned for ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas.’

“Since then, I’ve been extremely active with PHP and have won several Pumpie Awards. I was also nominated for a MAT Award for set design for PHP’s ‘Godspell.’ About three years ago, I was offered and accepted a position with The Grand Theatre as a technical assistant and jumped at the opportunity. As you can see, the Cartersville theater community is a huge part of my life and something I’m very passionate about.”

Referred to as the “backbone” of ACT I, Whaley is credited for naming the nonprofit that is tailored for students ages 12 to 20.

“ACT I was formed as a spinoff of Theater for Youth in 2002,” Whaley said. “The first board wanted to create a Christian-based youth theater company in Cartersville, and so that’s what they did. The story of the name isn’t that interesting, it’s just an acronym with a theatrical bent. ACT I stands for All-stars Community Theatre. I started as a participant, and I played Tevye in our inaugural production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ Since the beginning, I’ve been involved with every ACT I production except two.

“Through ACT I, I’ve had most of my theatrical ‘firsts.’ Direction, design, tech — all of these I did for the first time under ACT I. Eventually, I was made technical advisor to the board and then became the technical director of the company. In 2015, the current board decided to retire and the new board was installed — myself and Kristy Montgomery as copresidents, Lauren Alexandersen as vice-president and Amy Lawrence as secretary. Since then, we’ve worked on growing our company and our goal to make community theater a larger part of the community. This December, we’ll be opening our third Christmas collaboration with The Pumphouse Players — ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’”

For ACT I Copresident Kristy Montgomery, Whaley’s dedication to their organization is unparalleled.

“I’ve known Bob for 17 years, first as a fellow actor before we became board members in ACT I and eventually took over as copresidents,” Montgomery said. “ACT I truly could not exist without Bob Whaley. He is the backbone of our company, and the foundation that keeps us going. Bob and I often joke that we breathe ACT I; we talk about it constantly, and we’re always thinking about the future together.

“Bob is my partner in crime, and the one person in Cartersville I love to work with the most. One of the most exciting things has been watching how the rest of the theater community has come to realize how incredibly talented he is. Chances are, if you’ve seen a show in Cartersville with any group over the last few years, you’ve seen some of Bob’s handiwork — either as an actor, a director or a set designer. The creativity in him is unrivaled, and I am so blessed to know him. Cartersville’s artistic community is so lucky to have him.”

She continued, “It’s incredibly impressive that he’s directing two shows that open back to back. That’s an incredibly difficult task, but he’s managed to pull it off. I’m so excited to see both shows.”

Striving to help ACT I performers reach their full potential, Whaley is ecstatic to see alumni making their mark in the theater arena.

“Giving young actors the tools to succeed at their passions is the finest thing I’ve done with my life,” Whaley said. “We’ve had several alumni go on to New York and are currently pursuing careers in the industry, as well as alumni that are active in Atlanta’s growing market.

“The most enjoyable part about directing a show like ‘Treasure Island’ is showing these actors how to do what they thought was impossible. A very wise man once said, ‘We’ve done the impossible, and that makes us mighty.’ This is the lesson I try to teach my actors. All that and the rampant piracy of course.”

Tickets for “Treasure Island” and “Nightfall with Edgar Allan Poe” cost $17 and $18, respectively. For more information about ACT I’s production, contact The Grand Theatre at 770-386-7343 or view Further details about “Nightfall with Edgar Allan Poe” can be obtained online at or by calling 770-387-2610.

Last modified onSaturday, 07 October 2017 20:14
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