By Dillon Walsh, Standard Correspondent
When Kevin Fitzpatrick — the director and co-producer of Pentangle’s 17th annual Community Showcase — realized the event was on the same night as the Woodstock High School prom, he knew the lineup would be affected.
“It was a significant portion of our talent pool which just was unavailable,” Fitzpatrick said. “So that was a bit of a problem.”
The showcase, which takes place this Saturday May 3 at 7:30 p.m., provides a platform for local community artists to perform. With a number of potential acts who wouldn’t be there, a void needed to be filled. As lighting and technical director for the local “Show Your Stuff” Woodstock Elementary School variety show, Fitzpatrick saw an opportunity while watching the technical rehearsal.
“As I thought about it I went, ‘You know, who might be some good kids here to invite into the show?’” With a number of talented younger acts set to help replace the acts who will be attending prom, Fitzpatrick says that was just one of the concerns he had about the showcase this year.
“One of the things that I get a little nutty about is having the audience sitting there watching the stage crew do their thing for too long,” Fitzpatrick said. “There’s times when you got to close the curtain because there’s something that needs to be set or struck behind the curtain for the next time that curtain needs to open. So in the meantime, you have to have something going on in front of the curtain.”
Together with co-producer and musical director Bob Merrill, they found a solution in the Valley Improv group last year. Wanting to make sure that each year isn’t the same, Fitzpatrick cites the spontaneity of their performance and their talent as more than enough reasons to invite them back.
“It was really engaging for the audience. Obviously it’s funny — you never know what you’re going to get,” Fitzpatrick said.
The goal every year is making sure from a technical and musical standpoint, the show flows as smooth as possible. With Fitzpatrick’s technical background and Merrill’s background as a professional piano player, their combined skills make them perfectionists when it comes to making that happen— even if they have to remove some acts.
This included the emcee portion of the show, which was used to introduce every act. As Merrill explains, this was removed in part because of the cohesion both Merrill and Fitzpatrick want with the diverse set of acts, which range from dancers, singers, musicians and more.
“There’s a lot of interaction between the acts — there’s different people that are doing their own thing but are also doing stuff with other people,” Merrill said. “We’re trying to keep it more like a cast than just a set of acts.”
Removing the emcee portion for this year means Fitzpatrick and Merrill needed a new way to introduce the acts. This will be done by having a slide projection project cards with the act names on the wall. While Fitzpatrick says everyone enjoyed the performance of the emcees, the time the cards saved is vital to making the tightest show possible.
“That really helped remove 20-30 minutes from the evening,” Fitzpatrick said.
As rehearsals wind down, Merrill is focused on learning the music that will accompany certain acts, in which he will be playing live piano and keyboard for some of them.
“Mostly it’s just a lot of different people to rehearse and a lot of different music to play,” Merrill said.
For some of that music, he’ll be joined by someone he is quite familiar playing with. “David Westphalen is playing bass with me. He’s a leader of a local band called Swing Machine that I play with,” Merrill said.
Both Merrill and Fitzpatrick are immensely proud of putting on showcases that have been not only enjoyable for the audience, but for the artists themselves — something they hope to achieve this year. Those who won’t be at prom and are interested in attending can find tickets at pentanglearts.org.