The annual Homer Council on the Arts variety shows have mixed it up over the years. From simple talent shows they became “Out of the Woodwork,” the incarnation the last two years, where performers who might not have been on the stage were challenged to show their talent.
This year, musician and director Sally Oberstein had a different vision: step out. That’s step out as in, get out of your comfort zone, get together with people you might not know and do things you might not have done before. For Oberstein, that also meant, step out of the project, too.
Originally the show – now called, of course, “Stepping Out” – was planned for last fall. When that didn’t happen, and Oberstein was going to be away this winter, HCOA director Gail Edgerly enlisted the help of Jessica Williams.
A musical theater major with a bachelor of arts from Columbia College, Chicago, Williams has been working at HCOA this year helping run another project, its youth musical theater, and had acted in Oberstein’s “Re-run” comedy shows last summer.
“(Edgerly) just kind of dropped the hint that she was looking for someone to direct ‘Stepping Out,’” Williams said. “‘Wouldn’t it be fun, Jessica, to do it?’”
Williams didn’t quite know Oberstein’s full vision, so she came up with her own idea: a loose collection of acts knit together with writing by Peter Sheppard and Kate Rich. Kirk Olsen, one of the performers who does accompaniment on guitar with a few other acts, said Stepping Out also wanted to bring in local writers and poets.
“Nancy Chastain wrote an original short play. It’s just brilliant,” he said. “Every time I think about it, I laugh.”
“Stepping Out” runs in two acts 45-minutes long, with a short intermission.
“It’s hard for me to finalize the program to put it in some sort of order that made any sense, because they don’t have any place next to each other than these things we’ve added to create the flow,” Williams said.
The first act is sort of a “behind the scenes” on making the show. In the second act, you think you’re watching something, but the curtain is closed.
“You think it’s back to what you’d expect, but, uh uh, there are always surprises,” she said.
Acts themselves consist of numbers like modern pop, classical music, a rap comedy, poetry, dance, alternative music, jazz and then musical standards.
“It’s quite the eclectic bunch,” Williams said.
One thing Olsen said he liked about the show is how it created a sense of community, especially with people he hadn’t met before.
“This is very much where people are working together and cooperating with one another,” he said.
“There’s sort of a family sense you get with the Nutcrackers. You’re in this together.”
That’s the idea behind a show run by a community arts organization.
“It’s really about supporting the artists and supporting the community,” Edgerly said. “It’s a wonderful program for the artists themselves and, of course, audience makes all the difference.”
“Stepping Out” also means something personal for Williams: she’ll be moving away from Homer this June when her husband, Tristen, a Coast Guardsman serving on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hickory, is transferred to Seattle.
“This has been an amazing experience for me,” Williams said. “I’m just so grateful to the creative community in Homer. They’ve shown me all the kindness in the world and given me some amazing opportunities. I’m going to miss it.”
While “Stepping Out” is a fundraiser for the arts council, Big Brothers Big Sisters also holds a fundraiser before the show with food and a silent auction.
“Stepping Out” is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Mariner Theatre. Tickets are $5 youth and seniors, $10 HCOA members and $15 general admission.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
7:30 p.m. Saturday
$5 youth and seniors, $10 Homer Council on the Arts members, $15 general admission
Tickets at HCOA and the Homer Bookstore.
Jessica Anne Williams, creative director
Maura Jones, choreographer
Peter Sheppard, Kate Rich, original dialogue and scene work
Performers: Gus Beck, Nancy Chastain, Owen Duffy, Hannah Heimbuch, The Homer Ukulele Group/Society (HUGS), Maura Jones, Sabina Karwowski, Sunrise Kilcher, Steve Krause, Kirk Olsen, Margaret Quarton, Kate Rich, Amber Sapp, Peter Sheppard, Sierra Smith, Amelia Tyrer, Ben Tyrer, Trina Uvaas, Jessica Anne Williams, Lorraine Williams