Homer Alaska - Arts

Story last updated at 9:01 PM on Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Out of the Woodwork discovers hidden talent



Photo by Sally Oberstein

From left to right, Marcia Lynn, Gaye Wolfe, Sam Smith and Cindy McKenna rehearse an act last Saturday for "Out of the Woodwork."

Following last year's groundbreaking success, the Homer Council on the Arts' annual talent show returns at 7 p.m. Saturday in the second year of a new format. After years as World Café, a loose collection of variety acts, last year HCOA came up with a different concept.

What if the call went out to performing artists who had never or rarely been on stage? What if seasoned musicians and directors worked with them to polish their acts and stage presence?

The result: a fast-paced evening of short acts showcasing people familiar to town, but not necessarily known as performers.

"It kind of faded out," HCOA director Gail Edgerly said of the old World Café. "We wanted it to come back with a whole new flavor that was inviting and inclusive and fresh."

After the call went out, performers auditioned at HCOA. Once acts were selected, artistic director and producer Sally Oberstein worked with them to polish their acts.

"This is what I want to do on stage," Edgerly said performers would say in their auditions. "The director's job is to make it happen."

What amazed Oberstein was who showed up.

"You can just expect there's talent in Homer, but I'm just surprised and delighted at who has come out of the woodwork," she said.

Seasoned singers like Sunrise Sjoeberg and Sue Butler return. New this year is Jan Dellinger, by day a clinical psychotherapist.

"She's got a voice that will knock you out," Oberstein said. "She's really surprising."

Artist Gaye Wolfe reveals a new side to her talent: torch song chanteuse.

"You look at her, she's so comfortable doing it, it's shocking," Oberstein said.

Another big surprise is Jessica Williams, Oberstein said.

"She's fantastic. She's just so good," she said.

Many acts perform music and poetry by well known artists, like Stephen Foster and Robert Frost. The show features original works, though. Lindianne Sarno, who plays about as many instruments as she has fingers, does her own "The Ballad of El Ojito."

"I love this song. I'd steal it and sing it myself, it's so cute," Oberstein said.

Poet Ela Harrison Gordon recites her own "Saskatoonberry" and "Supernova," a poem for the parents of Lucas Irons, who recently died unexpectedly at age 25.

Stage manager and technical director Pat McNary has written an original series of skits, "Audition," acted by Sarah Jane Johnson and Michael McKinney.

Some of the performers were totally new to her, Oberstein said.

"A lot of these people, you've never heard of," she said. "That is one of the glorious pieces I'm encountering this time."

Part of Out of the Woodwork's appeal last year was the tight arrangement of acts. Last year, the acts kept coming, short and sweet. Oberstein arranged the acts this year to keep up audience interest. She also worked with performers to develop stage presence.

"Some of these people literally never sang in a microphone before," Oberstein said. "They learned how to do it. They take direction well."

In some cases, all she had to do was get performers to loosen up. One group of salty mariners had done a series of sea chanteys at the Salty Dawg for the wooden boat festival.

"When you see them singing at the Salty Dawg, they're stomping their feet and whooping it up," Oberstein said.

In rehearsal, they acted like stiffs. Whoop it up again. They got the idea.

Oberstein said she thinks this year's production of Out of the Woodwork will be just as amazing as in 2011.

"The audience will laugh, reminisce, sigh, clap their hands, sing along and be dazzled," she said. "I'm hoping they'll come out of the woodwork for it."

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.