Working for the Magic: Lessons from the Theater

On closing night, the cast of Crimes of the Heart watched in dismay as black clouds thickened and raindrops soaked their stage, an outdoor patio behind Merced's Mansion House restaurant. Cancellation seemed like a frustrating ending to intense rehearsals and a successful run too frustrating to accept. They decided to perform in a small banquet room upstairs, instead.

Regan Tomford, who played Lenny Magrath in that production, remembers the show as one of the most satisfying in her many years of acting. We were missing certain props, so we altered our blocking and a few lines accordingly, she says. I learned a lot that evening.

That's saying something for Tomford, who has been acting since her toddler years. Her love for theater grew through school performances and her college years at Washington and Lee University, and then as she returned to Merced.

This area is good for drama buffs, Tomford says. Playhouse Merced has a full season with something for everyone. The Merced Shakespeare Festival will launch its fourth season in May. The Mainzer Theater and the Multicultural Arts Center have become valuable venues to promote the arts. Merced College also offers theater productions and concerts.

Tomford works in academic personnel for UC Merced, which keeps her busy, as the university plans to have 60 professors on board for opening day in September 2005. However, she continues to participate in plays on the side, including Shakespeare's As You Like It, Titanic, and the previously mentioned production of Crimes of the Heart.

The schedule can be grueling. There have been times during the week immediately before opening that I have wondered why I ever wanted to perform, she says. But the first time I see everybody in costume under the lights, I'm reminded of the magic of the theater. I am reminded of the many reasons I absolutely love it.

The hard work of preparing for a big opening is not lost on Tomford's professional life. She says music and theater have helped her look for creative solutions in the workplace and increased her sense of teamwork. Watch for her beaming smile when the curtain goes up on UC Merced next September.

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