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Neil Simon’s ‘Rumors’ Opens in Westfield

(Photo courtesy of Basile Westfield Playhouse)
The cast of “Rumors” rehearse for the show, which opens Thursday and continues through June 12 at Basile Westfield Playhouse.

Comedic timing isn’t easy. The key is for actors to play the action as reality.

“The moment actors start playing comedy, they ruin it,” said Jen Otterman director for Basile Westfield Playhouse’s next play, Neil Simon’s “Rumors,” opening Thursday.

“This show has a great deal of glib delivery that has to be authentic,” she said. “Comedy has to be fast paced, and the lines have to be laid out but sound believable and natural. It can be learned, but it helps when an actor has some training, some innate talent and is able to share the stage and be comfortable with both taking the focus and giving the focus to his/her fellow actors.”

Otterman said this show is “high energy” and “very collaborative.”

This show wasn’t even on her radar. “Rumors” was submitted by another director more than three years ago and “was supposed to go up prior to Covid,” she said. “That director’s husband took a new job across the country and so Ka’Lena (Cuevas), who was the original producer, asked me to step in and take the show on. Then Covid happened and thus the show got delayed until now.”

Otterman said, “I joyfully took the show because I think it is one of the best comedies we have.”

She acted in the show several years ago at The Red Barn Summer Theatre in Frankfort, playing the role of Chris Gorman. Then she directed the show, along with my colleague Mary Armstrong, while she was a drama teacher at Hamilton Southeastern High School. “So, this is my third time to work on this script.”

The retired teacher knows the show and the roles well. In fact, so does one of her actors.

Jen Otterman

“The actor playing Ernie, Jason Vernier, played this same role for me back when he was one of my high school students at Hamilton Southeastern. I believe this was about 29 years ago. So … it has been delightful to see him develop his character a second time, using his life experience sing being a student,” Otterman said.

Also, Josh Elicker, “who is playing Lenny, trained at Second City in Chicago and had, as one of his teachers, a man who I used to act with at The Red Barn Summer Theatre in Frankfort, proving the six degrees of separation theory is accurate,” she said.

The show’s set is beautiful. Otterman designed it herself.

“My original set builder was injured building a set for another theater, and so my producer was able to get Robert Rave, who recently built other sets for Basile Westfield (Playhouse) to step in,” she said. “My dear friend from South Carolina, Jay Mitchell, who I did high school theater with, built some set stair units and drove them all the way back to Noblesville to help me with the construction. He stayed at my house, and he and I, along with Robert, spent about 10 days building from about 10 o’clock in the morning to 5 o’clock in the afternoon. I then rushed home to shower and drive back for rehearsal at 7 p.m. I am still working on it. In fact, I will be at the theater tomorrow afternoon hopefully finishing it up,” she said late Sunday night.

Her costumer is Linda Grow, who Otterman met last summer while directing Noblesville Cultural Art Commission’s Shakespeare in the Park production.” She is wonderfully talented, and I was thrilled when she agreed to take on this role even though she was heading to Scotland for a week. She is a joy to work with.”

Otterman has more than 55 years of theatrical experience, acting in a multitude of productions and directing more than 50 plays at Hamilton Southeastern High School. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Speech/Theatre and Psychology from Indiana University and a master’s degree in Theatre Performance from Northwestern University. For 29 years, she wrote the curriculum for and taught Public Speaking, Advanced Placement Composition, Creative Writing and Acting classes I-IV. She was a long-standing member of the Institute for Recruitment of Teachers Advisory Board and one of the authors for the Department of Education’s state standards for theater. Since retirement, she’s been directing plays for community theater.

What’s up next for Otterman?

She will conduct auditions on Monday and Tuesday for the 30th anniversary of Shakespeare in the Park, the play, “Hamlet,” which will be onstage July 27-30 at Federal Hill Commons in Noblesville, and then will take a hiatus until directing “Crimes of the Heart” for The Belfry Theatre’s 58th year, during the 2022-23 season.

– Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.

Want TO GO?

What: Main Street Production presents the comedy, “Rumors,” an elegant farce by Neil Simon..

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, June 2-12.

Where: Westfield Playhouse, 220 N. Union St., Westfield.

How much: $17 for adults, $15 for ages 17 and younger (with identification) and 62 and older, $15 for students with ID, free to active military and veterans with identification.

Reservations required: Call 317-402-3341 or visit www.westfieldplayhouse.org/. No late seating.

What’s next: Auditions for summer youth production, “30 Reasons Not To Be In A Play,” are noon to 2 p.m. June 4 and 6:30-8:30 p.m. June 5. Entry through front lobby doors; auditions will be upstairs.

Meet THE CAST:

Chris Gorman – Laura Givens, Carmel; Ken Gorman – Robert Webster Jr., Indianapolis; Claire Ganz –  Monya Wolf, Indianapolis; Lenny Ganz – Josh Elicker, Carmel; Ernie – Jason Vernier, Indianapolis (formerly Noblesville); Cookie – Kelsey Van Voorst, Fishers; Glenn Cooper – Ian Hauer, Noblesville; Cassie Cooper – Sara Castillo Dandurand, Carmel; Officer Welch – Nathaniel Taff, Indianapolis; and Officer Pudney/Myra – Nicole Amsler, Noblesville.

Meet THE PRODUCTION CREW

Producer – Ka’lena Cuevas, Fishers; Director – Jen Otterman, Noblesville; Assistant Director/Stage Manager – Nicole Amsler, Noblesville; Lighting Designer – Eric Matters, New Palestine; Lights Operator – Aaron Ploof, Noblesville; Sound Designers – Eric Dixon, Indianapolis, and Jeff Coss, Westfield; Sound Operators – Eric Dixon and Sloan Haywood, Fishers; Costumes – Linda Findley Grow, McCordsville; Properties – Molly Kraus, Fishers; Set Construction – Robert Rave, Zionsville, Jay Mitchell, South Carolina, Jen Otterman; Set Decorating – Jen Otterman, Molly Kraus, Nicole Amsler