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Theater Director Helps Youth Have Fun in CCP Summer Play

Knowing how difficult rejection can be as an actor, Tanya Haas doesn’t want that rejection to discourage a young person just starting out exploring being on stage.

That’s why she only directs shows that are “no-cut.” The policy allows students who might never get to be on stage otherwise to participate in shows, she said.

“I love working with the students, both first-timers and those with some experience under their belts. I somewhat selfishly enjoy helping to mold young actors, encouraging those with little or no experience, challenging those with more experience,” Haas said.

While she considers herself an actress first, she gets “a different kind of satisfaction leading young actors through the course of putting on a production.”

She’s currently directing 15 youth, ages 11-18, who hail from in and around Hamilton County, in Carmel Community Players’ Rising Star production, “A Medley of Murders,” which opened Friday and continues through June 19 at Carmel Friends Church.

The two-hour show features three one-act humorous murder mysteries — “Cheating Death,” “Murder at the Art Show” and “Death of a Dead Guy” — the first two shows making up the first act, the third show making up the second act, and there will be at 15-minute intermission. Tickets are still available.

Haas, 49, of Carmel, a stay-at-home mom who has been involved with CCP for 14 years and is a former board member, directed CCP’s Rising Star production, “Back to the ‘80s,” in 2016, and experienced great success with the youth. So she was asked to direct again. While she will also direct Basile Westfield Playhouse’s youth production July 28-Aug. 7, Haas was able to “do some fancy footwork to make it all work,” but she was glad to fit it into her schedule.”

She said, “While most of the cast had at least some stage experience, in a few cases quite a lot, several are acting on stage for the first time.” Haas gets much joy from seeing the cast develop their skills over the course of the production.

Tanya Haas

“Everyone is nervous the first time they get up on stage no matter their age, so I think being around their more experienced peers and seeing how they aren’t afraid to get up in front of an audience and give their roles their all with no fear of judgment is extremely reassuring to the novice actors,” Haas said.

Auditionees simply had to read from the script so she could get an idea of their comfort level and ability to handle specific-sized roles. By the way, her son, Charlie Haas, 17, who is in the cast, is going into his senior year at Cathedral High School and won a Rising Star award for “Charlotte’s Web” several years ago.

The show is family friendly, although there are a lot of jokes that may go over the heads of some younger viewers, she said. “There are a couple of comments made about the dating lives of a few characters, but there is no swearing, no actual violence and no sexual situations.”

 “Death of a Dead Guy” takes place in the 1940s and is a parody of the old detective movies. In “Cheating Death,” the Grim Reaper appears to a group waiting for their group therapy session in a mental hospital. In “Murder at the Art Show, a struggling art gallery is trying to save themselves by hosting a gala and owner of the gallery wants it to fail so he can tear it down and build a sports complex, then one of their peers goes missing.

“This show is all about having fun, for both the cast and the audience,” Haas said. “The world is a very serious place right now and it’s nice to have a couple of hours to escape most of our everyday worries and anxieties.”

She said young casts particularly appreciate the support of audiences to affirm all the hard work they have put into a show. “While seeing seasoned professionals put on a flawless show is a wonderful experience, seeing kids who are laying it all out there knowing that they aren’t perfect but confident that the audience is going to support them anyway is a joy in and of itself.”

Because CCP doesn’t have its own theater space, actors rehearse in one venue and then move into the performance space the week of the show. So the set isn’t too elaborate, although each act is a very different setting. And the lights and sound are fairly simple since the church doesn’t have extensive light and sound equipment. The cast, under her supervision, acts as their own crew and helps get the scenes changed. CCP board member Lori Raffel is light and sound technician for the small amount of effects needed, Haas said.

Haas grew up in Cincinnati,  She’s been acting on stage for more than 35 years and has been involved in theater in this area since 2008.

While her oldest son, who is on the autism spectrum, was in high school, the mom had the idea to use theater for kids on the spectrum to learn about the nuances of reading facial expressions, tone of voice and body language, “something they often struggle with comprehending fully,” said Haas, who didn’t direct. She said, “We would perform shows for the other students in the very small school, and the kids soon learned that they could express themselves very freely when on stage, and didn’t have to worry about criticism from their peers and teachers if they messed something up.”

Haas is always involved in a production, she said. She was cast in “The Odd Couple” her freshman year in high school and ended up being in every show her high school produced, including two musicals. At University of Notre Dame, she immediately auditioned for “Noises Off” and got a role, and went on to perform in four more productions in college. She and her husband, who was in the U.S. Navy, are raising six children …(including guardianship of a niece and nephew.

Overwhelmed as a stay-at-home mom with six kids, she needed something for herself. So after 13 years off stage, she decided to break back into the theater world. “It made sense that my two loves, the theater and working with kids would lead me down this path,” she said.

Haas said, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work in person again with eager young actors … I would love to see the community come out to join the family and friends of the cast in supporting their efforts and letting them know that they always have people rooting for them, no matter what the world may throw their way.”

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

Meet THE CAST:

Charlie Haas, Jayda Flynn, and Kaavya Jethava, all of Carmel; Mason Yeater, Owen Yeater and Quinn Yeater, all of Cicero; Joey Brandenburg of Westfield; Isabella Bardos of Noblesville; Camren Davis of Elwood; Emerson Bobenmoyer, Ava Button, Kathryn Kirschner, Lilliana Rondinella, Veronica Rondinella and Morgan Rusbasan, all of Indianapolis.

Want TO GO?

What: Carmel Community Players presents “A Medley of Murders,” murder-mystery. comedy.

When: 7:30 p.m. June 11, 17, 18; and 2:30 p.m. June 12 and 19.

Where: Carmel Friends Church, 651 W. Main St., Carmel.

How much: $18 for adults, $16 for students and 62 and older.

Good to know: Family friendly featuring ages 18 and younger cast.

Reservations: https://carmelplayers.org/