Annette Hutton always wanted a lot of children, 25 to be exact.
While she may be the natural mother to three, now in her 21st year of productions with Hutton’s Hamlet Summer Theater workshop, it’s fair to say she has far exceeded touching the lives of more than 25 children.
This Friday and Saturday, July 5 and 6, audiences may once again be entertained by local talent as the theater program presents its third of five productions for the 2019 summer season. The show is The Wild, Wild, Wildest West with performances at 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday.
Hutton shared, she feels she learned a lot through her teaching credential and spending a decade as a teacher. Yet the lessons of the summer theater program would have to come with time. Hutton admitted when the program first began, she felt she had to do it all.
“We did four plays that first year and it didn’t go well,” she said. “It went poorly, because I thought I should do everything myself.”
The following summer she and husband Richard hosted just one production. Through that experience the couple learned pacing the productions and working through a timeline in the two week workshop period was critical to the production success as well as her sanity.
“About eight years ago I started using help,” she shared, “which has made a huge difference.”
According to the director/producer, 80 percent of her students return each summer. Each summer workshop typically sells out. Utilizing alumni has proven to be not only helpful for Hutton, but beneficial for the alum as well. It gives them opportunity to not just apply all that they’ve learned but grow as artists as well.
Hutton also relies on the talents and commitment of Carol McVey who designs as well as paints all the sets. In late winter, Hutton forwards the scripts to the artist and she begins working on sketches immediately.
“The production value has gone up so much higher,” she said of year one to present day, “but it’s still about the kids.”
With such a large return rate, Hutton exercises caution and rarely looks at the sign up list prior to the night before the start of any given workshop.
“It’s not really fair to the people that are new,” she said of looking at the list too soon and pre-conceived casting with those that are returning.
“You know what I look at, I look at how they get along with other people,” she said of day one of the workshop. “If they think it’s all about them. You can tell immediately if they think it’s all about them. Sometimes they don’t listen. That shows something to me.”
Hutton utilizes games with group participation, as well as lots of role playing and interaction with the students the first day to help cast the parts for the coming production.
“I really try and look for plays that have spoken parts for everybody,” she said of preparing for each summer workshop during the off season. “Even if it’s only a couple lines.
“Every child is different. Every child’s needs are different,” Hutton stated of production casts, which average about 25-plus. The theater enthusiast shared the importance of teaching the youth to be supportive of one another, regardless the size of the part.
“I want them all to look good,” she said. “I think it’s important to make them understand, my (the student’s) job is to look good and make everyone out here look good. I tell them they need to show me their best self.”
Twenty one seasons later, Hutton still finds joy in each production. As the casts have grown and matured, so too has their leader, noting a sense of less stress and more ease going into the shows.
“I think what really tickles me the most is to see the positive change in the kids,” she noted of their growth while with her. “Their confidence, coming out of their shell, connecting with others like them.”
For more information on Hutton’s Hamlet future productions or to be placed on the mail list for the 2020 production season, visit www.huttonshamlet.org.
“I really wanted a lot of children,” Hutton summarized. “What I realize was back then, I really needed love. But now I really feel like I know how to love these kids. I love the crowd of kids. I just love them.”