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Professional coaches HHS actors

Staff writer

The cast of Hillsboro High School’s upcoming production of “Beauty and the Beast” got coaching during a recent rehearsal from Don Winsor, a professional actor who performed in a touring production of the musical.

“I offered them some notes on character, mostly, and at this level, it’s always good to give the chorus/ensemble a reminder of just how important they are to the success and energy of a show,” Winsor said. “They don’t get the respect or notice that the leads do, but as they say, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

“In ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in particular, it’s vital that every single member of the ensemble has a strong idea of who their character in the village is,” he added. “If they don’t know, how can the audience?”

Winsor also worked with the leads of the musical.

“It’s great to get to hear their perspectives and help them along the path toward finding their characters in their own way,” he said. “Since I did ‘Beauty and the Beast’ a lot for a couple of years, as either the Beast or Gaston in several different productions, I’ve already worked through a lot of the questions and problems that are inherent in the show.”

Winsor was a student of director Lynn Just when she taught at Peabody-Burns High School. That was when he got his start in theater. Winsor graduated in 1992.

“High school is when I discovered my passion for it, which is terribly late compared to most people I’ve worked with,” Winsor said.

He continued pursuing a career in theater after high school, earning a degree from the New School in New York City.

Winsor has spent considerable time as part of touring theater companies.

“I have done a good many different tours of all shapes and sizes, from traveling the country with five other people in a big van doing Shakespeare or children’s theater to big tours where you’re usually flown from place to place and you do at least a week in each city,” he said. “It’s been a while since I did that, but it’s a very unique lifestyle. You get to play all sorts of venues, from new state-of-the-art facilities to historic old theaters that have stood the test of time.

“In retrospect, while it wasn’t so great at the time, probably the most rewarding work I did back then was the smaller stuff I did,” Winsor said. “When we were playing cities that didn’t get a lot of professional live theater. It’s much more special to them.

“Especially for kids in small towns where I grew up, who have no idea what on earth it is they’re experiencing,” he continued. “To have been a part of opening their eyes to a larger world and help make them curious about it and the arts, that’s probably the most important work you could do as an actor.”

Just said she thought Winsor’s work with the cast was helpful.

“The suggestions he had for the leads were especially good,” she said.

Some of what he suggested had already been addressed in rehearsals, she said.

“It made me feel like I was on the right track,” Just said.

HHS will present “Beauty and the Beast,” 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in the high school auditorium. Tickets cost $5 and are available from the high school office or by calling (620) 947-3991.

Last modified Nov. 18, 2010

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