GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - As Defiance Community Players rehearsed its fall production Monday night at the Jeannie Miller Theatre, a little girl sat seven rows back from the stage. She watched intently as actors sang and danced through the first act, rarely taking her eyes off the brightly lit stage. Wearing a purple bow in her hair, the girl bore a strikingly resemblance to the show's choreographer, Jennetta Howell, when she was around the same age. That's according to the show's producer and Howell's mother, Jacquie Meitler. She is also grandmother to Howell's 4-year-old daughter Kaylie, the quiet girl who sat seven rows back to intently watch the animated dress rehearsal. Much like her mom."Jennetta was down here with Carl and I when she was as young as 2 or 3," said Meitler, who has been acting with her husband in the community theatre company since its early beginnings in the late 1970s. "The kids would be in the corner in their sleeping bags, and by the end of the show they would know our lines." This month, Carl Meitler returns to the stage alongside his producer/actor wife and choreographer daughter in Defiance's production of the Broadway hit, "Urinetown The Musical." He plays the role of villain Caldwell B. Cladwell in the musical, which opens tonight and runs through Nov. 18."It's an amazing experience to watch them and direct them," Howell said, of her thespian parents. "This show is going to knock people's socks off. It's going to be a hoot."
The Tony Award-winning musical mockingly brings greed and corruption center stage as a town battles over its limited water supply. Everyone must use, and pay to use, public toilets controlled by "Urine Good Company." A new round of fee hikes is in the works, rebels are hiding out in the sewers, and a dark secret is about to be revealed."Believe it or not, it is about water as a resource and what has happened to it in this mystical town," Jacquie Meitler said. "The story is going to entertain you. It has a surprise ending. People need to come and see this fractured fairytale," she added.The Meitlers aren't the only acting family helping to bring the "Urinetown" production to the Jeannie Miller Theatre. Glenwood Springs High School senior Griffen Rowe-Gaddis, who plays Mr. McQueen, and 12-year-old Noah Rowe-Gaddis, as Officer Barrel, are the sons of Gayla Gaddis-Rowe, a Defiance alumna, longtime drama coach, and GSHS assistant principal. "That goes back to that family sense of Defiance, and we call all the kids who have been in our shows the Defiance Kids," Jacquie Meitler said. "It takes a village to do wonderful things. We are all very good mentors to our student actors. Everyone's singing and dancing in the show. "From a producer's vision, I have a dream team. This is community theatre," she added.
Inspiring an appreciation of theatre in kids is what motivates Jacquie Meitler to continue Defiance's mission. Since 1997, Defiance Community Players has awarded 153 scholarships totaling $21,000 to aspiring theatrical artists. "This is why I can't retire. The kids keep bringing me back," she said. "I've had parents tell me we've changed their kids' lives. I watch them bloom on stage. We have actors, dancers, writers, and opera singers in the industry right now because of the scholarship program."The musical's director, Tom Cochran, was eager to once again join his producer friend Meitler, choreographer Howell and music director Brad Vierheller for the fall production. Cochran considers it a privilege to work with the 27 community cast members ranging in age from 12 to 69."I love the enthusiasm people bring to it," he said. "They always want to do a good job and that comes through." Cochran said he was also motivated to direct by the musical itself, which he describes as cutting edge - and not just because the name makes people do a double take."It has a real edge to it," he said. "It's real life, yet it plays absolute homage to the Broadway classics. I hope we can all laugh and enjoy the beautiful music."