Three generations of Defiance Glenwood take stage in ‘Oliver!’ the musical
IF YOU GO …What: Oliver! The Musical When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday this weekend and next; 2 p.m. Sunday matinees Where: Jeannie Miller Auditorium, Glenwood Springs High School, 1521 Grand Ave. Admission: Seniors/students: $15; Others: $20
For over 40 years, Defiance Community Players has been bringing families together on and off the stage.
When Jacquie Meitler and her family moved to the Roaring Fork Valley, she believed joining Defiance would be a great way to meet new friends and share her passion for local community theater.
Meitler says she has been in or involved in every Defiance production since her first role in “Music Man” in the mid-1980s.
“I didn’t really audition the first time, I was so nervous,” she said. After skipping out on the audition she learned the chorus to the play and snuck into rehearsals. Meitler has fond memories of then-director Jeannie Miller telling her next time she wanted to be in a show she had to audition.
More then 30 years later, her granddaughter Kaylie Howell, 9, will take the stage with her for opening night of Lionel Bart’s “Oliver” Friday at Glenwood Springs High School, marking the third generation of the family to perform as a member of Defiance.
a family affair
“I’m really excited to be in the show with my granddaughter. I was standing in the wings the other night and I was crying because I was having deja vu of when my daughter was in the ‘Wizard of Oz,’” Meitler said. “I told a castmate that they were tears of happiness. I’m just so proud I get to share this with her now.”
Jennetta Howell, Jacquie’s daughter, a veteran Defiance player, Defiance board president and “Oliver” choreographer, will be watching in the wings.
“I have to remember to watch everyone else, I love watching and seeing what she [Kaylie] does,” Howell said. “It’s fun to see her be the character, she takes my breath away.”
For Jennetta, Defiance Community Players was the start of a dream that blossomed into a professional acting career.
Howell worked in New York City and Los Angeles as an actor, singer and dancer before coming back to the valley with her husband James and their two children.
Jennetta has vivid memories of attending rehearsals and plays as a young child with her mother.
“I just went along. I remember just being in the theater,” Howell said. “I remember that I couldn’t wait to get to audition, but I wasn’t quite old enough yet, ”
Depending on the play, a child actor had to be 9 to audition for a Defiance production.
Howell’s first role as the youngest daughter in “Fiddler on the Roof” came just after her 9th birthday. A few years later, she landed her first leading role in the “Wizard of Oz.”
“I worked really hard. I really wanted to participate,” she said.
Over the years, Howell has been in or involved with 15-20 Defiance productions.
“What an experience. I was just thinking about how many people shaped who I am because of working with adults since that age,” Howell said. “I really have so much respect for our town, and all the people I got to work with and know. That’s really special and dear to my heart.”
“I remember our first show together, because when we went into the theater I told her I’m not her mom now,” Meitler said.
“I’m just a fellow actor, and you’re responsible to be where you are, know your lines, and if you have a problem don’t bring it to me, bring it to your producer, director or stage manager. We can talk about things when we go home.”
“I just gave that speech to Kaylie,” Howell said, with Kaylie shaking her head and both mother and daughter laughing.
“Oliver” isn’t Kaylie’s first acting gig; she says she has been in eight productions already and even made her professional debut this past spring at Thunder River Theatre in Carbondale.
“I auditioned for a TRTC’s production in Carbondale, and I was the only kid there,” Kaylie said. “It was for ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes.’ It was amazing.
“It’s fun to have a family in theater, working and going to rehearsals together and just talking about what I can do better,” Kaylie said about her new role as an orphan in “Oliver.”
Friday’s opening night also marks the comeback of Defiance after a two-year hiatus from the valley.
Defiance began in 1972 and has given countless performances over the years and introduced Broadway shows like “Music Man,” “Annie,” “Meet Me In St. Louis,” and “Les Miserables,” to the valley over the last four decades.
Friday’s opening will start a six-show, two-week run for Defiance, with the show beginning at 7 p.m. in Jeannie Miller Auditorium at GSHS.
“The best part about opening night for me is that it is always friends and family,” Meitler said. “It’s a different energy. This is my 57th production, and I still get the jitters; just the anticipation of the show.”
The production will continue with 7 p.m. shows Saturday, Friday, Nov. 16, and Saturday, Nov. 17. There will be two Sunday matinee shows Nov. 11 and Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.
When asked about opening night Kaylie Howell said, “I’m pretty happy about it. I think it will be fun to have a crowd.”
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