It's a dreary Wednesday evening in Bend, but inside Open Space Event Studios, a glowing gaggle of children are hustling to their seats. Opening night is fast approaching, and director, David DaCosta, has much to accomplish before tonight's rehearsal concludes.
The actors sit along the cinder brick walls, opening scripts, practicing lines and songs, focused, it appears, on the scenes-du-jour.
DaCosta, who is the founder of Thoroughly Modern Productions and the director, oversees this group of around 20 children and a handful of adults, who will star in the upcoming performances of "The Sound of Music" at the Tower Theatre.
This is TMP's signature program, "The Intensive," which, according to DaCosta, "is designed to bring youth performers and adults together in a professional atmosphere, creating relevant and moving theatrical experiences for Central Oregon audiences."
"The Sound of Music" is certainly relevant and one of the most beloved musicals of all time, having stood the test of time for over 50 years.
When asked why he chose this musical, DaCosta explains, "A major goal of our educational component...is to expose our youth to as many forms and genres of musical theater as possible. Performing and experiencing a Rodgers and Hammerstein's production is essential to our goal, and under our adult/youth format, 'Sound of Music' is the perfect choice."
However, it wasn't quite as simple as deciding to produce the show."The licensing company had restricted the rights due to regional and revival productions across the nation and abroad," DaCosta shares. "It took nearly five years before we finally got the rights this year."
Based on the 1949 memoir of Maria Von Trapp, "The Sound of Music" takes place in Austria during World War II in the home of a widowed naval officer and his seven children.
When a young, novice nun arrives at the Von Trapp villa as their governess, she is enamored by the children and their stern father, who soon come to share her love of music. Maria eventually marries Captain Von Trapp, and the family grows together musically under the backdrop of Nazi-ruled Austria.
Since its inception in 2014, TMP's programs have grown in number and productions, and one challenge DaCosta faces now is providing enough opportunity for the staggering number of local actors who show up. To accommodate as many as possible, DaCosta has created three distinct casts of the Von Trapp children, aptly named, "Do," "Re" and "Mi."
A member of the "Do" cast, 14-year-old Aurora Dixon, plays Liesl, the eldest of the Von Trapp children. She says, "Theater is my life."
Having been involved in acting since she was in kindergarten, Dixon says her favorite part of this production is the personal growth she finds through her character. "I'm loving my little family!" she beams excitedly.
"There is a sense of vulnerability, though," Dixon goes on to share, "Everyone's looking at you, criticizing you, but in a good way."
That vulnerability isn't stopping her anytime soon. She sees a future in acting and says, "I want to go on (with it) as long as I can."
For other members of the "Do" cast, this is their first performance. Both Natalie Broadman, who plays Gretl, and Lincoln Nealy, who plays Kurt, have never acted before but are enjoying the experience.
"I like the attention," Nealy says with a smile, "and the music really pumps you up."
Although he's uncertain if he'll do another play after this one, he says his primary goal is "to have fun."
Broadman, who seems to be in perpetual motion, has learned about World War II through the play and says acting "clears my mind." Although she does feel nervous at times, she says, "I feel more focused when I'm playing Gretl than I usually do."
Managing three casts of the Von Trapp children may seem daunting at best and maddening at worst, but DaCosta takes it all in stride. Having over 30 productions under his belt could have something to do with his calm demeanor.
When asked about the three casts, he adds, "Each group is unique in its performance, and collectively, they are dedicated, talented performers who have embraced this process with open arms."
Throughout the year, TMP makes use of various venues, large and small, for its productions. Each venue comes with a unique set of challenges but ultimately, "fosters a well-rounded performing artist," according to DaCosta.
TMP's "The Sound of Music," will be held at the Tower with nine performances in February.
"I love the Tower venue for its size, atmosphere and for the professionalism it provides for our actors," DaCosta shares.
Tonight, the casts are running through the beloved "So Long, Farewell" scene. Wholesome, radiating voices sing this cherished tune, preparing to warm audiences' hearts at the Tower. The scene concludes and it's smiles all around from the cast.
DaCosta has a way with the kids. He is organized and his serene presence inspires. His passion may be theater, but his dedication for youth and education shines through.
"Ownership, responsibility to each other and being prepared is what makes a standout performance," says DaCosta. "I am always extremely floored and proud of how these kids take this message to heart and come through."