In stepping up to direct Central Alberta Theatre’s season-opening comedy Wild Dust, Craig Scott had to do some unusual problem solving.
Since the play by Flip Kobler is set in the wild, wild west, just before a dust storm hits, there was the matter of simulating, air-borne particles for one key, dramatic scene.
In the past, something like wheat flour would have been blown onto stage with fans to simulate whipped up dirt and sand. But with all of today’s gluten sensitivities, Scott thought he’d better reconsider, lest a few sensitive audience members were left rubbing their eyes and coughing.
A bevy of alternatives were considered before he came upon a solution: Coffee chafe. Scott said the far less allergenic material is created by grinding the shells from coffee beans into a fine powder.
“It will mean we’ll have to vacuum it out after every show…” But that’s what he’s willing to do for love of theatre.
It’s just one of several challenges the cast and crew of Wild Dust have to surmount to bring the dinner theatre production to the stage at the Quality Inn North Hill, starting next Friday, Oct. 16.
The Western is about rising tensions between townswomen — including rich snobs and saloon girls — who are thrown together before a dust storm while the men are away on a cattle drive. Unexpected complications set in when a dead body turns up and a mysterious male stranger appears — not necessarily in that order.
The cast and crew of Wild Dust have also had to figure out how to depict a dead body that has to be carted around and thrown over a bar, how to break a bottle over an actor’s head without actually causing brain damage, how to get authentic-looking 1880s costumes, and how to manoeuvre eight actors around a stage that’s only 20-feet wide.
The last one was a doosey, said Scott, who had his hands full arranging the action on a new stage that’s deeper but not as wide as last year’s, due to a dining room reconfiguration.
It’s one of several changes at the Quality Inn’s dinner theatre. Craig is admittedly more thrilled with other improvements — including better audience sight lines, a new Red-Seal chef on staff, and more varied dining options, such as different buffet meals on different nights.
He’s really looking forward to bringing Wild Dust before an audience. Scott said he loves Westerns, which remind him of the cowboy flicks he watched with his dad when he was a kid. This play has very good roles for women, added the director, who has enjoyed working with the almost exclusively female cast.
While some of the problem-solving in the production is best left to the imagination of audience members, Scott credits intrepid prop assistant Carole Forhan for coming up with an ingenious — sugary — solution to the dilemma of the “glass” bottle that needs to shatter over someone’s head.
“There’ve been a lot of challenges,” said Scott, “but it’s also been a lot of fun.”
He hopes the audience will think so too.