FAIRFIELD — The Benicia Old Town Theatre Group celebrates its 50th anniversary with actress, director and author Hester Schell at the helm of “Same Time, Next Year.”
Schell came home with five awards, including best of show for “Singulariteen,” from the 2013 San Francisco Fringe Theater Festival.
Three years ago, she released the book, “Casting Revealed: A Guide for Film Directors.” The book tour stopped in London and Schell spoke at the British Film Institute.
Schell launched a comedy series last month on a YouTube channel, “Adventures in Staying Young,” which focuses on baby boomer humor. Her current focus is on the stage.
“There’s something special about doing a play,” she said.
Being part of an audience of 200-people laughing brings energy to all present, she said.
Studies have shown that a group audience laughing for two hours puts theater patrons in a higher level of consciousness than when they arrived, Schell said.
Schell was looking for directing gigs when she got an email about “Same Time, Next Year.”
“Something clicked,” she wrote in an email to the Daily Republic. “I thought, ‘This is the perfect play for a 50th anniversary.’ It’s smart, funny, poignant and the themes ring true. It felt historical, and I wanted to be part of this great achievement.”
The Half Moon Bay resident developed an affection for Benicia, calling it a great community with residents who love their theater.
Schell loves how the play is written, particularly how the characters bond and the comedy in the script. The plot centers on secret lovers who meet once a year for 26 years and get away with it.
“Isn’t that a secret desire?” Schell wrote. “Cheat and not get caught. That’s why we go to the theater, to experience what we can’t in our daily lives.”
Aging the characters is simple, Schell said. Costume changes, wigs and a few key set pieces, such as a television and phones, are swapped out. The physical aging is reflected in the characters’ tempo by lowering their voices and gradually slowing them down.
From the director’s chair, she sees good chemistry in the cast and strives to let them keep their sensitive sides. That’s what makes them interesting, Schell said.
This is her first time with a hands-on role with “Same Time, Next Year.” Schell saw the show on Broadway about 40 years ago.
“Loved it,” she said.
Schell also produces “Hysterical Housewives,” a peninsula-based comedy troupe for women. Every performance has sold out, she said.
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‘Same Time, Next Year’