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The Pinckney Players
Hamburg family shares time in theater groups
Posted by Laurie Humphrey | The Livingston Community News January 11, 2008 | Categories: Features
The Livingston Community News
As kids, Geoff and Lesley Pettengill never imagined they would be involved in community theater.
They had no ambition to be on stage, to devote three nights a week to productions or to spend free time building sets, rehearsing lines and learning dance routines.
"It's amazing what you'll do for your kids," says Geoff Pettengill, who got recruited for his first part simply because he was sitting in the audience waiting for his daughter to finish rehearsals. "They always need men," he adds.
But by all accounts, the Hamburg Township couple couldn't be happier with the decision they made to get involved in theater four years ago. "It's a lot of hard work, but it's a fun atmosphere," says Lesley Pettengill. "The juggling (of work, school and homework schedules) is worth it."
The Pettengills - Geoff, 41, Lesley, 44, Nick, 12, and Natalie, 10 - have been in 16 community theater performances collectively. They do not necessarily all participate in the same productions, and they do not necessarily always get the roles they want.
It has even worked out that one family member would get a stage role, while others were passed over. But in their "community theater family," there is always somewhere to fit in. The family performs with The Pinckney Players and Community Theatre of Howell.
"We have all made such good friends," says Lesley Pettingill, who prefers to work behind the scenes. A mom and part-time nurse, she is regularly called on to help with make-up, costumes, scenery - "I'll get done whatever needs to be done," she says.
Nick, a sixth-grader at Navigator Elementary School in Pinckney, also does some work behind the scenes, although he does enjoys being on stage occasionally. "It depends on the play," he says, admitting he holds out for those occasional happy-go-lucky roles that allow him to tell jokes.
"I want the bad-guy parts," adds Geoff Pettengill, a computer applications technician by day and wanna-be villain at night.
Natalie, the youngest of the group and the first family member to get involved, wants every role she can get, but she especially likes parts where she "can act out."
"My favorite role was the squirrel for 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,'" says the Navigator School fifth-grader.
According to Lesley, the benefits of being in community theater are many: You get to make a lot of new and close friends "because you are with this group of people for a good part of the year," but more importantly, the whole family can come together despite age differences and personal objectives. "What else can you do as a family nowadays?"
She enjoys the added benefit that her new-found "parent" friends, are actively involved with their families. As a result, there is a lot of socialization, even outside the theater.
"It's one big party for almost three months (the time is takes to put on a performance)," she says, contrasting the show camaraderie to the empty feeling between productions.
"I think the kids in community theater are a little more mature, too," says Geoff. "Because of all this time we spend together, the comfort level between kids and all the other adults is higher." He considers some of the younger performers to be good friends.
"We always have something to talk about," he says.
Laurie Humphrey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 810-844-2003.