Volunteers bring passion to community theater group

Story and photo by Mindy Campbell
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

The parking lot of the Kaiserslautern Community Activity Center on Daenner Kaserne was deserted and the building was dark on a recent Tuesday night.

Despite the desolate appearance, a handful of actors and musicians were assembled in the building, working on an upcoming production of the KMC Onstage, the local community theater troupe.

The group was rehearsing for “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” a four-woman musical about friendship, life and love featuring popular music from the 1960s. Opening night was Jan. 20. The musical’s second weekend includes dinner theater performances today and Saturday, plus a matinee on Sunday.

The show features classic songs from the 1960s such as “My Boy Lollipop,” “I Will Follow Him,” “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” and “Hey There Lonely Boy.” The musical emphasizes that during life’s struggles, friendship will last forever.
The show, like all of KMC Onstage productions, are produced and performed by an all-volunteer force. For this show, cast and crew started rehearsals. They typically spend several hours practicing, about three to four times a week.

A love of the theater is the force behind filling those long hours – after work and sometimes long commutes.

After working all day as a speech-language pathologist at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Tim Fiscus heads over to the theater. He’s the musical’s director and accompanist.

“We do it for the performance and love of performing,” said Fiscus, who has previously participated both on stage and on the production side of other KMC Onstage productions.

For Jeanne Ragonese, one of the four women in the musical, a passion for theater has led her to make the 60-mile commute each way from her Heidelberg home, where she is a Department of Defense Dependents Schools teacher.

“Some people join the ski club because they love to ski,” she said. “I love theater.”
Ragonese, who also played the character Mrs. Potts in KMC Onstage’s “Beauty and the Beast,” said she travels to different locations for community theater because there are limited options for English-language theater.

“Teaching is very other-centered,” said Ragonese, who plays Florence in the upcoming show. “Acting is more me-centered. So, I find a balance by doing both. I leave practice so energized. I get so much back.”

Fellow actress Adina Pavlesich, who plays Sally, can’t imagine not participating in theater.

“It is what I am supposed to do. It’s my heart,” said Pavlesich, who also played villain Cruella De Vil in “101 Dalmatians.”

And despite the all-volunteer aspect, the talent is great, Fiscus said.

“This cast is amazing,” he said. “That is the really interesting thing about a military community. There are those who could be working professionally, but because their spouse is deployed or overseas here, they have put their theater or vocal performance career on hold.”

Actress Mindy Malenius, who has a master’s degree in vocal performance, said theater has always been a part of her life and she was itching to get back on stage.

“We do it for the love and passion for music and theater,” said Malenius, who plays Millie. “It is a part of who I am.”

Another reason that many actors keep coming back after they join one KMC Onstage production is the relationships they build with one another.

“When you spend three to four hours every day with each other, you become a little family for sure,” Fiscus said.

After joining a cast, you have such a sense of community, said Nicole Hatch, who plays Dee Dee in the musical.

“It is so much fun,” she said. “Everyone is so outgoing.”

Ragonese said that especially in a military community, the theater group is a wide-range of personalities and backgrounds that come together.

“You have such a mix of all kinds of rank of Soldiers, civilians, teachers and retired people,” she said. “Once it is cast, everyone works together toward a common goal and are supportive of each other. This is exactly what these kinds of programs are for. ”

For information about the musical or purchasing tickets, contact KMC Onstage by e-mail at kmconstage@eur.army.mil or by calling 483-6626.