“This is a labor of love,” David Redman Scott says, admiring incomplete stage props scattered about the rehearsal room at the Eastern Shore Repertory Theatre (ESRT). He weaves his way through a veritable construction site of the upcoming local production, “The Wizard of Oz,” before pausing at the not-yet-yellow, yellow brick road. Styrofoam sunflowers, Dorothy’s costume and many other Oz elements confirm we aren’t in Kansas anymore, so to speak.
Walls throughout the community theatre come alive with framed photos of past performances, each showcasing a colorful backdrop. Scott pauses at one in particular. “This one’s not a backdrop,” he laughs. “That’s the sunset over the Bay. There’s no way you could paint something like that!” It turns out, the Daphne native knows a thing or two about backdrops and the Bay. They’re two of the very things that drew him from the Big Apple back home.
Scott’s passion for performance began in childhood and eventually led to a flourishing career in New York City with Disney Theatrical Group. In 2004, Erin Langley, ESRT founder and high school classmate of Scott’s, visited New York, and the two friends connected and found themselves landing on a familiar topic: Bay-area theater.
“I asked her if we could try to put on a show outside,” he recalls. From that casual conversation was born the Theatre on the Bluff, Fairhope’s annual spring outdoor performance, now in its eighth season. And with Broadway’s lights dim, due to the pandemic, Scott seized the opportunity to return home, just in time to direct the ESRT’s latest show. With the Bay as the backdrop, of course. “The bluff is the most spectacular venue ever,” Scott beams. “The sky looks different every night; no sunset is ever the same.”
While Scott admits he cannot sing or dance — close friends have described his efforts as “horrific” — his career certainly provides the qualifications he needs to be a magnificent director. “The mirror has two faces, which is great because I learn a lot about what I’m doing here as a theater artist, and then I’m able to take these learnings back to my workplace in New York.”
Waving his hand toward the surrounding props, Scott continues, “When I talk about theater, many think of the performing aspect, but someone has to build that stage. Someone has to direct. Someone has to focus the light the actors are standing in. Someone had to paint the scenery or sell the tickets. It is a true collaboration.”
And that goes for audience members, too. Everyone who comes to see the show has a role just as important as the characters on the stage. “A lot of the play happens in the audience,” Scott explains, “and that’s what is so charming about the bluff. The audience has their own character, and it’s the way they react to the show.”
As we head from Oz to reality, Scott leaves me with this reminder: “The people that are in this show live here. So, when you see the show, this is local talent. It’s amazing to have talent this robust and to have people willing to support the arts.”
Broadway may have its moments, but the work and love that goes into Theatre on the Bluff will always be the best reminder that there’s no place like home.
ESRT presents ‘The Wizard of Oz’
May 6 – 9, 2021 | Fairhope Bluff