By Heleigh Bostwick
August 22, 2013
“When I auditioned for and got the part (of Moose) in ‘Grease,’ it changed my whole life,” said Sean Moran, the newly hired artistic director of the Williston Central School Drama Club.
Moran grew up in Burlington and went to Rice Memorial High School where he got his first taste of theater life.
“We performed in the cafeteria,” he recalled. “There weren’t any curtains and we’d put up platforms for the stage.”
“In Williston, we have a beautiful auditorium,” he said, clearly pleased.
Moran went on to major in theater arts at St. Michael’s College in Winooski.
“From there I went to New York (City),” he recalled, “And in 1977, I got the part in ‘Grease.’”
After 35 years, Moran said it’s still the top-grossing musical ever made.
“It took my life from theater to movies and television, but I never dropped theater,” he said. “I still do all three.”
Even after he moved to Los Angeles full-time, Moran continued to act in theater productions at St. Michael’s Playhouse, flying back to Vermont from LA for eleven years.
After 35 years in Hollywood, Moran decided it was time to come back to Vermont.
“My parents are in their 80s and I wanted to be around to help them out so I bought a property here,” he explained. “I still work in both places so I guess you could say I’m bicoastal.”
Moran has a recurring role on the CBS series “Two Broke Girls” and is currently shooting a web series here in Burlington with a local cast and crew. He also just finished a week as the camp/musical director for a musical theater day camp for youth in Shelburne.
He found out about the Williston job through an acquaintance.
“I was in a restaurant with my parents and ran into a friend who happened to mention that Williston was looking for a new director,” he said. “It was an intensive process, but three weeks later I had the job.”
This year’s production is “Beauty and the Beast.” It opens on May 9 and auditions start in January. Only students in grades six through eight are allowed to audition for and be in the show. Rehearsals are rigorous, he said, and run Monday through Thursday for three and half months.
Moran started preparing behind the scenes in June.
“People think it’s just a little show, but it’s huge,” Moran said. “There are 65 kids in the production and it takes a lot of work to make sure that everyone is on the same page.”
It also takes a lot of patience. “You’re dealing with a lot of personalities,” Moran said. “We’ve had hours of meetings to prep for the show. There are a lot of sets and the score is over 300 pages.”
Moran noted that while most of the kids won’t go on to be actors and actresses—maybe one or two out of the 65—the life lessons are invaluable. “As adults, they will have to work with people toward a common goal, so it’s good to learn to compromise and how to be a team player now.”
Cathy Rylant is the show’s technical director. “I’m the one behind the scenes,” she said, adding that it’s her 15th year at Williston. “I started working as a volunteer assistant with Al Myers 15 years ago and have been here ever since.”
“I work with the director, design the sets and help kids to get them built and painted,” she said. “I oversee the lights and sound effects…everything that isn’t the kids acting on the stage.”
But, she said, it’s the students who actually run the show.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Moran. “The entire stage crew is fifth graders. They run the microphone and the lights and the sets and are assistant stage managers.”
Rylant was part of the hiring committee, along with former artistic director Andrea Cronan, Cronan’s daughter, who provided student perspective, Julie Longchamp, the show’s producer, and District Principal Walter Nardelli.
“We’re really lucky to have a professional who’s done this his whole life,” said Longchamp, who led the hiring committee. “He’s excited and passionate about theater, fun to work with, and willing to let kids have a voice, which is really empowering.”
“The kids are going to love him,” she added.