Melanie Welch grew up in the Campus Theatre. As a tot, she played the title role in the company’s production of The Littlest Angel.
Her mother, Kyla Welch, has performed in Denton Community Theatre shows and works in the Campus Theatre box office. Her dad, Dennis, has been in dozens of shows for a handful of North Texas theater companies and has directed for the local community theater.
Melanie Welch is making her Denton Community Theatre directorial debut this weekend, joining her father in the company’s staging of Twice Around the Park.
Dennis Welch said he pitched the play to the company for its season in the PointBank Black Box Theatre as a two-director project. His pitch was that he and and another director would each direct one of the two one-act comedies in Twice Around the Park — a pair of one-act plays by Murray Schisgal.
“I admired the playwright when I was back in college,” Dennis Welch said of Schisgal, who wrote A Need for Brussels Sprouts for the late Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson. “He’s not very well known, even though he’s had a few big Broadway shows. He wrote Luv for Alan Arkin and Eli Wallach. He wrote Jimmy Shine for Dustin Hoffman. I want more people to know this playwright.”
Dennis Welch said it occurred to him to invite Melanie to consider the play.
“I asked her to read the script,” he said. “I thought it would be interesting to see what she’d think about it, and I thought it would be a good way for her to get experience directing for DCT, in the event she might want to direct again.”
Melanie Welch didn’t need to think twice about the offer to direct for the company. She directed a cutting of The Laramie Project for her senior project at Texas Woman’s University, and directed the short play she wrote, Shades of Gray (“Not to be confused with Fifty Shades of Gray, please,” she says) with Fight Boy Theatre.
“It’s fairly natural for me,” Melanie Welch said. “I’ve grown up around this. I’ve worked lights, I’ve been stage manager — I’ve never worked sound. I’m a very visual person. I like to draw. I like to be in control. And I love the casting process. I love that part of it.”
Dennis let Melanie choose the one-act she wanted to direct. She chose A Need for Brussels Sprouts.
Brussels Sprouts is about an out-of-work actor, Leon Rose, who tends to disturb his upstairs neighbor, Margaret Heinz, with loud opera music he’s studying for an audition. What Leon doesn’t know is that Margaret is a New York City police officer. She means to silence his music by legal summons, as her rapping on the floor hasn’t worked.
But when the two start talking, they realize their have some of the same things in common — stressful jobs, a growing list of demands and a touch of real loneliness. Affections arise.
Dennis Welch said he gladly took on A Need for Less Expertise. The play finds New York City couple Edie and Gus Frazier adrift after two decades of marriage. Edie insists the couple follow the absurd instructions of Dr. Oliovsky, the voice behind an audio program teaching couples about Tantric sex. Edie’s endless quest for professional relationship help collides with Gus’ do-it-yourself attitude.
Both directors said the project benefits from the actors. David Johnson returns to the Denton stage as Leon, and Melanie Welch said he was just the ticket.
“As soon as he read, I was like: That’s Leon,” she said.
Ash Robbins had previously told Melanie she was interested in playing Margaret. When the actresses who auditioned didn’t fit the bill, the director said she called Robbins to recruit her.
Real-life Denton couple Julie Brinker and Damon Wadyko play Edie and Gus in Less Expertise. Brinker is a theater professor and community outreach director for Denton Community Theatre. Wadyko is a familiar face on the Denton stage and host of Beyond the Fourth Wall on DentonRadio.com
The Welches said they both find negotiating with performers harder than creating pictures on the stage.
“It’s definitely harder for me to communicate with the actors. I’m such a visual person that sometimes, it’s hard for me to put what I want into words,” Melanie Welch said. “Ash and David have been really patient with me.”
“I know what she’s talking about,” Dennis Welch said. “I’m a performer first. I’m not a great director. I have to work at it. But if you have a good cast, the right people, that’s 70 percent of your job right there.”
The father-daughter team haven’t seen much of each other’s work in Twice Around the Park. It’s for the best, each said. They don’t want to influence one another, Dennis Welch said, and he doesn’t want his daughter to feel like she’d have to act on any of his advice.
Melanie said she opted to direct Brussels Sprouts because she related to Leon and Margaret.
“When I read A Need for Less Expertise, it seemed depressing,” she said.
Under Dennis’ direction, and in Brinker and Wadyko’s intuitive, experienced hands, Less Expertise is plenty funny — sometimes stingingly so.
Does Dennis Welch feel like a dinosaur now that he’s sharing directing duties with his daughter?
“No,” he said, grinning. “I already felt like one.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877.
TWICE AROUND THE PARK
What: Denton Community Theatre presents a pair of two one-act plays, A Need for Brussels Sprouts and A Need for Less Expertise, by Murray Schisgal.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: PointBank Black Box Theatre, 318 E. Hickory St.
Details: Tickets cost $15. Rated PG-13 for adult themes and situations.
On the Web: www.dentoncommunitytheatre.com