The new year has just begun, but the Community Light Opera and Theatre Association is wasting no time in starting on its next production.
Auditions for CLOTA’s upcoming staging of “Lilies of the Field” will be held this weekend, Friday, Jan. 4, and Saturday, Jan. 5, at 6 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 6, at 1 p.m. Auditions will be held at the CLOTA Center Stage at 1425 N. Inyo St. There are roles for five women and five men.
Show dates will be March 22, 23, 29 and 30 and April 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on March 31 at 2 p.m. Doors open 30 minutes prior to showtime.
The show will be directed by CLOTA President Larry Lier. Lier, who is contemplating retiring from the board after some 18 years, said he has always wanted to revisit two of CLOTA’s former productions. He said directing this play is a long-time goal.
“[There are] two plays I really wanted to do,” he said. “ ‘Lilies of the Field’ is one and ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ is the other.”
“Lilies of the Field” was first put on by CLOTA around 50 years ago. A poster from the earlier production decorates the Center Stage along with mementos from other historic plays and events.
“It’s been a long tine and it’s something people need to see again,” Lier said.
The play is by F. Andrew Leslie, based on the novel by William E. Barrett. It tells the story of itinerant worker Homer Smith, whose life is changed by an encounter with a group of German nuns in the dusty southwestern U.S. Smith’s plans to earn a few bucks and move on are derailed as he becomes part of the lives of the nuns, even becoming invested in the dream of Mother Maria Marthe to build a chapel.
“It’s about a guy who got out of the army and is traveling the country doing odd jobs to finance his travels,” Lier explained. “One thing leads to another and the mother superior talks him into building a chapel for them. He wants to get paid for the job so he can move along and she keeps finding other things for him to do.”
Lier said the story mixes dramatic and comic elements, although “if I had to narrow it down to one, it’s more of a comedy. This one will have a lot of lighter moments.”
One of these, he hinted, is when Smith takes over the job of trying to teach the nuns English. Apparently, the phonograph record they are listening to in order to learn the new language is not getting the job done in an appropriate way.
Lier said much of the story revolves around the meeting of wills between Mother Maria and Smith, neither of whom is much inclined to budge. Among other things, Smith is “basically a Southern Baptist,” according to Lier, leading to an interesting clash with the German Catholic nuns.
“Lilies of the Field” was made into a classic movie in 1963. Sidney Poitier won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Homer Smith and the film was nominated for four additional Oscars, including Best Picture.
Lier said he enjoys bringing back the older shows again because they are perhaps simpler thematically than some modern plays.
He reiterated that he would love to see CLOTA re-stage “The Diary of Anne Frank.” This play, of course, tells the story of a young Jewish girl who is hiding with her family from the Nazis during World War II.
“The Diary of Anne Frank” was put on by CLOTA during the 1970s with Elena Vitale in the title role and was a stunning success.
Lier said he thinks the lessons of Anne Frank would do well to be looked at again in the modern age.
“It’s something that needs to be brought back into the forefront,” Lier said. “People get complacent and we need to remind them.”