Lenny at Large: One woman juggles 2 shows
You can't really track down Valerie von Rosenvinge. You just hope for a glance, a word, a smile.
Like right now. The head of theater at Hopkinton High, von Rosenvinge is directing "The Music Man" which opened Wednesday night. She also teaches English. That's enough to chew on ... well, for most people.
She's also cast in the Wellesley Players' "Steel Magnolias," which has a Nov. 19 opening. Oh, and she's also working on a screenplay based on a story she wrote in 1994. That eats up time, too.
Then again, time is just a fact of life quickly dismissed by von Rosenvinge as she zooms from the high school (classroom by day, followed by directing) before flying (if only she could) to a "Steel Magnolias" rehearsal in her hometown of Wellesley.
Why does she put herself through this? Who plays a lead role at one theater and directs at another? For the free-spirited von Rosenvinge, it's more fulfillment than self-flagellation. The high school play she had to do. It's her job. Auditioning for "Steel Magnolias" was for personal reasons.
"In 1982 I first got involved with the Wellesley Players, and they were doing 'Steel Magnolias.' That introduced me to the world of community theater," she says.
It also launched her highly praised work on area stages, but when she took the Hopkinton job eight years ago, von Rosenvinge put acting on the shelf. Doing "Steel Magnolias" is more about nostalgia than a dire need to get back on the boards. To balance the time commitments for both shows, "I knew I had to be really organized," says von Rosenvinge.
She held the high school auditions Sept. 1, the first day of school. That night she had her first "Steel Magnolias" rehearsal. Hello. Goodbye.
"I knew it was going to be an incredible time. Why I chose 'Music Man,' I don't know. It's a big show."
She's playing M'Lynn in the Wellesley show. Despite her green light (no stops) lifestyle, von Rosenvinge never went through the "should I or shouldn't I" aspect of auditioning for M'Lynn.
"Not once. I knew I could do it. It was never a question. It was a decision. Once I decided to do it, there was no other option. I needed something in my life that's mine."
She found it in M'Lynn, an extraordinarily textured role. She has a daughter with juvenile diabetes. She winds up giving one of her kidneys to the child. The child dies. M'Lynn goes to the beauty shop where she knows her best friends are.
"She can't hold it together," says von Rosenvinge. "She breaks down." It's a showstopping scene.
Von Rosenvinge calls the play "a comedy that frames a very sad story." And it's in the hands of Celia Couture, one of the most respected directors around. "Celia's put together a dynamite cast. It's going to be awesome," says von Rosenvinge.
High school theater arts are strapped by budget cuts, but von Rosenvinge's shows have mostly flourished. "I usually make money," she says. "When we did 'Beauty and the Beast' I was turning people away from a 900-seat theater."
The set for "The Music Man" is costly. "I had to buy a lot of lumber. But I can use it for part of the set of our winter show, 'You Can't Take It With You."'
For von Rosenvinge, directing teenagers is at once challenging and fulfilling. "It's a chance for kids who don't play sports to show they have another dimension." She's not shy about getting jocks to go to the shows with this approach: "All the kids (in the show) are going to your football game. Why can't you come to their show?"
Here's a twist: In "Steel Magnolias" her theater students are going to get a shot at critiquing the teacher. "That's the thing I'm most excited about, they're going to see me on stage," says von Rosenvinge. "Am I going to measure up to what I've given them in the past?"
OK, so she admits lately "I've been working overtime." But there is this caveat. "I'm energized when I get home and walk through the door."
Walking through doors has never daunted this woman. But you get the picture.
Contact MetroWest Daily News writer Lenny Megliola at email@example.com.