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Summer Theatre Stalwart to Direct 'The Drowsy Chaperone'

Cherie Cooper-Darragh Returns to Heiland Theatre in New Role

July 8, 2014

Director Cherie Cooper-Darragh sits on the set of

Director Cherie Cooper-Darragh sits on the set of "The Drowsy Chaperone," which runs July 17, 18, 19 and 20, in Hugh G. Heiland Theatre.

Long-time summer theatre actor Cherie Cooper-Darragh is taking on a new role this year as guest director of Wilmington College-Community Summer Theatre’s The Drowsy Chaperone.

The show will run July 17, 18 and 19, at 7:30 p.m., and July 20, at 2:30 p.m., in Hugh G. Heiland Theatre.

While this will be Cooper-Darragh’s directorial debut in Wilmington, she is no stranger to running the show. She most recently completed her fourth year directing at Lebanon High School, which featured a 60-person cast in Anything Goes.

Also, she has directed community theatre productions in southwest Ohio, including Dayton Playhouse’s production of Godspell, which garnered six “Day Tony Awards” for outstanding shows in the Miami Valley.

Cooper-Darragh, a 1985 Wilmington College graduate, credited figures closely associated with WC Theatre for much of her knowledge of acting and directing. She learned the ropes from the late emeritus professor Hugh G. Heiland, former summer theatre director Steven Haines and the College’s current director, Wynn Alexander.

“Having been on stage served me well,” she said. “Much of what I learned as a director, I learned here.”

As a WC student in the mid-1980s, Cooper-Darragh “practically lived” in the former Boyd Auditorium/Fine Arts Building studying and rehearsing theatre and music. Indeed, she fondly recalls “a sticky, old couch” where she and her friends often congregated.

"When you’re a student and you’re surrounded by people passionate about what they do, you get caught up in that,” she said.

Cooper-Darragh found that spirit remained when, a decade after graduating in 1985, she returned to summer theatre in Wilmington. She was hooked again and acted in a host of summer shows: Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, Jekyll & Hyde, Parade,…

“It was like stepping back into your mother’s house — you never forget it,” she said about returning the Wilmington College stage.

Although her 30-year history with summer theatre that dates back to her student days, Cooper-Darragh says the common denominator is the quality and dedication of all those associated with College and community theatre in Wilmington.

“This community has such a pool of talent,” she said, noting that so many auditioned for The Drowsy Chaperone she could have cast it twice. “The actors and the people backstage all have this passion. What a gift to the community to have excellent live theatre in their backyard!”

Cooper-Darragh first became exposed to The Drowsy Chaperone when she saw one of its big numbers produced at the Tony Awards. The show finds a man that loves Broadway musicals alone in his apartment speaking about how theatre can transport the audience.

“Then this 1928 musical comes to life — the Broadway show occurs in his apartment,” she said, noting becomes a play within a play. “It reminds us about what we all love about musical theatre. The show is completely silly and the cast is having a lot of fun with it. It’s vaudeville, shtick and chamber drama. It distills what that period was in musical theatre.”

Performed in one act, The Drowsy Chaperone is a musical comedy in which its humor can be enjoyed on many levels. Cooper-Darragh gives it between a PG and PG-13 rating.

“People who love musicals will laugh at this show. People who don’t love musicals also will laugh at this show,” she said. “It’s funny, but it’s also heartwarming and charming.

“This is a complete treat for me to direct this show— it’s an incredible gift and honor.”

Reservations for The Drowsy Chaperone are available by contacting the Theatre Box Office weekdays, from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m., at (937) 382-6661 ext. 267.