From Canyon to Cove: Embedded with a theater group

The Devil is a piano tuner. No kidding.

When David Stoneman, who plays Applegate in Gallimaufry Performing Arts' production of "Damn Yankees," told me this, I didn't know whether to believe him.

After all, Stoneman is not only a masterful singer, but a play actor — and a kidder. He is clearly relishing his role as the Trickster who convinces a poor sap from Chevy Chase, Md., to sell his soul to make sure his losing team, the Washington Senators, beats the Yankees.

So I smiled agreeably when Stoneman answered my question about what he did when not "trodding the boards," as he likes to say, and took it with a grain of salt. But then he showed up to a rehearsal a few days later in his work clothes: a shirt emblazoned with the moniker of the Amalgamated Union of Piano Tuners (or some such name). In fact, he's a registered piano tuner.

I had to give him credit for being such a convincing Devil. I was sure he was making it all up.

It's been a real treat working alongside these wonderful singers, dancers and actors all pulling together to bring this three-ring-circus of a musical to the stage.

It's like Musical Summer Camp for adults, or being "embedded" with a theater group, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly.

One of the most delightful things about being part of a Gallimaufry production is being in the company of a very talented family, the Josephsons.

Steve, the artistic director, is a whirlwind who can pull together two major musicals at the same time — "Yankees" and "2116" — and still have the mental energy to shepherd another production, "Carnival Knowledge," onto the stage.

I've been on the receiving end of Steve's breathless news releases over the years and always wondered how he managed multiple projects: musicals, dance programs, variety shows.

Now I can reveal his secret: It's Julie, his wife.

Julie is not only a very talented actress but the one who seamlessly pulls it all together; she knows just what is needed in every scene, with every actor. We have all gone to her at some point with a special problem. My problem has been voice projection. How to speak loudly enough to be heard in the rear of the theater, without shouting myself hoarse and losing inflection. She — and Stoneman, a trained opera singer — gave me some pointers and I went home and practiced.

I don't have a lot of lines, but I want to make sure they get heard and do their job.

On Wednesday night, "tech night," where the complicated set was given a test run, there was Julie, diligently mending one of the men's jackets. That's dedication.

Then there's the star of "Damn Yankees," Kira Josephson, the couple's twenty-something daughter, who plays the tormented vixen Lola and absolutely dances and sings her heart out in more than one show-stopping number.

Kira "grew up in a trunk," as Steve likes to say, having been carried onto the stage by her parents at the tender age of 1.

Kira grew up in Laguna Beach, attended Laguna Beach High School for two years, transferred to the Orange County High School of the Arts, and then went on to Stevens College in Missouri. Kira has been out of college for a year or so, and has joined a national dinner theater company for which she'll be heading to Pennsylvania when "Damn Yankees" finishes its run.

Kira got her start in the very place we started rehearsing our show: the well-worn dance space for the Laguna Beach Recreation and Parks Department. As a youngster she auditioned for "Charlotte's Web," and got the part of Charlotte. From that point, there was no turning back.

Kira is obviously having a great time in this production, which has turned into a reunion for a number of younger Laguna Beach performers, one of whom, Christian Marriner — who also has a role in "2116" — lives in New York City and has appeared Off-Broadway.

Several of the ball players have come out of the Laguna Beach High theater arts department, including Noah Plomgren and Nick Shopoff. I am constantly astounded by the energy and skill of these young performers, male and female.

One of my favorites in the cast is Gallimaufry veteran Eloise Coopersmith, who plays ace reporter Gloria Thorpe. Eloise has a powerful voice and looks like she's having a ball cavorting around with the (much younger) ball players in the famous "Shoeless Joe" number. The other reporters and I follow Gloria around from scene to scene, trying to pick up the crumbs of her breaking news. We are all having a blast playing reporter, but I must admit I have the inside edge on this character study.

Being in a musical brings people together, and one of my best stage buddies is local Jay Rechter, with whom I share the stage more than any other, because he plays a reporter in one scene, a postmaster in another, and a baseball fan in a third. Like me, Jay is a rookie, having signed on to this production after shepherding his kids through other Gallimaufry projects. His kids are sitting this one out.

Jay and I are so green that early in rehearsal we realized neither of us knew what "upstage" versus "downstage" meant, so Jay Googled it on his iPhone as we waited for our next entrance. It's great to have the help of veterans and newbies as I make my first stage entrance Friday night.

When the show opens this weekend, I'm sure my stage nerves will kick in, but I'll try to get my lines out as loudly and clearly as possible.

What have I got to worry about? After all, the Devil's got my back.

CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 380-4321 or

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