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BWW Interview: Jill Townsend talks about creating the benefit concert 'SDMT STARS UNDER THE STARS' at San Diego Musical Theatre

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"I really wanted to give our patrons more of a theatrical experience like they normally see at one of our shows."

BWW Interview: Jill Townsend talks about creating the benefit concert 'SDMT STARS UNDER THE STARS' at San Diego Musical Theatre

Summer may technically over, but San Diego Musical Theatre doesn't think that means it's too late to enjoy "SDMT Stars Under The Stars." This benefit concert is playing September 25-27, and features some of San Diego audience's favorite performers singing audience chosen songs. Jill Townsend, the Artistic Director of San Diego Musical Theatre talks about how this benefit came together, and how their patrons helped shape this unique benefit concert.

With physical theatres till dark, the "SDMT Stars Under The Stars" event was born from wanting to create an experience that felt like theatre, even from home. This is a benefit concert with all proceeds going directly back to support SDMT. The concert brings together some of SDMT's audience favorites including Allison Spratt Pearce, Bethany Slomka, Bets Malone, Bryan Banville, Erin Vanderhyde, Ken Prymus Jr., and Robert Townsend.

"I really wanted to give our patrons more of a theatrical experience like they normally see at one of our shows. Everything I have seen up to now has been on zoom from people's homes and it just didn't feel the same as when we can congregate together for a magical theatre experience. So the idea of bringing theatre to the producer's backyard was born!

Neil, our company manger then thought of having a "live studio audience" of sorts to watch the filming which I think will also help transport our streaming audience back to the theatre to relive their favorite show memories from SDMT."

That feeling of being transported back to the theatre was key and the show was shaped by audience requests for songs and performers. In her role as Artistic Director it was Jill's role to take all of that information and help shape it into a show.

"As Artistic Director, I took the suggestions our valued patrons, subscribers and followers gave us and put the show together how I think it would work best as a performance. I then reached out to our SDMT alumni who either did the role from the requested songs or who I knew would be capable of singing the requested songs.

I just wish I could have done more of what was requested. I think I will have to save those for another Stars Under The Stars benefit concert in the future!"

Jill also had the responsibility of making sure the event was performed and filmed in a manner that was that was safe for both cast and crew.

"I made sure we complied with Covid regulations to keep everyone safe. The event was outdoors, socially distanced, temperatures checked, wearing of masks (when not singing), and using different mics wiped down after every song. We used the same protocol for the small audience to keep everyone safe and sound."

The cast of this show is made up of SDMT show alumni and friends, and even with distancing procedures and little rehearsal time together, Townsend says they put on a show that is not to be missed.

"I knew each and every one of them would deliver incredible performances with virtually no rehearsal and boy did they exceed my expectations! We actually got our special guest star, Ken Prymus, because he wrote in and wanted to hear a song from our production of Ain't Misbehavin'. We saw his name and realized that he had done the show on Broadway and sang that song. We called him to see if he would be interested in singing the song himself and he said yes! I couldn't be more grateful to our entire SDMT family who always shows up for us because they love and believe in what we are doing."

"SDMT Stars Under The Stars" is a benefit concert, playing from September 25th - 27th online. This helps support SDMT as they wait to bring their cast and crew back to their home theatre of Horton Grand Theatre as well as their youth Academy which helps develop the stars of tomorrow, today.

You can get tickets to "SDMT Stars Under The Stars" at www.sdmt.org You can also purchase a SDMT face mask created by Costume Designer Janet Pitcher using custom designed fabric with images of SDMT favorite shows.

Photo credit: Kristi Weaver (SD Musical Theatre)



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From This Author E.H. Reiter