Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, January 25, 2002

Luka Lyman plays Ruth, left, the second wife of Charles Condomine, played by Mark Dillen Stitham. Stefanie Anderson plays Charles' ghostly first wife Elvira in Diamond Head Theatre's production of "Blithe Spirit."

From the beach
to the boards

The "Baywatch" coach takes
on Noel Coward

By John Berger

From television to stage, Scott Rogers enjoys the business of acting in all forms. He served as full-time acting coach on the much-maligned TV series "Baywatch Hawaii" after someone in charge noticed that people with little or no television experience need training.

Now he's directing "Blithe Spirit" at Diamond Head Theatre.

"It is very, very drastically different and I love the challenge," Rogers said of the differences between stage and film work. "Directing wakes me up to not only the differences but the similarities. The emotion has to really be there. If they're not really feeling it, whether it's on stage or on camera, it just doesn't come across."

Rogers got his start in theater and has worked in "more than 100" professional productions. He has also written and produced TV commercials, but since returning to Honolulu three years ago has been most active as a teacher. He heads the acting program at the Barbizon School of Modeling and also conducts adult acting classes, and says conveying emotion requires radically different techniques.

"When you act on camera you're communicating everything with your eyes -- that is, 90 percent of your emotion is communicated through your eyes because of the way that they set up all the shots. In stage (acting) it is entirely your body language and your speech that communicates it."

"Baywatch Hawaii" got a bad rap from a lot of people during its brief existence as being nothing more than badly scripted eye candy -- and, just maybe, great advertising for the natural beauty of Hawaii. Good actors can sometimes work miracles on bad scripts scripts, but some cast members had little if any prior experience on camera.

Mark Dillen Stitham is Charles Condomine and Stefanie Anderson is his ghostly first wife Elvira in "Blithe Spirit."

"When you think about it, they hired young 20-year-old gorgeous models -- male and female -- with absolutely no training, especially in the rigors of shooting a one-hour drama week to week, and gave them lines and said, 'OK, say these in front of the camera.'

"They hired me the first week as an on-call kind of thing because they'd done that the year before, and after the first week they offered me full-time (work) for the season because they could see how important it was. ... It was a perfect job. I wish that show had gone on forever."

Rogers says that directing a classic Noel Coward comedy at DHT is another perfect job. The show is one of his favorites and he finds it particularly relevant now that the United States is embroiled in a war in Afghanistan.

"It's this light drawing room comedy that he wrote during the height of the Blitz on London during World War II. When I first worked on it (in another production) I decided it was written to make people feel better, but as I got into it post-Sept. 11, I realized there's actually a much more powerful message. I don't want to belabor this, but I think he's really telling us in a very clear way that death is not the end. We do not lose our loved ones because they're always around in spirit. He goes out of his way to make the message come across, and because of the fact that it was written (during WWII), it's very, very clear it's a message of comfort."

"Blithe Spirit"

Where: Diamond Head Theatre
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 10
Tickets: $10 to 40, with discounts for students, seniors and military
Call: 733-0274
Also: In conjunction with the production, the DHT Art Gallery will featurethe third annual exhibit by Honolulu Printmakers, entitled "Honolulu Printmakers: Black, White & Color," open during regular DHT hours, as well as show times

Rogers' concern as the show opens is that some are saying that Coward plays are too clever and sophisticated for Honolulu.

"I want to combat the thing about Noel Coward because I think it's like Shakespeare -- people tend to get worried about 'Am I going to understand it?' Well, it's like Shakespeare that's easier to understand. There are things that people don't get right away, and then later on they do. It's very rich that way, and wonderful and funny, so hopefully the word will get out that it's very, very funny. Noel Coward called it 'an improbable farce,' and it is just really a fun night out."

What would Rogers like to do next?

"Honolulu is so overdue to have a real first-class professional theater company based here. It's not to take away from community theater because to me it's the most pure wonderful form of theater, and that's what gets people into theater in the first place. We have to support community theater but a city this size should have a professional theater company too."

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