By PAM HARBAUGH
As Melbourne Civic Theatre gets ready to open its new season Aug. 11 with “A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM,” we wanted to visit with a couple who have drifted into the realm of “legendary” community theater artists: ALAN SELBY and NADINE ANTAILLIA.
As many of you reading this know, theater demands much from an individual. Marriage magnifies that sacrifice. Challenges usually include rehearsals stretching into late night hours and gobbling up precious weekend time. Then, when you’re actually with your significant other, you’ve got your nose in the script, memorizing lines. The home has transformed: Swatches of fabric festoon a previously orderly living room; the family car has to make room for a scenic shop.
But for Alan and Nadine, who are preparing to celebrate 32 years of marriage this September, theater is part of what binds them. The couple has lived “the fabulous invalid” since they first set eyes on each other in their college’s theater department.
“We understand each other’s passion for the theater,” Nadine said.
While he works as an IT analyst with Health First, Alan wins continual acclaim for his scenic and lighting design with Melbourne Civic Theatre. An art teacher at Palm Bay Academy Charter School and at the Foosaner Art Museum (she is the kiln technician and pottery instructor), Nadine has been celebrated for her work in costume and prop design at Satellite High School and at MCT.
They both act as well and have been heartily praised for sensitive, well rounded portrayals in shows such as “Come Back, Little Sheba,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” ” ‘Night Mother” and “Angels in America.” (I personally sought out Nadine to portray my alter-ego in “Snowfall,” which was produced a while ago at the Henegar.)
And anyone having seen Alan’s masterful work, especially with “Picnic,” will always remember how much of a character it becomes.
Peg Girard, MCT producing director, took time away from directing “Forum” to rhapsodize over the couple.
“Nadine is one of the best actress in the county,” Peg said. “MCT would not be a quality community theater without Alan Selby. He is the best Technical Director anyone could have. They have been and are major parts of our Brevard theater community.”
Alan is the scenic and lighting design for “Forum” and is in the midst of some pretty intense “crunch time.”
It’s these long tech weeks, when the cast and crew merge with lighting, props and sound, that take the biggest toll. By the time Alan gets home, he’s typically so tired he heads straight to bed.
“There are weeks just before and during tech week that I will see Alan when I wake up in the morning and that is about it,” Nadine said. “And if we are both involved in the same show, juggling things at home can be tricky.”
Which means it’s tricky right now with all those domestic demands like shopping, cooking and cleaning because Nadine is creating a larger than life gag prop for the same show.
Fortunately, they are not in the same show that often. Alan sings, so when he does audition for a role, it’s usually in a musical. Nadine does mostly straight plays (theater speak for non-musicals).
Whatever it is they are doing, they know exactly how to help. They also are sensitive enough to know if they should stay quiet. When in a show together, they will help each other run lines. Otherwise, they just leave each other alone when it comes to the task of memorization.
“Alan always records my cue lines with me onto a CD which I listen to in the car and that is a huge help to learn the lines,” she said.
When Alan is working on design, he has an artist by his side to help.
“We do bounce ideas off of each other, talking through different approaches, different looks,” he said. “Sometimes getting into the details of what materials or lines feel right. I start getting silly and giddy when things fall together.”
However, they rarely give suggestions about characterizations. Alan said doing something like that steps on the director’s toes. He has seen many occasions, he said, where an actor tries out someone’s suggestion and it becomes an issue.
But when it comes to not getting cast in a role for which they have auditioned, they are there for each each other.
If Nadine goes out for a role and does not get cast, she’ll sometimes bring that disappointment home and rants a bit. Alan knows the pain. He says all that one can do is commiserate.
“We’ve all been there,” he said. “Thankfully, it doesn’t last too long.”
Alan’s interest in theater began when he was a little boy and found himself in the crowd scene of a community theater production of “Mame.” Four months later he was Winthrop in “The Music Man.” Nadine had wanted to be a writer but seeing a production of “The Lion in Winter” lit the interest in acting.
Nadine was raised in Dearborn, MI and later Cullman, AL. Alan, was raised in Gadsden, AL. They both ended up in the theater department at the University of Montevallo in Alabama.
“Auditions and classes and time in the costume kept throwing us together,” Nadine said. “I remember noticing him for the first time during auditions for A Caucasian Chalk Circle. I was wondering who this new freshman was who never opened his mouth. I found out later he was recovering from dental surgery and actually had his jaws wired shut.”
That didn’t stop him from giving her their first kiss when she became upset at not getting a role.
A few years later, they were both working at James Madison University in Virginia when they decided to marry. Alan was in the working in the theater department’s scenic shop and Nadine was working in its costume shop, which had received a donation of inventory from a bridal store.
“The costume designer sent Nadine into storage to find a wedding dress,” Alan said. “Can’t beat that.”
Working together, throughout all these years has been “most of the time wonderful,” Nadine said. “Alan has a bucket list with several roles in it that he really wants to do so when he auditions for those shows, I know it means a lot to him. Unfortunately, I have aged out of several of the roles on my bucket list.”
Throughout, they remain always at each other’s side, ever encouraging each other to keep alive the theater artist within.
“I can always tell when she’s been away too long,” Alan said. “She gets twitchy.”
“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” opens Aug. 11 and runs through Sept. 17 at Melbourne Civic Theater, 817 Strawbridge Ave., Melbourne. Tickets are $31 general and $29 seniors, military and students. Call 321-723-6935 or visit MyMCT.org.
This is an edited version of a story running in the Melbourne Beachsider.