FALMOUTH – Brian Switzer knows production details count in community theater.
“It’s the little details that make a show,” he said.
But sometimes those details are not so small.
A case in point are the details in the holiday Falmouth Theatre Guild production, “Striking Out: A Baseball Play in 6 Innings.”
The first thing the audience hears is “the voice of the Boston Red Sox,” Joe Castiglione welcoming the audience, explaining where the exits are, and advising people to silence cell phones.
“Can you believe it!” Castiglione says, repeating the catch phrase that fans know so well.
Turns out the parent of two of the actors in the show knows someone who knows the famous announcer and he agreed to record the opening announcements for the Falmouth Theatre Guild show.
There are other unique details to the production, like giving a pack of baseball cards with photos of the actors at bat instead of a program; having vendors selling cracker jacks midway through the show; and including several versions of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” between innings.
Switzer, who lives in Woods Hole and is a middle school teacher, is the director of the show. He is the first one to admit that a baseball comedy is an unusual choice for Christmas.
In order to set the scene, to make Christmas feel like July on a Little League baseball field, he wanted to include plenty of special touches.
He explained why he picked “Striking Out” to direct as a holiday show.
“I thought it would work well because it is totally different than your usual ‘Best Christmas Pageant’ or ‘Scrooge.’ But the lessons in this show are very much central to what we celebrate at this time of year. There is a Christmas element to the story that is tied to the baseball element of the story. This is such a true American piece that I think people will love it. I mean what’s more American than baseball and Christmas?” Switzer said.
By directing “Striking Out,” Switzer is returning to a show he directed with middle schoolers about 25 years ago.
For this December version of the show, he wrote some Christmas Day scenes to frame the baseball story as a flashback.
He also wrote some scenes about the kids who are posting the scores on the field scoreboard.
In between all the scenes, he uses contemporary versions of Christmas songs as well as several different versions of the classic baseball anthem, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” including one with Frank Sinatra, one by Carly Simon and gives the song a sort of hip hop beat.
Switzer said choosing this play was about highlighting talented young actors.
“I wanted people to see what young actors can do. This is a true ensemble piece of theater. Meaning, everyone is onstage at all times and timing essential for the whole cast. For adults this would be a challenge and for kids it is equally challenging,” he said.
Mostly, Switzer said, the play is about capturing the joy of life–the ultimate game. As he told his young actors during rehearsals, “It’s not about winning and losing–it’s the process of getting there.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl —the team is co-ed. Young or old. This play will make you smile and leave the theater happy,” he said.
Once he had the show, he brainstormed about how to make the theater feel like a ballpark.
No idea was too far-fetched, including having the one and only Joe Castiglione making the opening announcement.
Can you believe it? Yes, you can.
It feels a little like a ballpark in July—even though it is community theater in December.
“Striking Out” is playing until December 14 at Highfield Theater in Falmouth. For tickets, go to falmouththeatreguild.org.
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– Laura M. Reckford