Tabor Theatre prepares ‘She Loves Me’ for homecoming

Enthusiastic and hitting the ground running, Lauren Carlton and Austin Harleson are excited about their first theatrical challenge since joining the Tabor College faculty this summer.

Carlton and Harleson are Theatre professors. Carlton also serves as Theatre director and Harleson as Theatre technical director.

The duo met as Master of Fine Arts students in Texas Tech University’s Performance and Pedagogy program. Fortunately for Tabor, Carlton and Harleson heeded a couple of encouraging voices from their past.

“I had two colleagues from earlier in my education at the University of Alabama who currently are teaching at Tabor — Dr. Jen Stephenson and Dr. Brad Baker,” Carlton said. “I worked with them as an undergraduate at the University of Alabama and was part of the University of Alabama Opera Theatre. They let Austin and me know about the two openings at Tabor.”

The timing was providential. “We had been on (Tabor’s) campus before,” Harleson said. “We were really impressed by the facilities, and that’s kind of the long and the short of it. Lauren was going to be graduating from Texas Tech and I was adjuncting at West Texas A&M at the time. It seemed like a perfect idea. We applied and were fortunate enough to end up with the positions.”

Carlton and Harleson arrived at the campus with barely enough time to become oriented with Tabor’s theater facilities, including the state-of-the art Richert Auditorium within the Shari Flaming Center for the Arts.

“I think for right now it’s been a good transition for us,” Carlton said. “We want to fill this really gorgeous space with folks who are farsighted and maybe haven’t heard of Tabor. I’m really excited to be a part of this community.”

Carlton’s early challenge was to choose the right theatrical production for their Tabor College premiere.

“I did a lot of hemming and hawing over what to select,” she admitted. “I didn’t know if the student body we would be looking at would fit the casting. In selecting this show. I was looking for something that would speak to the students, and would also be entertaining and captivating enough for the Hillsboro community.”

Carlton chose, “She Loves Me,” because it appeals to a variety of audiences. “It fits the bill really quite nicely,” she said.

The musical is set in a 1930s European parfumerie, where the audience meets shop clerks Amalia (played by sophomore Caitlyn Rohaus) and Georg (played by senior Camden Cox). More often than not, they don’t see eye to eye. After both respond to a “lonely hearts advertisement” in the newspaper, they live for the love letters they exchange. Their identities remain unknown until Amalia and Georg discover the identity of their true loves.

Joining Cox and Rohaus as actors are Austin Harleson, Nathan Kemling, Jenna Bloomer, Zac Wyse and Cody Crouch. An ensemble of seven singers and an orchestra led by Dr. Gregory Zielke will provide the musical backdrop.

“She Loves Me” has had a variety of adaptations through the years. Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan starred in the 1940 film, “The Shop Around the Corner;” Judy Garland and Van Johnson filled the lead roles in the 1949 version, “In the Good Old Summertime,” and Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were featured in the 1998 adaption, “You’ve Got Mail.”

“This play has kind of a built-in audience,” Carlton said. “Even though folks may not recognize the title immediately, chances are if you hear one of the other actors you’ll recognize it.”

Carlton described the music as both beautiful and challenging. “I think the cast has really dived into the text with grace and excitement,” she said. “They are rising to the challenge in spite of it being a demanding show.”

“One of the things I’m really excited about is the support we’ve gotten from other faculty members about the show,” Carlton said. “The community has really stepped up and been supportive. It’s been really nice since Austin and I are both new, and we don’t have all the contacts yet.”

Tabor College will present “She Loves Me” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, in the Richert Auditorium. Theatre-only tickets will be $15 for adults and $10 for students high school age and younger. A free matinee performance for children begins at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20.

Reserved-seating tickets are available online at tabor.edu/tickets, or visit the box office in the Shari Flaming Center for the Arts, 311 East B St., Hillsboro. Box office hours are 1-4 p.m. Wed-Fri.