by Lorie Lewis Ham
Here at KRL we like to shine the spotlight on the talented actors, artists, and musicians in the Valley and take our readers behind the scenes for a chance to get to know more about them. This week we are interviewing local actor/director Darren Tharp, who also happens to be the current Board President and Artistic Director for CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre. Darren has lived in the Valley for 45 years and his current day job is as Regional Sales Manager Northern California for Nilfisk.
KRL: When did you first get involved in acting and why?
Darren: At the age of 7, I discovered I liked to sing and dance and from then on, I knew this was going to be a part of my life. I loved the feeling the stage gave me– being so scared and nervous under the lights, but at the same time a kind of peace and focus I can’t explain.
KRL: What was your first part?
Darren: My first big role came in high school when I auditioned for a challenge to portray an older man at the age of 16, but I did it and to this day it is a memory and experience that I treasure very much.
Darren: I’ve been in a lot, too much to name them all, but I went on to be a part of Good Company Players where I spent a little over a decade playing many roles like Danny Zuko in Grease, Rutledge in 1776, Nicely Nicely in Guys and Dolls, Trevor Graydon in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Poo Ba in The Hot Mikado, Max Bialystock in The Producers to name a few. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with Fresno State Theater department as Mr. Cladwell in Urinetown and John Wilks Booth in Assassins. I have also been involved in many shows with CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre, where I sit now as the Board President and Artistic Director.
KRL: What are some of the shows you have been in, and the parts you have played & with what companies?
KRL: When did you first get involved in directing-why and how?
Darren: I recently have gotten into the directing side of the stage. I’ve worked under some amazing directors and learned so much from them as I have grown in my skills and felt it was time to see what I could do with a show.
KRL: What was the first show directed?
Darren: Last year when we all were going through the pandemic, I wanted to find a show title that would give our community a message of peace during the holidays as we were coming out of this extraordinary and challenging time in all our lives. So, we decided to bring Merry Christmas George Bailey, the staged radio version of Its A Wonderful Life to our Clovis stage. This was such a challenge to find a cast of 22 actors to play over 65 characters on stage set in a radio station studio in 1942 with the added layer of live sound effects. I had an amazing cast and the result was outstanding. Our audiences loved the performance, many stating it took them back in time with tears in their eyes coming out of the theatre.
KRL: Do you have a favorite type of show?
Darren: I really love all shows, musical or straight plays. If I had a favorite type I like a good old-fashioned musical revue show, where it’s all singing and dancing. They are a lot of hard work but very entertaining.
KRL: What do you like best about acting/singing/directing?
Darren: Connecting with the audience, watching them experience the story from my vantage point up on stage. The emotions that they feel through our performance as actors is quite special when you connect. Taking them on the journey.
KRL: What is the hardest?
Darren: I would say the prep work going into a show. When I know I’m going to audition for a show title I study the material and the character I’m interested in and creating the mannerisms right away so my auditions are solid for the director.
Darren: I would love to play Tevye again. I’m not done with that role, its one that is so special and timeless and I would love to continue shaping that character more.
KRL: Future goals and dreams?
Darren: My Mom taught me how to be strong and always hopeful, and to never give up.
KRL: What do you feel has helped you the most in growing as an actor and director?
Darren: Working with extraordinary directors and fellow talent on stage.
KRL: What advice would you have for someone wanting to get into acting?
Darren: Try it, take the risk. It is not that scary and once you’re hooked you will crave it more and more. It teaches you many things for life like work ethic and organizational skills, how to communicate and be confident. It will give you many wonderful memories and you will meet some of your lifelong friends– your theatre family.
KRL: What is your dream role?
Darren: Jean Valjean in Les Misérables
KRL: When and how did you first get involved with CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre?
<strong>Darren: When I was young it was always a place that promoted theatre in the summer, and through the years I always wanted to try it because they perform in the big house with a live orchestra and that was awesome. In the mid-2000s, I understudied the role of Tevye but never got the chance to go on stage until 2017 when I had the honor to finally play the role of Tevye in a CenterStage production.
KRL: How did you end up in the position that you are in now?
Darren: After being involved in the productions of Fiddler on the Roof and Legally Blonde, I learned more about how the organization ran. I decided to join the Board of Directors and shortly after was named Board President and Artistic Director.
KRL: What does CenterStage have coming up this year?
Darren: We are so excited to be producing the Valley premiere of All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914. This docu-musical tells the story of a real-life truce that happened between the Allied and Central Powers during Christmas in 1914. It is reported that in many parts of the front lines- in the trenches- young men chose to lay down their weapons and their differences to celebrate Christmas together. They sang together, played soccer, and even exchanged gifts. This docu-musical interweaves the real-life stories with beautiful music to tell the story of these brave young men who chose hope and peace, instead of fear. We are opening Veterans Day weekend- November 12 and there will be 6 performances in two weeks. We thought it was the perfect time to open with this wonderful story, while paying tribute to the men and women who have sacrificed for our great nation.
KRL: Ooh that does sound interesting! Anything else you would like to add?
Darren: Last year, CenterStage Clovis celebrated our 30th anniversary as a non-profit, charged to bring family friendly live entertainment to our community while developing the next set of young performers, technicians, directors, etc. Our goal and new tagline is “Where Community Takes CenterStage,” and we look forward to the next 30 years of helping celebrate this unique art form with our community, but also helping to tell our communities stories- as it truly is a community worth celebrating.
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