Neverland Love: A Double Feature

Our first show of the season is taking us off to Neverland. Peter Pan has been done six, soon to be seven, times in Muni history and is always a family favorite. For this edition of “The Muni Moment,” two of the staff members  for the 2019 production are sharing their interactions with the show that led them to being on staff. Jacob Deters, an entranced audience member turned Assistant Director, and Anna Maisenbacher, Wendy/Peter Pan/and potentially Muni’s 2026 production Tiger Lily turned Choreographer, share their fond memories of their show.

From Jacob:

Congratulations to the cast of the 2019 Muni shows. This was my first time on the other side of the audition table. I have auditioned and was in a Muni show for 12 straight seasons. My first Muni show was Grease back in 2007! Let me tell you all, being on staff is quite the experience. I am so ecstatic to be Assistant Directing Peter Pan at Muni this year. We had an unbelievable amount of talent come through and as much as I love the fun of audition season, I am so happy to have a cast for our show and start the rehearsal process.

Let’s take this back to where it all began…

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Wait… too far back…. (BTW – yes that is me and my mom, waiting for my blanket, dee dee, to dry).

Fast forward to the end of last summer. Elizabeth Cheney (Director for Peter Pan) and I began to discuss if we would want to put in to direct and assistant direct a show for this season. We had some ideas we were very interested in putting on the stage for this season, but it had to be the right one! We knew we wanted it to be family friendly and a real crowd pleaser. We threw around some ideas and when the idea of Peter Pan came up, we both were both intrigued.

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I have been a fan of it since I saw it in 2007 at Muni. From the sword fights, flying, and pixie dust… I was hooked! (see what I did there…). Elizabeth and I both loved the story, music, and magic of it all, but was it the right time to do Peter Pan again? The last time Muni did Peter Pan was in 2013 (once again a phenomenal show). It is hard to tell how the news of reviving a classic Muni show is going to be received by the theater community, but Elizabeth and I were on board for this project because we knew it would be something special… something extraordinary. We began to think of all the possibilities we had with it and we knew we could bring a different spin this time around. It was time for Muni audiences to see Peter Pan once more!

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I hope I can bring a unique perspective this time around to this talented staff. The story is classic, timeless, and hard not to love. When I see the photo above of me, I was reminded of myself at the age many of our audience members will be. Not wanting to grow up and always ready for the next adventure. It is a tough lesson in life, but unfortunately, we do have to move on and “grow-up” (whatever that means), we lose that innocence.  Peter Pan brings back that sense of curiosity, even just for a few hours, in even the biggest grownups. Coming from someone who has yet to be involved in a production of Peter Pan, I hope to bring some fresh eyes to this show and new, exciting ideas to share with this new generation of Muni-goers.

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Under Elizabeth’s direction, I am so excited to see what our staff and cast can bring to life on the Muni stage this year. Becky Kemp has a fantastic vision for this music and I am happy to get to work with her for this first time on this project. Anna Masienbacher coming back as a former Peter Pan to choreograph is just pure Muni magic. As much as we love sharing these stories with a new generation of Muni audiences and casts, there is something special in hearing stories like Anna’s and her journey with Peter Pan. We have a wonderful cast that we cannot wait to work with. We have a wonderful mix of Muni veterans, but also new people. I cannot wait for them to experience the Muni Magic for the first time.

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I hope to see each of you under the Muni stars this season for a fantastic line up. Make sure to save me a Muni Dog! I can guarantee you will not want to miss Peter Pan this season.

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From Anna:

Since I’ve been old enough to audition for the Muni, Peter Pan has been on the Muni stage four times.  I have been a part of three of those productions, currently as the choreographer for the upcoming season.  Had college not prevented me, I definitely would have tried out for the 2007 production, as I have a goal of playing every possible female role in the show.  So director for the Muni 2026 production, whoever you are, keep me in mind for Mrs. Darling, Liza, Pirate #3, or a super old Tiger Lily, because I will be present at auditions.  So what is it about the story that I find so irresistible?  I think that can be summed up with one word: magic. Peter Pan is magical.  How lovely to sit in an audience or backstage and watch Peter encourage everyone around him clap as loud as they can because they believe in fairies and want Tink to live. It gets me every. single. time.   When you are involved in the show of Peter Pan, you get to forget about all of your adult troubles of the day, go to rehearsal, and be a child for three wonderful hours each night. And how exciting is it when all of those weeks of hard work come together and you hear that gorgeous music that swells into trumpet blasts as Peter soars through the nursery window with an explosion of fairy dust?  UGH. CHILLS. But I’m not going to talk about those things in this post. I’m about to tell you the real stuff…all the crap that can go wrong and ruin the magic. RUINING THE MAGIC FOR YOU IN 2019: HERE WE GO!

  • That DANG harness: real talk you guys.  It is awful. You’re super pumped because rehearsals have been going so well before you get to the Muni site.  Then suddenly you arrive on site, and you can’t breathe during “I Gotta Crow” because this giant medal harness added 15 lbs.  Also, NOT CUTE. You felt pretty good about that costume fitting, and then this lung and thigh crushing harness makes everything SO TIGHT.  You try to still look kinda cute walking around backstage on day 1 and day 2 of tech. “Does this harness make my butt look big??” By day 3, you’re walking around like a sumo wrestler, begging your flight director Tom for a pair of his son’s football pads so that your legs can stop bruising and swelling.  Your arms are purple (see exibit A)…
  • The Peter Flight.  OK hear me out…this goes in stages.

Stage 1: The Army Crawl.  You have to hide behind this two foot tall window sill so instead of laying back there for the entire first part of the show (because bugs), you hang backstage and then crawl on all fours towards your friend Jen so that she can hook you up for the big flight. Hopefully you can wipe off the pieces of stage that got stuck to your costume in the process.

Stage 2: The Crouch. Again…two foot tall window sill.  Neck cramps for days trying to keep my head below the window.  Also leg cramps from holding a squat position until you can’t feel them anymore.

Stage 3: The Window Panic. You hear Mrs. Darling say one of your favorite lines “Dear nightlights that protect my sleeping children…” Ok…it’s go time.  The violins start. The windows haven’t opened yet. Does anyone know the windows aren’t open?? SOMEONE TELL KEVIN NOT TO JUMP OR I AM GOING TO SLAM INTO THIS WINDOW LIKE A BUG ON A WINDSHIELD.  THEN THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN…Peter Pan Fails.  Also don’t watch too many Peter Pan fails because then you just convince yourself that one of them is going to happen to you.

Stage 4: The Flight.  So many curse words are flying through your head as you are basically catapulted into the air.  The amazing crew opened the window just in time, and you didn’t hit the window. #blessed DANG IT. You forgot to throw the pixie dust. *throws giant clump of pixie dust right before landing and most of it sticks to your sweaty head*

Stage 5:  Concern for your friend Kevin.  This flight happens because some brave soul jumps from a two story scaffolding to fling you into the air.  You volunteered your friend Kevin to risk his life so you can look pretty. It’s fine. He jumps…you’re flung into the air…you landed…excellent. Then suddenly you hear your friend Kevin crash to the ground and groan just a bit.  You instinctively want to say “You ok Kev?” but you can’t. So you try to come off as “curious Peter” and sneak a quick peek off stage. PHEW. Kevin is alive. You’re ok to proceed with “Tink! Tinkerbelle! Where are you?” And the flight is done.  Let’s do it again in Act 3!

  • The very real fear that no one will clap for Tink, she dies, and the show ends with you just looking like an idiot on stage.  Seriously, what if no one claps?!? But kids are the best. They clap. Their parents clap. You breathe a giant sigh of relief, cry real tears, and go rescue Wendy.

Ok, do all of these things happen?  Yes. Is it worth it? 100% yes. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  It all becomes so worth it when you see hundreds of kids stare with complete fascination, hear them gasp when Peter flies through the window, giggle when the croc wiggles across stage, and clap as loudly as they can to save a fairy.  I cried probably no less than 15 times watching Muni auditions this year. The emotions felt during the scenes between Peter and Wendy are real, and they all came shooting out of my eyeballs again. I still have such genuine love and affection for both Carolyn and Lindsey because you just can’t help but become best friends when you work so closely on these intense scenes. I learned about the importance of the Wendy/Peter relationship from Phil Funkenbusch and Ed MacMurdo, and it changed my life forever.  

Also, what are these 80s bangs??  

Cute fun fact…Lindsey and I wore the same Wendy nightgown.

Being involved in Peter Pan is exhilarating, challenging, exhausting, rewarding, and MAGICAL.  It is an awfully big adventure, and I cannot wait to return to Neverland again this year. And Devin, invest in some football padding right now.  I hope my sweet husband waits to jump until the window is open.

All views and opinions expressed on The Muni Moment are those of the guest writers and do not necessarily represent the views of the Springfield Muni Opera.

The 5 Stages of Muni Monday

Auditioning is stressful, don’t get me wrong. But the anxiety of waiting for that fateful phone call letting you know you’ve landed a role is Just. The. Worst. I’ve auditioned for lots of shows, at several different theaters, but lemme tell ya – there is no nervous like Muni Monday nervous. Muni Monday is an ORDEAL. It’s an all-day happening, causing your heart to race any time you think the word “Muni”. You’re a nervous wreck. You’ve potentially waited for a week and a half to hear any news. You’re snapping at everyone (just me?). It’s the worst. I’ve pinpointed the five stages you might experience as you live out your own Muni Monday.

  1. Excitement – You wake up, realizing today’s the day! We finally get faces to put with the characters for a whole summer of fabulous theater. You start casting the shows in your own head, based on the amazing talent within your audition groups. It’s like an unwritten contest to see how closely your predictions line up with the actual casting. crushed it
  2. Anger – There is no angrier person than a Muni Auditionee who gets a call on Muni Monday from their Aunt Susan. C’mon Susan. I’ll call you on Tuesday, let’s leave the phone lines open, mmkay?                    susan.gif
  3. Nervousness – As I said before, just thinking about your phone ringing, or thinking about Muni, can cause your blood pressure to spike. It’s a feeling that will last all day. Every text message, noise on the TV, or car horn on the street will have you on edge. Even though you know calls don’t start until after 6:00, you will find yourself checking that your phone is on loud on your lunch break, ya know, just in case.nervous
  4. Anticipation – As your friends start posting their casting news, the anticipation and hope for your phone call rises. There goes that blood pressure again…anticipation.gif
  5. The Resolve – Come Tuesday Morning, all casting has been completed, and if you’re a lucky one, you’ll be sharing the news of your newly cast role with your friends and family on social media. You may even drop Aunt Susan a line to fill her in. If it happens that this year, you’ll be watching from the audience, remember there’s always next year. Belt “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” at the top of your lungs, have a good cry (trust me, I’ve been there, and it helps!), but remember there are SO many ways to get your name out there. Volunteer as an usher or a stage crew member. Show up to paint some sets or make some Muni Dogs. Put a smile on your face, make yourself known and go in vocal cords a-blazin’ next year!


Happy Muni Monday, Friends! May the odds be ever in your favor.     hunger games.gif


See You Under the Stars,


 All views and opinions expressed on The Muni Moment are those of the guest writers and do not necessarily represent the views of the Springfield Muni Opera.

8 Audition Tips From Someone Who Has Never Auditioned

I might be the least qualified person to give any kind of tips about the Muni audition process. My time on stage started and ended on the Jacksonville High School stage after my show stopping performances as The Steward in Anything Goes (“All ashore who’s going ashore! All ashore who’s going ashore!” might be my least favorite line ever written and still haunts me to this day – thanks for nothing, Cole Porter) and as  Pete/Slim/Tex/Buster/Hank/Tom aka one of the Canadian Mounties aka one nameless member of the men’s ensemble in Little Mary Sunshine.

As far as the Muni is concerned, I’ve been hovering around it as Theater Boyfriend/Fiancé/Husband to Craig Williams II since Summer 2012. Last summer, I took on my first staff position as Production Coordinator in Legally Blonde (I’m also Production Coordinator for Evita this summer and, y’all, don’t cry for us because our merch is gonna be fierce #EvitaSwag). Just a few weeks ago, I finished up assistant directing The Last 5 Years at The Hoogland Center for the Arts. What have I not done through these roles? Watched auditions or cast anyone in a single show. So, while I suppose I’m part of this Muni family… I ain’t got a clue about auditioning.

But lucky for both of us (‘cause this post would’ve ended at that gif otherwise), I do have a clue about eavesdropping on people who do know a thing or two about auditions. I’ve also imagined my own anxiety-ridden imaginary audition every year, so I’ve seen literally every possible and unrealistic contingency. So obviously, take all my nosey sage advice, you little eager beaver, you!

Before auditioning, have a few practice auditions with people who will give you real feedback.

Don’t seek out people who are going to tell you how great you are. Find your most critical friend or mentor to try your audition material on and set the expectation that you want raw, unfiltered feedback – it’s better to get it before you’re standing in front of a panel of people who will be deciding whether or not to cast you. When you get the feedback, don’t take it personally – use it to make your audition better. If possible, seek out someone who has experience in auditioning or casting at the Muni.

Have a lifeline on standby for a call or text.

Auditioning is such a vulnerable thing to do. You’re standing in front of a panel of people you may or may not know super well and asking them to see you as part of the vision they have for the story they want to tell. As a result, you may feel a little anxious throughout the process. Ask a friend (or Mom or Dad) to be on standby if you need to text or call someone to get you pumped up.

Everyone around you has the same stakes.

Remember that everyone is there to audition – no one has been cast yet. You’re all in the same boat. If you have a moment, use it to encourage those around you. It’ll make you and the other person feel at ease and better about the entire process.

Bond with your fellow auditionees.

You may not have a ton of down time, but when you have a few minutes, bond with the people around you. Avoid the tendency to scroll through social media or otherwise disengage from those around you. Take a few minutes to get to know the people you might be spending a significant portion of your summer with.

Be upfront about your conflicts.

Don’t conceal scheduling conflicts you might have. Going on vacation the week before tech week? Involved in another show in town during rehearsals? Won’t be in town for the actual show? Tell the staff any and all conflicts. While some conflicts are deal breakers (like not being in town for the actual show), so many conflicts can be worked around. But the only way the staff can work with your schedule is if they know about your conflicts, so disclose away!

This isn’t American Idol (oh good grief, I am dating myself) – there is no Simon Cowell at the table.

Every single staff member watching your audition is hoping you are going to fill a need – no one is sitting their hoping you’ll fail. If you don’t audition well, that’s one less option they have for their cast. The entire staff is on your side and rooting for you. They want to cast you! Don’t forget that and let your nerves get the better of you.

There are no small roles…

Listen, it’s a cliche for a reason. Be open to various types of roles. Don’t limit yourself to “big” or “small” roles. Every single cast and staff member is an important part of telling the story of their show. Even in a low profile role or part, you will learn so much just by taking it all in… which can only help in your future theater endeavors.

Even if you don’t get cast in a show…

Don’t panic! You got this. But if you don’t get cast, remember that there is so much to do at the Muni. Work backstage, volunteer at the site, involve yourself however you can. So much work goes into the Muni magic every summer, and only some of that magic happens on the stage.

What do you think of these tips? If you’re a veteran Muniac, what tips would you add? Let us know in the comments!

J. Ryan Blesse is a published author, freelance writer, and marketing professional with a passion for storytelling. When he’s not reading or writing, he’s thinking about pizza, yo-yo dieting, traveling almost anywhere with his husband Craig, and/or talking politics with his main feline Grizabella.

All views and opinions expressed on The Muni Moment are those of the guest writers and do not necessarily represent the views of the Springfield Muni Opera.

Muni Audition Workshop Recap

You may have heard Muni held an audition workshop this weekend. Or if you didn’t, you might be panicking, “Shoot! I missed it! How will I ever be prepared to audition?!”

Have no fear! The Muni Moment is here to fill you in on all the important details needed to make your audition magical.

First of all, this is just one of my favorite days of the year. The magical kick off. For many, it’s a reunion of friends, and the excitement in the air is palpable.

The workshop is a fast and furious run down of the Muni audition process, show staff introductions, and it is full of words of encouragement from the staff. Here are some highlights:

Muni board member, Dan Humphries emceed the event and welcomed everyone to the workshop. Muni President, Jim Leach, shared his thanks to everyone for coming out to the event, and noted the importance of volunteering at Muni. Following introductions, each show got a chance to come up and introduce their staff, and share a little bit about their vision for their productions.

Peter Pan:

  • Staff:
    • Director-Elizabeth Cheney
    • Assistant Director-Jacob Deters
    • Vocal Director-Becky Kemp
    • Choreographer-Anna Bussing-Maisenbacher
    • Producer-Julie Herpel
  • The staff noted that this production of Peter Pan is open to any gender playing the roles. Peter may be played by a male or female, and the same goes for lost boys, pirates, etc. Director, Elizabeth Cheney, also reiterated that the role of Peter Pan is a physically demanding role, and that whoever is cast will need to be willing to cut his/her hair come mid-April for promotional footage. Whoever gets the amazing opportunity to portray Peter Pan, we know they will rock that Pixie cut! For auditions, they are asking that performers sing something that showcases their vocal range, but that does not necessarily have to be something from Peter Pan itself.


  • Staff
    • Director-Craig Williams II
    • Assistant Director-Courtney Wick
    • Vocal Director-Christie Lazarides
    • Choreographer-Zoey Zara
    • Producer-Mike Rogers
  • Director, Craig Williams II, gave a beautiful synopsis of the life of the influential, Eva Peron, and touched briefly on the other supporting roles that interact with Eva along the way. Williams noted that each character is incredibly dynamic and share important messages with the audience. Evita has not been performed on the Muni stage sing the 1980s, and after today, it is clear this is a show you do not want to miss!

Thoroughly Modern Millie:

  • Staff
    • Director/Choreographer-Morgan Kaplan
    • Director/Choreographer-Andrew Maynerich
    • Assistant Director-Stacy Kolaz
    • Vocal Director-Diane Dietz
    • Apprentice Director-Danny Guttas
    • Producer-Dan Humphries
  • If you’re looking for a upbeat, dance heavy show, Thoroughly Modern Millie is for you! Co-Directors, Morgan Kaplan and Andrew Maynerich, set the tone of the fast pace and high energy of this wonderful show. They noted that this is a dance heavy show, particularly in tapping. A video of the tap audition combination will be posted on the Muni’s Facebook page in the next couple of weeks for those wanting to get a head start on practicing. A change in Muni’s production of Millie is that the role of Mrs. Meers is planned to be cast as a male. The character will have a sweet, “southern belle” accent when in character as Mrs. Meers, but when not around Millie and the other girls, “Mr. Meers” will be a more gruff, Brooklyn persona.

The Wizard of Oz:

  • Staff
    • Director-Anna McFarland
    • Director-Connor McNamara
    • Vocal Director-Sara Baltusevich-Goeckner
    • Choreographer-Casey Tester
    • Producer-Mary Matheny
  • Co-Director, Anna McFarland, addressed the audience along with her partner, Connor, wearing fabulous ruby red Converse shoes. Just by looking at her, you could tell her whole heart is in this show. Both directors shared words of their love for the show, the movie, and celebrated that the movie would be celebrating its 80th anniversary in August when our own Wizard of Oz  will take the stage. The directors noted they will be staying true to the movie, but are planning to keep the ensemble very busy, including using the children cast in other numbers outside of Munchkinland. The WOZ staff has specific songs cuts they are hoping to hear from the four main leads-if interested in one of these roles, see below contact information for collecting sheet music.

It was a wonderful kick off to what is sure to be an incredible season full of wishes and dreams come true. Right now, our wish is for you to come out and audition! Set on a show already? You can email them here for music to prepare for your audition!

Peter Pan:
Thoroughly Modern Millie:
The Wizard of Oz:

Got your music, and your dream roles picked out? Make a list of conflicts and sign up for an audition slot!

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for some great audition tips from a guest-blogger and one of Muni’s most highly regarded volunteers!

See you under the stars,

All views and opinions expressed on The Muni Moment are those of the guest writers and do not necessarily represent the views of the Springfield Muni Opera.


Hey all you Muniacs! My name is Lindsey Rudd, and I am one of the writers for “The Muni Moment” this year! At least once a month, fellow blogger/vlogger Taylor Brown and I will bring you Muni highlights, audition tips, guest writers and more. This month’s focus: #MyMuniJourney.

#MyMuniJourney actually started back in 1999, when five-year-old me set out to audition for Muni’s production of The Sound of Music (FYI-children’s audition age is now eight!). I don’t remember much from the process other than the staff asking me to sing the “Do, Re, Mi” scale and me having literally no clue what that meant (whoops). I remember quickly searching to find my parents, and realizing quickly that everyone around me was singing along and smiling trying to get me to sing with them. This was my first interaction with one of the most supportive groups of people I have ever met. I didn’t get cast that year (#tonedeaf), but I had definitely caught the theater bug. Fast forward four years, and I was a nine-year-old who could actually carry a bit of a tune at this point. I landed my first role as the Munchkin Barrister (practically the lead!) in Muni’s 2003 production of The Wizard of Oz. From that moment on, Muni became a family affair. My dad, brother and I all enjoyed time on stage, while my mom enjoyed the behind-the-scenes action and eventually became the queen of the concession stand.

Some of my favorite shows and roles I’ve had include:

The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music – My first two Muni shows, both of which I shared on the stage with my dad (love you Captain Von Trapp!). During these shows I met my beloved voice teachers, Leigh Ann and Judy, (I attribute getting cast in shows the years following entirely to them and their training – they took me a LONG way from the five-year-old who didn’t know what “Do, Re, Mi” was). I also had a brief encounter with my future-husband, cast as a Nazi youth (you’ll see in a bit, I clearly have a thing for the bad boys).

Little Shop of Horrors and AnnieTwo more shows I did with my dad (allllllll the bonding time), but even better was getting to meet some great ladies and strengthen friendships with some I already knew. Plus, check out the awesome wigs I wore!

Trio member, or Dora the Explorer? You decide. Also, I met some of the greatest friends ever during this show. I’m so grateful for the lifelong friendships Muni builds.

All Shook Up, Hairspray and High School Musical Hands down the most fun, high-energy, eight week cardio programs I have ever completed.

I’m not kidding when I say it was a cardio program. I think I lost 20 lbs that summer. #werk

White Christmas – I was about seven months pregnant, wearing a wig, Christmas sweater, and a Santa hat in 100+ degree weather. What’s not to love?! If you didn’t get to see this sight, I’m truly sorry you missed out on such a treat.

Not picturedmy large and in charge baby bump.

Legally Blonde – Holy cow, what a show! I may be biased, but “Omigod You Guys it was SO GOOD. The staff was hands down my favorite staff I’ve ever worked with, the cast was stellar, and I played the evil Vivienne Kensington, and I am certain no typecasting involved.

Go best friend! (That’s my best friend!)

Peter PanI’ve done the show twice. The first time I played a warrior girl and met the girl who has been my best friend ever since; the Elle Woods to my Vivienne, if you will ;-). The second time around, I played Wendy, got to fly under the stars and got engaged to the love of my life, the most handsome of the swashbuckling pirates (#badboy), during one of our rehearsals.

Love this lady to Neverland and back.
Wendy and her pirate lived happily ever after…

Okay… that may have been every Muni show I have ever performed in, but how could I leave a single one out?! They are all special in some way. Also special shout out to shows I worked crew on, Oliver and Big River.  I had just as much fun behind the scenes, so if you’re thinking you want to get involved but the stage isn’t for you, there are many opportunities beyond performing. More info? Visit

#MyMuniJourney has been a blast so far. As we head into our 2019 season, two of my favorite shows I have ever done are being performed again. This time around, I have two wonderful children to share the magic with. My #wish this year is that they see the same magic I saw in these shows.

Muni’s Wizard of Oz Dorothy and Lion coming Summer 2034!

Please, share your journey. If you’ve had many years with us under the stars or are just contemplating auditioning this year, your journey starts somewhere! When you comment, use #MyMuniJourney, we will post some of our favorite journeys that you share with us in future posts!

See you under the stars,


All views and opinions expressed on The Muni Moment are those of the guest writers and do not necessarily represent the views of the Springfield Muni Opera.