Ann Arbor’s Jason Smith has been on stage, off stage and around a stage since he was in middle school and later at Huron High School. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Smith became interested in directing and started working back stage for various theater groups.
After jumping back on stage for a few plays, Smith directed his first show in 2003 and has since directed 14 shows, mostly musicals. His latest show is “Evil Dead, The Musical,” which he is directing for the Dexter Community Players. The show opened Thursday (Oct. 24) and runs through Nov. 2 at the Copeland Theater in Dexter.
Smith says he likes directing because it allows him to “shape and deliver a story” to an audience.
A play or musical is more than just the words and notes on a page,” Smith says. “The way a line is delivered, or the subtext of a scene realized, can change the way someone perceives a production. When the lights go down, and the cast begins to act and connect with the audience, they feed off each other and the show takes on an energy of its own.
Smith says he always strives for the most professional production possible and puts his heart and soul into it.
“After a performance ends the cast gets the accolades and I hear the crowd’s reactions, I see how the directorial choices I made shaped their reactions,” he says. “That is the greatest feeling – to know that the cast and audience came together and shared this experience.”
“Evil Dead, The Musical” is based on the Evil Dead films by Sam Raimi, starring Bruce Campbell. The films themselves are cult classics, and the musical pulls in elements, and story lines from all three films.
This is the fourth time that Smith has directed this show in Dexter.
“We only meant to do it once the first time,” he says. “But audiences so loved it that they asked us to bring it back year after year. I am lucky to be working with the same amazing production team for the fourth time as well.”
The production team includes: music direction by Jonathan Sill; choreography by Stacey Smith; phenomenal costumes by Kristi Kuick; special effects by Dave Hettmer; and lighting design by Ian Hyatt.
“The show delivers a fun and camp feel that fans love about the movies in a new format,” Smith says.
“Evil Dead, The Musical,” follows the misadventures of five college students as they spend their spring break in a creepy cabin in the woods. Once there, they end up rousing demonic forces that terrorize them through song, dance, and bad puns.
“One of the things that most sets this show apart from others is the Splatter Zone; the first several rows of the audience,” Smith says. “Here the audience gets closer to the action than most musicals as the drama, and fake blood, reaches off the stage and into their laps. If you like horror movies, campy movies, fun, musicals, and laughing then this is the show for you.”
Smith, 48, raves about the cast that will take the stage for Evil Dead.
“Many of them I have worked with before and some I’ve met for the first time in this show,” Smith says. “Hayden Reboulet as our hero, Ash. Stacey Smith as Cheryl. Ethan Miller as Scott. Sarah Robson as Linda. Kylie Densmore as Shelly. Devin Gill as Annie. Keith Rilki as Ed. Joseph Pryor as Jake. Neil Clennan as the Fake Shemp. Jonathan Sills as Professor Knowby. Together they have come together for an amazing team I can’t wait to get in front of an audience.”
Smith first got involved with the Dexter Community Players when he auditioned for a show back in 2004. He directed his first show for DCP in 2005 and has served on the board of directors for the group for the better part of a decade.
“This year’s production of Evil Dead marks the 10th show I have directed for DCP,” he said. “I consider this my home theater and I love every opportunity I have to perform or direct for DCP.”