Madison Fortney, young but enthusiastic

Madison Fortney chooses gels for the lighting design for the Neil Simon comedy Last of the Red Hot Lovers, which opens Feb. 16, at the Princess Theatre.

Valley Theatre Company
Madison Fortney chooses gels for the lighting design for the Neil Simon comedy Last of the Red Hot Lovers, which opens Feb. 16, at the Princess Theatre.

— Madison Fortney is the kind of young person that many long-standing community organizations dream of.

That’s particularly true for Valley Theater Company.

The troupe presents four live productions on the Princess Theatre stage every 12 months, a schedule that can test the mettle of even the most dedicated community-theater stalwarts.

Fortney showed up at the theatre’s doorstep in the summer of 2016, not long after graduating from Pepperdine University with a technical theatre degree.

VTC Artistic Director Candace Andrews succinctly summed up Fortney’s contribution since then.

“She jumped in with both feet,” said Andrews.

In VTC’s 2016-17 season, Fortney volunteered as sound technician for The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised], as sound designer and technician for White Christmas, as lighting designer and technician for Lone Star Love Potion, and as lighting designer for Painting Churches.

For all her work during her first season at the theater, the company showed its appreciation with the Spirit of VTC Award.

Fortney kept up the pace and expanded the scope of her contributions in the 2017-18 season.

She volunteered as lighting designer and technician for Speaking of Murder and as the assistant director for Christmas Every Day.

And, in the upcoming production of Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Fortney is coming out from behind the curtain to step in front of the footlights.

She has taken on the role of Bobbi Michele, one of the women playing opposite Eric Endres as Barney Cashman, as well as serving as the production’s lighting designer.

“It’s my first time acting in a really long time,” Fortney said.

She said the role had a personal appeal to her.

“I liked the character,” Fortney said. “I could see myself in the part.”

The show is billed as one of the most amusing of Neil Simon’s comedies, in which Cashman decides he wants to join the sexual revolution before it passes him by.

To accomplish that, he arranges a series of rendezvous with different women at his mother’s Manhattan apartment while she is at work.

Despite her affinity for the part, Fortney said mastering the role hasn’t been easy for her.

“What was most challenging was becoming the character,” she said. “It’s hard. I have to work at it.”

Two other women’s parts are played by Heather Ruane as Elaine Navazio, and Connie Hull as Jeanette Fisher.

Fortney said her fellow actors were helpful role models in her efforts to develop her own stage skills.

“I learned a lot just from watching them,” she said.

She also believes that creative synergy will come across to those who see the show.

“The audience will love how the actors relate to each other,” she said.

The show will run for five performances: Feb. 16, 17, 18, 23, and 24. The Feb. 18 performance will be a matinee at the Princess Theatre, 1228 Meade Ave.

The theater and box office will open at 7 p.m. and the performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. for evening performances.

For the matinee, doors will open at 2 p.m.


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