Goshen County director loves the thrill of the production
TORRINGTON, Wyo. — For years, Aaron Bahmer has been part of nearly every theatrical production in Goshen County.
“All through the school process, I was in music. I was involved in small theater productions at our school; we would have a small play once per year.”
He also took part in a small melodrama troop, which would put on productions over the weekend at Fort Laramie.
Bahmer attended the University of Wyoming, where he majored in math and education. He sang with the Centennial Singers, the university’s touring group. It was in college that Bahmer was first inspired by theater, while watching a college production.
“I immediately, while watching that play, felt a very strong, internal, visceral pull to be involved,” he said.
Years later, he cannot remember what the play was, exactly, but “It wasn’t so much the play itself, it was just theater. The act of acting.”
He landed a small role in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” after that, and worked in various musicals and operas through the rest of his time in college. When he began teaching, first in Colorado and then in Lingle, he continued working in theater.
“After I graduated, I directed a couple of melodramas at the various schools I worked at and a community melodrama in Pine Bluffs,” he said. “Coming back here, I got involved with Theater West over in Scottsbluff and I’ve been acting on-and-off with those folks since 1999.”
Bahmer began working at Eastern Wyoming College 20 years ago, first teaching computer science and then working as a structural technologist on the campus. He also directs EWC’s master chorus and the community choir and is a co-director for the community band.
He jumped on with Goshen Community Theatre when it started in 2001, and has been involved either on-stage or backstage on every GCT show, both for directing and acting and for the technical part of their shows. He helps design and execute lighting and is usually involved with special effects.
“I’ve dropped a lot of things from the sky,” he said. “Leaves, snow, nets, those kinds of things.”
He also uses those technical skills to help school productions and helps high schoolers prepare for the state drama contest.
As an actor, the imaginary part of putting on a play is the appeal to Bahmer.
“I like the play factor,” he said. “You get to pretend that you’re somebody else.”
The goal in acting, he said, is to internalize the character.
“It’s making sure I understand what the character’s motivations, what their desires are throughout the entire script, what their purpose is in the story,” he said. “I think if you can root around in that and understand how you think that person thinks and how they react to things, that’s how you get deeper into character.”
Actors get creative leeway to decide what their characters do and how they feel. When Bahmer steps into the role of director, he then gets to have that same control over the entire production.
“The draw really there is being in control of the whole image, the whole production,” he said. “As an actor you’re in charge of your own character and you have a certain amount of creativity you can put into who you are. But if you can put that creativity into the model of the entire thing, that’s what directing is about.”
As a director, Bahmer gets some say in the play GCT puts on.
“I look for meaning. I look for something that’s going to reach out and touch the audience in some way, emotionally in particular,” he said. “I directed ‘The Spitfire Grill,’ a small musical. I was in love with the music. I liked the music and the way it came across. I like the overall message of the story, which is very different from the film, and just the overall lingering sensation of what the audience members are going to feel like when they leave.”
He has directed by plays and musicals over the years, and talked about the differences between the two.
“Directing a straight play, you’re mostly concerned with how the actors interact with each other and some pretty basic scenery,” he said. “With a musical, you’re probably going to be adding more locations to that scenery, and you’re certainly going to add an aspect of how the song tells the story and, if there’s an opportunity for choreography to be involved, how does the choreography tell the story. It’s not just about flashy dance moves that are entertaining, it’s more about how that fits the story and how it conveys the message.”
Putting on a play in Goshen County comes with the added challenge of working with limited resources.
“The lack of a pool of people can really be frustrating at times,” he said. “Certainly as a director, when you’re trying to cast a show and you need six men and four men show up. Even when six men show up, they might not be the best six men but they’re the six that you’ve got. I will take whatever clay I end up with.”
The flip side of that is that Bahmer is much more intimately familiar with the talent available.
“There’s a strong set of folks that are involved in theater here,” he said. “I’m surprised and happily amazed at the amount of talent that this county and the area can provide.”