Johnny Steiner Keeps Traditions Alive with Vaud-Villities

Johnny Steiner

By Lynette Santoro-Au, arts manager for the City of Upper Arlington

The Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival celebrates 51 years of art and community on Monday, Sept. 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Northam Park. Guests can transform their day at Festival with continuous performances on two stages. Vaud-Villities performs from 2:30-3:30 that day, so we caught up with Artistic Director and Music Director Johnny Steiner to learn more about Vaud-Villities’ rich history.

Lynette: Seventy-five years is a long history! What is a memorable performance that comes to mind?
Johnny: It’s amazing to think about this troupe doing a spring variety show each and every year for so many years. I believe this most recent show — our 75th — was stellar. The songs and dances were excellent. And the spirit felt by the cast, crew and community was wonderful. However, the show that so many folks talk about was the time ‘the lights went out at Vets.’ As you likely know, Veterans Memorial Auditorium was the home of our spring show for years and years. And once, the power went out during a show. In true show-stopper fashion, the show paused a bit but continued by flashlight — a capella — for the understanding and loving audience!

Lynette: Can you name any famous alums from Vaud-Villities?
Johnny: Randy Skinner, Tony-nominated Broadway performer, choreographer and director (42nd Street) and Beverly D’Angelo, star of stage and screen (Ellen Griswold in the Vacation movies).

Lynette: What happens when everything goes right at a performance?
Johnny: Performing is about creating a seamless, effortless presentation for the audience. So, when all the elements come together in the right way at the right time, it’s nothing short of magic!

Lynette: What happens when everything goes wrong at a performance?
Johnny: There can be missed steps, flubbed lines or technical issues. The trick for performers is to ‘roll with it’ in the best and most appropriate way possible. The true test of a pro, in my opinion, is not whether or not they make a mistake, it’s how they handle it.

Lynette: We all know the superstition of Macbeth in the theatre, does Vaud-Vilities have any superstitions?
Johnny: There are many, many theater superstitions. I think the most widely used one is ‘break a leg.’ The origin and meaning of which is debatable among performers. Some think it would be good to ‘break a leg’ because you’d be bowing so much at the curtain call, responding to an enthusiastic audience. Others believe it refers to one of the side curtains (called ‘legs’) breaking because the drapes open over and over for a rousing curtain call. Nonetheless, we performers all hope to create and entertaining and transformative experience for our audience!

Catch the Vaud-Vilities performance at 2:30 p.m. during the Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival, Monday, Sept. 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Northam Park.

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