Several years after graduating, a UNLV theater alumna finally found herself calling the shots behind a major local production this year.
In her directorial debut, Abby Santiago’s reprise of the Broadway play “Tribute” by Bernard Slade was phenomenal.
Her husband Brian Santiago, a Rebel graduate of arts and film studies, designed and co-created the beautiful set.
“It was foundational,” he said, giving credit to UNLV. “Every practice, every ideal; I can root it back to what I learned there.”
Theatre In The Valley (TITV) helped organized the play at its venue in Henderson from Jan. 27 to Feb. 12.
The story centers around Scottie Templeton (Kent Allen), a jokester and a crowd-pleaser that lives in New York. Templeton’s son Jud (Randy Hample) visits with him before moving to Berkeley for his new career as a history teacher. Toward the beginning of the play, it’s revealed that Scottie has cancer and wishes to reconnect with Jud.
His ex-wife, Maggie (Paula Loop), comes to town with Jud for a school reunion and reminisces with Scottie about old times.
“Tribute” originally appeared on Broadway in 1978 and was later adapted into a feature-length film starring Jack Lemmon in 1980.
With its elegant set design, Santiago’s directing and talented cast, TITV brought forth a powerful show that rivaled the film adaption.
Allen played a gregarious Scottie, reminiscent of a family member or friend that you wish came around more often. Jim Williams and Hample vivified the complex roles of Scottie’s best friend Lou and son Jud, respectively.
Santiago’s direction also allowed the cast to become their roles.
“She gave us a lot of room because we were allowed to really explore our characters, the show found its own way,” Hample said.
The play’s terrific set design, talented actors, flawless lighting and sound coordination held audience members spellbound.
Although this was her first time directing, Santiago has been in the theater scene for most of her life. She’s had a passion for theater since she was a teen, and worked with her church’s theater for 10 years before finding TITV.
“It’s a challenge,” Santiago said of directing. “Definitely different. You’re working with actors from all different stages.”
Some actors in the cast are new to the scene while others have been in the business for over 30 years.
Santiago said that directing was a good experience, but it’s not her ultimate calling. She would much rather focus on writing since it would allow her more time with her family.
She is currently working on a novel and does not appear to have set plans for directing again.
Her husband also agrees that their children are a top priority.
“We all know in the arts, it takes a lot of dedication,” he said. “The dream is always there, but it’s slowed down when you’ve got a family.”
You can find tickets and upcoming shows from Theatre In The Valley at theatreinthevalley.org.