Director, former middle school student reunite for ‘The Rainmaker’

Clayton Chauvin rehearsing for ‘Rainmaker’.

(bottom) Michael Durand, Jennifer Young, Andrew Palmintier, and Clayton Chauvin as The Rainmaker. (top) Michael J. Parich, Sr. and Andrew Mills.

When the lead actor dropped out of her production three weeks before opening night, director Dianne Moss found herself in a situation she had never encountered.
“I don’t know if you can imagine the stress and worry I had,” said Moss, “ but it was a sickening feeling. I was worried, not only for myself and my reputation, but for IPAL and the actors and crew who were spending so many hours working on this play.
“In all my years, a lead actor had never quit in the middle of rehearsals.”
After running through several scenarios on possible solutions to her problem, she decided to try social media.
After scrolling through many names and faces, she came upon one she knew, but had not seen in years, Clayton Chauvin.
He was one of Moss’ middle school students who performed in one of her six productions she directed at J.H. Williams where she was teaching at the time.
“I wasn’t even sure he was living around here,” said Moss, “but I remembered him and reached out. I had nothing to lose by sending him a message.
“It read, ‘“Where are you and what are you doing at this time in your life? I may have a proposition.”’
“One hour later I got a response: “I am working in New Iberia and I am waiting on Dianne Moss to proposition me.”
“He has always had a good sense of humor,” laughs Dianne.
After laying out the situation for him, Moss said that same night he showed up at rehearsals.
Ironically he worked right around the corner from where the theatre is.
“He took a script and instantly became Bill Starbuck, The Rainmaker.
“Can you imagine my relief, and the relief of the cast who had been rehearsing without a leading character for several weeks. And the bonus is he is very convincing in the role.”
Another coincidence was the fact Chauvin had played the lead character of Starbuck in college.
“I played Starbuck in the musical version of “The Rainmaker” (“110 In The Shade”) so I already knew who this character was,” said Chauvin. “He is a charmer and a con man. So, I was flattered and insulted at the same time when she said ‘“You ARE Starbuck!”’
“Little did she know, she still owes me a dollar for finding her teacher version of our text book she lost in class one day in 7th grade,” laughs Chauvin. “I guess she thought she could slip that one past me. Nothing gets past me….nothing!”
Chauvin said he was beyond flattered and was praying his schedule would allow him to help Moss out in some way.
“It’s been over 12 years since I have been on stage,” he said. “After moving to Los Angeles, you tend to spend more time doing camera work than stage work. Well, that and waiting tables. The joke is when you tell people in L.A. that you are an actor, they always follow up with “Yeah, what restaurant?” And it’s the truth!
“So it is nice to return to my roots so to speak. Dianne was the reason I fell in love with the arts in the first place. She always had a personal passion for it, and when you see someone do something they love. it truly is a beautiful thing.
“She thinks outside the box. So do I. In fact I’ll never forget that she gave me a B+ on a timeline project I put hours into. She gave me the B+ because I was thinking outside the box and made it into a booklet instead of an actual timeline.
“I never really forgave her for that B+. It was obviously A+ work,” said Chauvin laughing.
After high school, he went to a theater school in Natchitoches, La (Northwestern State University) where he received his BA, and then went on to pursue his MFA in Las Vegas at UNLV.
His next move was to Los Angeles where he stayed for 15 years and did a couple of movies, national TV commercials, and a few TV shows.
“I also started a food business called “Roux” where I made sweet potato hot sauce and healthy organic soups that sold at Farmer’s Markets across Los Angeles.
“I’ve always had an equal love for food as I did for the fine arts. To me, they go hand in hand, so it was a no brainer to pursue that as well.”
When asked what he remembered about Sis, Boom, Bah, the show he performed in 8th grade under Moss’ direction, he said, “The thing I remember about that show is the music. I can still list all the Presidents of the United States because there was a number where we sang every single one of them.
“I can remember anything if it is in a song lyric. I used to sing songs to memorize my chemistry periodic table. It’s really crazy that my brain works that way.
“I think that’s how I knew I had to do something in the theater. But, yes, Dianne was my first mentor for sure.”
Moss is thrilled with his performance.
“The funny, weird thing is, Clayton has brought a fresh, energetic portrayal to the character that we didn’t expect. He is wonderful in the role, and he relates so well to the rest of the cast. And he knows the role quite well, because he played the same character in the musical version in college.
“I now feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and our rehearsals are happy and fun again, as they should be in community theatre. I am looking forward to our opening night, just 2 weeks away.”
Moss directed Dracula in 1990 at Abbey Players and six musicals at J.H. Williams Middle School. She has also directed 13 main stage community theatre productions, making The Rainmaker her 14th.
Players. I took my students, and after, they started asking if they could perform a play at school. With the encouragement of our principal, J. Y. Mula, we chose Sis Boom Bah, and performed it that spring. It was the start of six years of 8th grade spring musicals at J H Williams. But we really didn’t have performing arts at the time, and we tried to fit it in with the other academic classes, so it became too difficult to continue. I still meet those kids who performed in those 6 musicals from time to time, and I’m not sure if they remember any of the language classes and lessons I taught them, but they definitely remember those plays and the parts they played.
The Rainmaker will run Thursdays through Sundays, May 28 through June 7, 2015, at the Essanee Theatre at 126 Iberia St. in downtown New Iberia.
The evening shows will begin at 7:30 p.m. and the two Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Tickets are available by calling the theatre at (337) 364-6114 and leaving a name and phone number. Tickets can also be purchased.

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