Maryville native Megan Fair knew she was meant for the theater life when she realized that the spotlight never made her nervous.
“It kind of came natural to me,” she told The Daily Times recently. “Since I danced and sang in choir so young, I was always nervous right until I went out on stage, but when I went out, I was just completely enveloped in the story. I just wasn’t myself anymore, and I loved it.”
Now, she gets to share that love from behind the curtains. This weekend, she’ll make her directorial debut with Foothills Community Players, as the Blount County-based theatrical troupe presents the musical “Godspell” at Maryville High School. As a woman of faith, the show’s religious themes speak to her heart, and as a theater kid, the music and drama bring out an enthusiasm that’s critical for this particular story.
“I saw the movie years ago, probably back in middle school, and I loved the storyline,” she said. “Then I saw a local homeschool group’s production, and they did wonderful at it. When I started reading up on it and about the writers and storytellers and the actors with it, I thought it was just such a beautiful story about this group coming together.
“I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to be a part of it. And being religious myself, I was definitely taken by the stories that the character Jesus tells through parables, because they’re based off the Gospel of Matthew. That really spoke to me and spoke to my childhood as to what I believe and what I strive for as a Christian,” she said.
“Godspell” debuted on Broadway in 1971 as a modern retelling of the final days of Christ. Using a play-within-a-play format, a group takes on various roles in the Christ story, even acting out various Biblical parables to broaden the metaphysical aspects of the production. The website Guide to Musical Theatre describes it as “a religious experience, a demonstration of joy, and a celebration of the family of man. The cast are conceived as clowns, improvising scenery and costumes, and using many well-known theatrical devices, pantomime vaudeville and varied musical styles to interpret one of humanity’s greatest events.”
For Fair, the biggest challenge as a first-time director wasn’t in the production itself but in selecting who would make up the cast, she said.
“We had an amazing group of actors audition, and it was really, really difficult to cast, especially as my first show,” she said. “One of the main things I really looked for was distinct personalities and people I could see blossom in this story. The Jesus character, specifically, is someone who just embodies charisma and storytelling and is someone you can really relate to.”
The humanity of theater is part of what drew Fair to the art form in the beginning. The daughter of Tracy West and Jim Fair, she grew up with a love of song and dance, and when roles were auditioned for a local production of “Annie,” she tried out for a part when she was 10. She was cast as one of the orphans, and the experience led to a lifelong love. She’s worked with the Blount-based children’s theater group Primary Players, along with other Knoxville organizations, and in middle school, she became aware of Foothills Community Players.
“A few years ago, I was just like, ‘Hey, this is a group I should really consider auditioning for and sticking my foot in the door,’” said Fair, who works as a nanny and has her own photography business. “I was cast as Shelby in ‘Steel Magnolias,’ and then about two years ago, I joined the board of directors, and they kind of helped me learn new positions and train as a stage manager. I’ve really gotten to learn a little about everything after being in that position, so when the opportunity arose for a director for ‘Godspell,’ I threw my hat in the ring.”
As a younger member of FCP, Fair hopes to bring a youthful energy and exuberance to the production, which kicks off Friday evening at Maryville High School.
“I really hope that I bring a lot of energy into the show and that it’s relatable to anyone, no matter their background,” she said. “Whether they’re religious or not religious, it’s about a group of people coming together and learning to be a community and learning how to be a friend to all. Even though this show is called ‘Godspell’ and goes through the parables and teachings of Jesus, it really is about a community.
“That’s constantly on my mind, because we’re not hoping to preach to people. We want to show an example about what good can come from a group of people who come together.”