“On Golden Pond” characters Bill Ray (played by Doug Brook), Chelsea (Kristin Lynn) and Norman Thayer, Jr. (Bill Tindall) will take the stage for the play’s South County production beginning March 29. Photo: Chris Foster

For the past few months, I’ve been part of the team at South Valley Civic Theatre getting ready to bring the classic play “On Golden Pond” to life on stage in Morgan Hill. The play, written by Ernest Thompson, explores themes of aging, family dynamics and love. When I tell people that I’m in the show, most people mention the famous 1981 film and don’t realize that it was first a play.

Miriam Shem-Tov

The plot revolves around an aging couple, Norman (played by Bill Tindall) and Ethel Thayer (played by Ruth E Stein). They are spending their 48th summer at their cabin on Golden Pond in Maine leading up to Norman’s 80th birthday. They’re visited by their daughter Chelsea (played by Kristin Lynn) and her boyfriend Bill Ray (played by Doug Brook), along with Bill’s son Billy Ray Jr., who I am playing in the show.  

Norman and Chelsea have a complicated, strained relationship, and Chelsea, coming back after living away in California for the past few years, is realizing how much her parents have aged. Rounding out the cast is Kenny Silberberg, playing the family’s long-time mailman, Charlie, reminding them all about previous years on the lake together.

Norman and Ethel agree to care for Billy Jr. while Bill and Chelsea go on a European vacation. Through this unexpected arrangement, a unique and heartwarming relationship blossoms between Norman and Billy.  

One of my favorite parts of preparing this show has been getting to work with Bill Tindall to figure out the evolution of our two characters. While it starts off with Billy acting like a typical snarky teenager and Norman coming across as a grumpy old man who has pretty much given up, the two characters grow to like and appreciate each other and turn out to be just what the other needs in their life. 

I hope that audiences will come to see themselves and their family relationships in each of the different characters.

This show is directed by Brian Freeman, and his directing style shows through the way the show naturally flows. As we’ve rehearsed, he has challenged us to consider, “Why would your character say it like that?” and “What is your character thinking at this moment?” 

“On Golden Pond” characters Ethel Thayer (played by RuthE Stein) and Charlie Martin (Kenny Silberberg) are pictured during a recent rehearsal of the South Valley Civic Theatre production. Photo: Chris Foster

Participating in a theater production is an unparalleled experience. As the auditions, rehearsals and performances unfold, a familial bond forms between the cast members and the backstage crew who bring the show to life. 

This particular performance is a must-see as it explores the complexities of aging and the struggles faced by our aging loved ones. It’s a thoughtful, moving and humorous portrayal of life’s dynamics. We look forward to welcoming you to the show!

Miriam Shem-Tov is a 13-year-old 7th grader at Oakwood School who has acted in 30-plus productions. “On Golden Pond” is her seventh with South Valley Civic Theatre. “On Golden Pond” opens March 29, and runs weekends through April 13 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road in Morgan Hill. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit svct.org

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