A slender figure dressed in black moves silently across the dark Opera House stage, pausing occasionally to perform a task in the shadows, then continuing on, finally disappearing from view. The stage lights flare – it’s showtime!
Who was that and what was happening?
Meet Jane Huppert, stage manager extraordinaire for the Pocahontas County Drama Workshop. Changing the set and props between scenes is just one of the many responsibilities that Huppert takes on when assisting with Drama Workshop productions.
Huppert surpasses the usual stage manager with her wide array of skills and interests and seemingly boundless enthusiasm. An expert seamstress, she creates and alters costumes for cast members. She not only helps with set design but also works on the actual set construction. Her storage barn has become the de facto prop department.
“If we need something, Jane almost always has it or can make it,” said Drama Workshop director Margaret Baker with admiration. Huppert’s other duties have included assisting with makeup, ensuring the actors make their entrances and exits on time, prompting actors who forget their lines, and attending rehearsals to assist the director with blocking – the placement of actors on stage.
Huppert’s interest in theater began at age seven.
“We had a neighborhood acting group and the basement in our house became the stage,” she reminisces. Even back then she “did it all” including planning and writing the plays along with directing and acting.
Initially the children’s costumes were made by Huppert’s grandmother and mother who subsequently “taught me the art and appreciation of sewing from age eight,” she said. “It has been one of my passions since. I love to design and create quilts, crafts, clothes, accessories and costumes. I also do wedding gown alterations and design headpieces for brides.”
During her Junior and Senior years, Huppert took Drama classes at Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield, New Jer-sey. She fondly remembers Mr. Trinity, her high school drama teacher, who encouraged her creativity by having her help with the production of the school plays.
Huppert took a hiatus from theater when she attended Mountainside Hospital School of Nursing in Montclair, New Jersey, graduating in 1969 with an RN degree. She then married high school homeroom sweetheart Al Huppert who owned a construction business.
The newlyweds built their dream house on a farm in rural New Jersey where they raised their two boys. “We were a little bit like hippies,” chuckles Huppert as she described heating with a wood stove, having a big garden, and raising ring-neck pheasants along with a wide variety of other small and large livestock. She recalls spending an hour and a half feeding the animals before going to work as a certified operating room nurse.
Those busy years included stints as a Boy Scout leader along with being President of her sons’ elementary school PTA and the parents’ organization of Valley Forge Military Academy and College. In addition, Huppert became a helicopter pilot in 1989 and enjoying flying the friendly skies until 2000. She also helped with her husband’s construction business – raising ridges on roofs, passing shingles, doing concrete work, unloading supply trucks, whatever needed to be done.
“Maybe that’s why I’m so good at multi-tasking,” she laughs.
Life in the mountains of West Virginia began in 1994 when the Hupperts bought their farm on Briery Mountain. The renovation of the old log cabin and two barns on the property was a labor of love.
“Our children thought we had lost our minds until they visited and fell in love with the place,” Huppert said. “God’s scenery and serenity have added greatly to our way of life.”
Huppert is active at the Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church where she is a lay speaker, plays the piano, sings and is a member of United Methodist Women.
Speaking of her involvement with the Drama Workshop, Huppert said, “I am so thankful for the opportunity to use my talents for the community. I take my creativity out of the box and let it run wild for three months. Margaret is so wonderful to work with.
“Life is so much more enjoyable when you share it with others,” she added.
The results of Huppert’s behind-the-scenes efforts can be seen at the Opera House in Marlinton on Friday and Saturday, May 16 and 17, at 8 p.m. when the play Cahoots will be performed.
Tickets are $8 and will be available at the door.
Parents should be aware the play contains adult themes that may not be suitable for children.