Vandenberg couple has fun, fervor to bring theatre to area

Vandenberg couple and theatre entheusiasts Staff Sgt. Jason Burdett and his wife Stephanie produce a free children's play at the Stone Pine Hall, 210 South H St., Lompoc at 2 and 4 p.m. June 30 and 2 p.m. July 1.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephen Cadette)

Vandenberg couple and theatre entheusiasts Staff Sgt. Jason Burdett and his wife Stephanie produce a free children's play set to be performed at the Stone Pine Hall, 210 South H St., Lompoc at 2 and 4 p.m. June 30 and 2 p.m. July 1. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephen Cadette)

Staff Sgt. Jason Burdett directs a free children's play that is set to be performed at the Stone Pine Hall, 210 South H St., Lompoc at 2 and 4 p.m. June 30 and 2 p.m. July 1.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephen Cadette)

Staff Sgt. Jason Burdett directs a free children's play that is set to be performed at the Stone Pine Hall, 210 South H St., Lompoc at 2 and 4 p.m. June 30 and 2 p.m. July 1. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephen Cadette)

Staff Sgt. Jason Burdett directs a free children's play that is set to be performed at the Stone Pine Hall, 210 South H St., Lompoc at 2 and 4 p.m. June 30 and 2 p.m. July 1.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephen Cadette)

Staff Sgt. Jason Burdett directs a free children's play that is set to be performed at the Stone Pine Hall, 210 South H St., Lompoc at 2 and 4 p.m. June 30 and 2 p.m. July 1. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephen Cadette)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The prince, carrying a wooden sword, prowls in search of the dragon between rows of chairs. A ferocious roar blasts from across the audience and a small girl dashes to the front of the stage. Nearly out of breath, she spins around to face the prince, clutching a light-green plush dragon tail. The prince runs up, stops short when he sees her and gasps, "You!"

In the center of the audience, Staff Sgt. Jason Burleigh leans back in his chair and watches the drama unfold before him. He knows exactly what's happening in this scene--he's the director of "The Invisible Dragon", a free children's play to be performed June 30 and July 1.

A computer support technician at the 576th Flight Test Squadron, Sergeant Burleigh is making his directing debut with the Lompoc Civic Theatre, a local theater company he belongs to with his wife, Stephanie.

"Our tradition is to hold a free show every summer," he said. "I wanted to do a children's play to get the kids in the audience involved," he said. "I just need to be sure we have a lot of kids, because the adults probably aren't going to come on stage."

At the same time Sergeant Burleigh has brought together the children's play, he and Stephanie worked together to produce a dinner theater play called "Master of Disguise", a locally written production. Before that, they worked on a Christmas play, and before that a one-act show, and before that...

The Burleighs have put together almost two dozen shows since they met and married in Montana seven years ago. A native of Oregon, he said they're using this opportunity to learn as much as possible to live Stephanie's dream to start their own company in his home state.

While Sergeant Burleigh became involved with theater only after meeting Stephanie, she has theatre in her blood. Her father, a theatre professor at the University of Great Falls, Mont., ran a civic theatre company. With theatre all around her, she grew up to love acting and directing, she said.

One of Sergeant Burleigh's favorite productions to work with was Treasure Island, performed at the University of Great Falls, Mont. Fun because of the highly intricate backstage work, he said, since the production featured a set that rotated to show a pirate ship, a jungle and a cave.

Stage complexity is what draws Sergeant Burleigh to plays like "Noises Off", first produced as a play then made into a movie that involved precise timing and moving sets, as well as the play "Footlight Frenzy", a highly-technical comedy he hopes to someday produce in Lompoc.

"It's a technical nightmare," he said, "because all these things go wrong; but that's what it's supposed to do. If we could find the right people, it would be great."

He stays backstage, "because I can't memorize anything, as you can see from my scores for tech."

Although used to working from the wings, his debut as a director has been an educational experience.

"It's a challenge," he said. "I thought since I did assistant directing that I could direct, but this is a lot harder than I though it was."

He may have been a stranger to directing before the group of 10 actors began to meet one month ago, but he was already familiar with "The Invisible Dragon", since working the sound system for a previous production.

"The Invisible Dragon" free performances are set for June 30 at 2 and 4 p.m., and at 2 p.m. on July 1 at the Stone Pine Hall, 210 South H St., Lompoc. For more information, call 735-2281.