The Unique Role of the Vicksburg Rotary Showboat Captain of the Ship

By Warren Lawrence

Dale Muyskens, is captain of the S.S. Rotary Ann, with Ken Franklin in the background.
Dale Muyskens, is captain of the S.S. Rotary Ann, with Ken Franklin in the background.

What is it like to be in charge of the good ship S.S. Rotary Ann, the Vicksburg Rotary Club’s Showboat?

Of course, the main job of the captain is to try to make sense out of the crazy predicament that the Showboat crew has found itself in.  As far as captains go, each year brings its own challenges, its own memories, and as always, its own satisfaction of making a meaningful contribution to the greater Vicksburg community.

Every year the Showboat script committee insures that the vessel and its zany crew sails through new uncharted waters, that will test the crew from every point on the compass. And so far, after 60 years, they have done just that each and every time!

Over the years the Vicksburg Rotary Showboat has had some outstanding captains; Ken Otis, Swift Noble, Doug Springer, and Dale Muyskens to name a few. They have been given various names Interlocutor (from the old Minstrel days), Captain, Headman, and Skipper.

Warren Lawrence, the captain for many years.
Warren Lawrence, the captain for many years.

As the captain who mastered the ship after Swift Noble for a few years, the thoughts turn to the major challenge for the captain is the number of lines he has to learn.  At times it may appear to the audience that some of the on-stage conversations are casual or ad libed. But the captain must stay true to the way the script is written so that other cast members know when to respond.

Being on the script committee helped to know the plot and the direction the act was going. The main thing that helped the captain is the dedication of fellow crew members and the back stage folks. Everyone realizes that the production is a collective effort and all must do their part for the show to be a success.

“I remember in the middle of one of the past shows after a scene change the curtain went up and I stared delivering lines in a part of the script that was two scenes away. The cast immediately realized my mistake but joined right in acting their parts from the wrong scene. Finally, I realized my mistake and how they had picked up on it. Halfway through the dialog there was supposed to be a cast member entering from the back of the auditorium, running up to the stage shouting his lines while carrying a stretcher. Much to my surprise, right on cue, he came with his stretcher barking his lines. When the curtain closed and went up again we went back to the missed scene and the audience never knew the difference. What a great testimony to our local thespians!

Well, what about this year`s 2014 Vicksburg Rotary Showboat? Will there be any special captain happenings? Yes, but wait a minute!  I guess the reader will just have to come to the show to see what they are.

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