VICENZA, Italy – Ask Jerry Brees what’s the best part of his job and the director of Soldiers' Theatre will tell you about his “opportunity to mentor.”
Brees has had this chance with two brothers William and Christian Briggs, who began with youth productions and are now performing with adults.
“They performed together and were a joy to work with,” said Brees, who first worked with the brothers in the youth musical “Alice in Wonderland” in 2019.
William, 19, then performed in “Reflections - An Evening of Monologues.” Christian began exploring the technical aspects of theater, volunteering as a lighting technician for several shows that included the recent production of “Clue.”
During the month of April, the U.S. Army recognizes volunteerism. The week of April 17 is Volunteer Appreciation Week. One way to volunteer is through community theater programs. The Briggs brothers had different motivations for volunteering in performing arts.
“They stopped offering theater as a class at Vicenza High School, so I looked for an alternative,” William said.
He’s performed in many shows, to include “Monologue Night,” in 2018 and three shows in 2021. Most recently, William had roles in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and a energetic performance as the “Wadsworth,” the butler in “Clue” in March.
At first, Christian, 15, was also on stage. But, he took to more technical aspects after lighting an improvisation comedy as William was on stage. Christian then helped with “Unforgettable Laughter” and “It's a Wonderful Life.” Now, Christian is returning to the stage for “As the World Goes Round,” the upcoming musical at Soldiers’ Theatre. The show will be in May.
“I’ve enjoyed helping William find the nuances in his performances, while working with Christian on the technical specifics of lighting the stage,” said Brees, noting the different approaches each brother takes to theater. “Both of them love and enjoy the process, the people and the excitement of providing quality entertainment to the community.”
Rehearsals for “Clue” were intense and posed challenges, with the cast on stage every night of the week for several hours, for more than a month. William’s part required all his energy. There were also lots of sound and light cues, sometimes synchronized with each other, Christian said.
“Not only did I have to pay more attention in general, but I also needed to do lighting cues at the same time as the sound cues,” Christian said.
Thankful that his brother shares his interests, William said they always try to help each other out if the other is struggling. They knew that with William in college and Christian still in high school, it would be harder for them to hang out. The theater allowed them to spend time together.
“His advice, after rehearsals, really keeps me pushing myself,” William said.
Their opinions sometimes differ, yet both agree that working at the theater offers an opportunity to give back to the community in a unique way. Plus, they meet many talented and funny community members that they wouldn’t meet in day-to-day life.
“It makes me feel good knowing I’ll have these experiences to look back on despite all the insanity of the last few years of my life between graduating high school, the pandemic and starting college,” William said.
For Brees, seeing their growth and development in both performing and technical aspects of the theater has meant a lot, he said.
“Although they have totally different personalities and perspectives, they are both dependable and dedicated and quick to learn all aspects of theater,” Brees said. “It's been exciting to work with such talented volunteers.”