Promising forecast for ‘On Golden Pond’

From left, Kris Crocker, Jaden Ives-Crow, J.P. O’Shaughnessy and Marianne McLaughlin star in the production of “On Golden Pond” at Civic’s Firth J. Chew Studio Theatre. (Colin Mulvany)
From left, Kris Crocker, Jaden Ives-Crow, J.P. O’Shaughnessy and Marianne McLaughlin star in the production of “On Golden Pond” at Civic’s Firth J. Chew Studio Theatre. (Colin Mulvany)

Kris Crocker, the chief meteorologist on KXLY 4, will soon be checking out the weather at a famous summer cottage in Maine.

Crocker will play Chelsea in Ernest Thompson’s bittersweet comedy-drama, “On Golden Pond,” opening this weekend at the Spokane Civic Theatre’s downstairs Firth J. Chew Studio Theatre. It’s the role made famous by Jane Fonda in the acclaimed 1981 film version.

“I’m out of my comfort zone,” Crocker said. “Way, way out.”

Crocker hasn’t appeared in a play since “Taming of the Shrew” in junior high. Yet she’s hoping that her years of experience appearing live on camera will help her get through those opening night jitters.

“I’m so used to live TV and things going wrong, it’s easy to move on and recover,” Crocker said. “I’m hoping that will help with the nerves. But I’m still feeling quite nervous.”

She has been a fan of Spokane’s live theaters for years, and even did some improvised comedy monologues at the Blue Door Theatre last year. But she never worked up the nerve to audition for a play until she saw that Civic was doing “On Golden Pond.”

“I loved the character of Chelsea, and I thought it would not require a lot acting on my part,” said Crocker, laughing. “I relate to her a lot.”

Chelsea is the adult daughter of the curmudgeonly Norman Thayer Jr. The play is about Chelsea’s difficult relationship with her father, and how it changes in surprising ways.

And there was one other reason the role appealed to Crocker: Civic is right across the street from the KXLY studios. In the event she was cast in the part, she could walk over to the Civic for rehearsals between the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. broadcasts.

She landed the role, to her own surprise, and soon found herself learning from veteran director Wes Deitrick and some of Spokane’s best actors. In fact, J.P. O’Shaughnessy, as the cantankerous Norman Thayer Jr., has previously proven to be an ideal choice for the role. O’Shaughnessy was outstanding in the same role in the 2008 Interplayers production.

Marianne McLaughlin, another proven stage veteran, plays his aging wife, Ethel Thayer. The cast also includes Brad Thompson, Jaeden Ives-Crow and Andrew Biviano.

Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn won best actor and best actress Oscars for their bittersweet performances of the Thayers in the 1981 movie. It’s hard to match that kind of Hollywood firepower, but Crocker said she has been overwhelmed at the professionalism on display from her fellow actors.

“The acting community in Spokane is so overwhelmingly talented,” Crocker said. “It’s a family I was immediately adopted into. The caliber is – they are professional actors.”

Crocker plans to take a few days off around opening night. But after that, she plans to be on the air even on performance nights.

“Being right across the street, I don’t even have to rush,” she said. “I’ll have to wash off the blue eye shadow and still do the 11. At least, that’s the plan.”

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