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With roots at CVLT, performer returns
With roots at CVLT, performer returns
By BARBARA CHRISTIAN
Her husband is driving, trying to avoid cellular dead zones, while Lydian Devere is on her mobile phone talking about finding that perfect "Audrey Hepburn dress, black of course."
The theater reference is appropriate, because the dress she seeks during this shopping trip is the one she will wear next weekend when she returns home to perform in the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre-Chagrin Falls Studio Orchestra ensemble production of "From Broadway, With Love" featuring an ensemble cast of eight.
Ms. Devere's participation is not just a homecoming but a thank you to the theater on River Street. Had it not existed, she might not have existed either.
Her parents, Rollin and Judy Devere, met at CVLT in the 1960s and were married not long afterward. Ms. Devere and her brother, Rollin, began tagging along with their parents almost from birth.
Both also followed in their parents footsteps -- and that of their paternal grandparents- Rollin and Audrey Devere -- when they too began performing in CVLT children's productions.
"My mother says she remembers me going with her to a rehearsal of 'Man of LaMancha,' and I was about seven," Ms. Devere related. "We were at the theater, she was working on costumes, and I was sitting a few rows ahead of her. At one point I turned around to look at her, and she said I had the biggest smile on my face. I was apparently very happy to be there."
Later, when her brother performed in "Peter Pan," Ms. Devere said, she remembers thinking to herself, "I want to do that. I can do that."
Eventually, she did "do that," performing on stage first with the CVLT children's theater group. It was there, she said, that she learned the basics, lessons in discipline and "how to be on stage."
"I had the greatest teachers there," she said, rattling off the names of four women who still remain friends of the little theater. They are Marge Zellmer, Ida Porris, Holly Merholz and Carole Fulton. "They provided a great foundation, and they just knew so much," Ms. Devere said. "They really knew what they were doing, and they expected students to learn what they were taught."
There was no coddling or play time, Ms. Devere said. She went on to perform in several children's productions, including "Mary Poppins" and "The Wizard of Oz." She also vividly remembers being a "toy soldier" in one of the youth theater's Christmas shows, she said.
She graduated to adult shows and performed in several productions, winning parts in the chorus of "West Side Story," among others. In the cast of that show was Rob Albrecht. They will perform together in this weekend's show when they share a duet for "People Will Say We're in Love."
In addition to the duet, Ms. Devere's solos will include "I've Never Been in Love Before" from "Guys and Dolls."
Ms. Devere decided on a career in theater while still in high school. After graduating from Chagrin Falls High School in 1992, she went on to earn her degree in musical theater from Baldwin-Wallace College.
Unlike many aspiring young theater performers, Ms. Devere did not head straight to New York. She toiled in the theatrical fields in Ohio, New Hampshire and New Jersey before landing in New York late in 1997. It was a tough go, she confessed. "I had to find my feet and get used to the city," she said, confiding, "I had a headache for a week" after arriving there.
She did manage some success in the Big Apple and appeared in the Gilbert and Sullivan Theater chorus as a "swing reformer," an understudy that fills in wherever and whenever necessary. She ended up performing in five out of the 10 shows due to illnesses.
"I had a hard time, and I didn't know how hard it would be until I got there," Ms. Devere said. "I got my equity card, made a log of friends, connections and got experience."
One of them was meeting her future husband, Todd Yard, also a multi-dimensional actor-performer-director. Mr. Yard's day job is as a software architect for online video platforms. These days, Ms. Devere is a stay-at-home mom to their two daughters.
They keep their hands in theater regularly and have performed together in theaters near their South Grafton, Mass., home. Recently, they shared credits in a production of "A New Brain" and starred as husband and wife in "Blithe Spirit," both in Massachusetts theaters.
Their eldest daughter, Audrey, 5 1/2, already is showing signs of coming down with the theater bug, Ms. Devere said. She was enlisted to do a voice-over recitation of a nursery rhyme for "Blithe Spirit."
It's too soon to know if baby Daphne, 11 months old, will follow suit, but Ms. Devere said she and her husband will not be surprised if she does.
With daughters in tow, Ms. Devere was scheduled to arrive back in Chagrin Falls and her parents' home just before nightly rehearsals were to begin for "From Broadway, With Love." She has been rehearsing at home to get a head start and much-needed voice work, she said. "Having a baby recently and all the hormonal changes does things to the voice," she explained.
While she returns home for visits often, she said, she is thrilled to be doing a show back in Chagrin Falls. It began last March, when her father suggested that she ask director Don Edelman to consider her for a part. Mr. Edelman has known her all her life. In fact, he has known her since before she was born and knew she had her theater chops.
Rehearsal and performance week is going to be like old home week for Ms. Devere. In addition to old friends Mr. Albrecht and Mr. Edelman, she will have the chance to reconnect with he former teacher Ida Porris, who is choreographer for "From Broadway, With Love."
Other vocalists in the cast are Rebecca Marks, Gene Karlen, Pat Mazzarino, Sharon Lloyd, Chris Hunter and Libby Merriman. The Chagrin Falls Studio Orchestra is directed by Stephen Eva.
Performances are at 8 p.m. Sept. 24 and 25 and 2 p.m. Sept. 26. Tickets are $30. A special student and senior ticket rate is $25 for the Sunday performance only. Call (440) 247-8955 for tickets and information.
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