“Rapunzel” Cast Members Recall Lessons Learned from Director Dave Henderson

Actors Nate Foster and Halli Richards said they’re having a blast as the Prince and the Witch, respectively, in Towngate Theatre’s production of Rapunzel, which opened this past weekend. Their enjoyment is due in no small part to the long theatrical history they share with Dave Henderson, Towngate’s artistic director.

Nate has worked with Dave since he was a student at Wheeling Central. Both Nate and Halli were in shows he directed at Wheeling Jesuit University (now Wheeling University).

They shared with us the lessons Dave has taught them over the years.

Always Own the Stage

Dave cast Halli in her first show.  Because of that show, she said she became “obsessed with performing.” Dave brought out in her talents she didn’t know she had.

“One of my very favorite memories of working with Dave during college was actually a small tradition that the cast and theatre guild upheld during every single show,” Halli said. “After working tirelessly for months to make sure each show would be a good one, we always looked to Dave for some kind of approval or reassurance. We knew that if Dave said the coveted words, ‘We have a show!,’ that we had really done our best to not only impress an audience, but to impress Dave Henderson.”

Nate recalled a maxim Dave taught him that has served him well beyond the stage.

“‘If you mess up, make it big. Own it. Because it will look as though it was intentional,’” Nate said. “I use that advice every single day wherever I may be.”

He also taught his students to be present and engaged with every moment that happens on stage.

“I remember Dave teaching us at WJU that if our whole entire bodies weren’t engaged to the point of exhaustion by the end of a show, that we probably weren’t giving enough effort,” Halli said. “It’s because of that lesson that I always try my hardest to take advantage of my time onstage, to engage and exaggerate in order to put on a memorable show for the audience, and to enjoy the time that I’m given to perform with wonderful castmates.”

An Awesome Experience

It’s been a while since Dave directed Nate and Hallie. However, working with him on Rapunzel reminded them of the impact he’s had on their growth as performers and as individuals.

“It’s just like it has always been. Still full of fun,” Nate said. “Dave is a wonderful director and deserves so much more credit than he takes.”

Halli said this was her first time back on stage since she graduated from college.

“When I say I missed theater with everything I have, I mean that! Working on Rapunzel has been incredibly fun and has helped me to learn more about theater and performing, now in a community theater setting. Getting back on stage has been a huge breath of fresh air, and to make it even better I’ve been lucky enough to work with talented veterans of the Towngate Theatre stage. Not only has that helped to make me feel comfortable and welcome, but it has helped to make me better and to really enjoy this show.”

She remembered Dave’s time at WJU, where shows had to be staged as minimally as possible.

“I’ve known for a long time that Dave is a talented man, as he helped us to create shows we were truly proud of at WJU, often with small numbers, a small theatre program and few resources,” she said. “So, to see Dave thrive at Towngate, to continue to watch him create awesome sets and bring shows to life with the help and support from others who care as much about theater as he does has been so much fun.”

“My last statement is directly for Dave,” Nate added. “Thank you for all of your help over the past eight years. You’ve really helped mold me into the person I am today.”

A Genuine Love for Theater

When you ask Dave about his legacy as an educator and director, he balks at the idea, simply saying he hopes his students have gained a genuine love and respect for the theater, along with a sense of humility. However, he holds his former students in high esteem, and not just because of their considerable talent. He told us Nate and Halli both have a dedication and commitment to theater.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Nate for nearly nine years while he was a student at Wheeling Central and Wheeling Jesuit and at Towngate,” Dave said. “Nate always brings a great energy to the stage and has the ability to create many different characters.”

He called Halli a “true triple threat.”

“From her freshman year at Wheeling Jesuit to her senior year, she has constantly amazed me with her incredible stage presence. She acts, sings and dances and does them all incredibly well. I consider myself very fortunate to have worked with both of them and hope I continue to have that opportunity.”

Get Tickets

Performances of Rapunzel take place at 7pm Friday, February 7 & 3pm Saturday, February 8. Kids will love this imaginative version of this classic fairy tale.

The show takes place at the historic Towngate Theatre in the heart of Wheeling’s Centre Market District.

Purchase tickets online, by calling 304-242-7700 or at the door, if available.