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Sierra alum directs SCT’s ‘Little House of Horros’

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Sierra High alum James Reed takes a break to flash a smile while getting actors ready during a rehearsal of “Hairspray.”

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POSTED January 30, 2013 12:41 a.m.

STOCKTON – James Reed doesn’t bark orders from the director’s chair.

It’s too cliché. Too Hollywood.

No, the Sierra High alum prefers a more hands-on approach to the stage performances that he oversees, working with the actors and the dancers on stage and seeing the magic literally unfold right before his eyes.

It’s that light bulb moment. That moment when the chemistry is evident and the audience is captivated – falling in love with Tracy Turnblad in “Hairspray” or an Elvis-like Pharoah in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Now that he’s at the helm of the Stockton Civic Theater’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” Reed says that he’ll get the rush that comes with being involved with a stage show – only the rush is a bit more refined now that he’s looking at it through a different lens.

“It’s a completely different type of rush when you’re directing,” he said. “When you’re on stage and you’re nervous you can hide behind your character. If you mess up a line, it’s the character that messed up.

“That changes when you’re the director – it’s your name out there. But it’s also a chance to see a vision come together. It’s fun to see and build on that process with the technical team and the actors and then sitting out in the audience and getting to feel the reaction from those who enjoy watching it.”

And it’s not like anybody can accuse Reed of not taking his theater seriously.

When he was a student at Sierra High School, he got involved with productions at both East Union and Manteca high schools because his own didn’t offer musicals. He sought these experiences wanting to push the envelope and refine talents that he knew he possessed.

His involvement with Manteca Youth Focus made him somebody that people in the community recognized, but it was his talents that made him somebody they wouldn’t forget.

So he parlayed that. He choreographed productions of “Annie” and “Fame” at schools that should have been his rivals because he wanted the challenge.

He took a turn in a production of “Noises Off” his senior year – finally at his own high school – and would go a step further when he threw his hat in the ring at the Stockton Civic Theater.

It might have been a few blocks off of Broadway, but it was perfect for somebody that just wanted to appreciate and work in a craft that he loved.

“It’s nice to be out there on stage hiding behind the mask of a character,” he said. “But you also know that what it is you’re doing is what is getting the reaction. To know that I made them laugh or moved them by song or that they enjoyed my dancing – feeding off of that energy is completely different than anything else out there.”

Just don’t expect him to make any push to crack the Playbill in the rough-and-tumble world of professional theater.

“I love theater so much – as a hobby. If something were to fall into my lap in the future, I’d certainly jump on it,” Reed said. “I just know how competitive this is and I’d hate to lose the joy that I get from it right now by having to struggle.

“I can still pursue my career and enjoy doing what I’m doing. It’s great to have theater as a release.”

“Little Shop of Horrors” will begin its run on March 6 and will wrap up on March 30. For additional information, or to obtain advance tickets, contact the Stockton Civic Theater box office – located at 2312 Rosemarie Lane in Stockton – at (209) 473-2424. You can also visit

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