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September 14, 2004 > Greased Lightnin'

Greased Lightnin'

A Community Project for Stage 1

by Joanne Engelhardt

Sometimes it does take a village (or a community) to produce a fun, frothy musical like Grease, which opened last Friday at Stage 1 Community Theatre in Newark. The familiar rock 'n roll musical continues through Saturday, Sept. 25.

Grease producer Debbie Otterstetter explains that director Steve Shearer wanted to use a real car in the show, rather than a wooden reproduction. "Since the play takes place in 1959, that meant we had to find a car that was at least that old - or older," she says.

"At first we looked in junk yards and the newspaper to locate a car, but couldn't find one. We finally found one on Craigslist - a 1959 Morris Minor that had no engine, transmission or windshield. Being a nonprofit theatre company, we at first offered to buy it for less than the asking price, but the owner, Ted Livingston of San Jose, instead offered to donate it to Stage 1."

Otterstetter then had to find a way to get the car to Newark and restore it enough to look like Grease's Greased Lightnin', which has a major role in the show.

Whitey Janssen of Janssen's Place Auto Body in Newark came to the rescue. A Stage 1 supporter, he not only got the car back to Newark, he removed the top of the car, took out the gas tank to make it safer and then painted it the color called for in the script, Candy Apple primer!

"Whitey was a lifesaver," adds Otterstetter. "He went way beyond what we expected. He got someone to donate a tire, helped find new front seats, got the front and taillights working - and reinforced the hood so the actors can stand on it! I don't know what we would have done without him."

She adds that the entire process was a "true community project."

Stage 1 Theatre's production of Grease is at Newark Memorial High School, 39375 Cedar Blvd., Newark. Performances continue at 8 p.m. on Sept. 17, 18, 24 and 25 with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Sept. 19.

Ticket prices are: $18 for general admission, $16 for seniors and college students, $14 for advance purchase and $10 for high school students and younger.

For more information or to make reservations, call (510) 791-0287 or go to the Stage 1 Web site at

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