Jana Bussanich, publicity and communications director for Tin Roof Productions, met Karen Hamer before the production company came to be.
Hamer was auditioning for a part in the Forestgate Community Theater production of “Little Women” about seven years ago.
“She got the part of Aunt March,” Bussanich said. “She was pregnant with twins and played the part when she was about seven months along. We had to dress her in big costumes.”
Shortly after they met, Hamer wrote and produced musical adaptations of “Anne of Green Gables” and “Pride and Prejudice.”
In 2008 Karen and Frank Hamer founded Tin Roof Productions, a nonprofit theater organization based in Monument.
Tin Roof’s mission is to “pursue excellence in theatre and to support and encourage creative vision in the arts.” Coming up for the company and Hamer, wearing her director’s hat, is Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.”
“We’re performing the original script set in the 1690s but with a nod to the 1950s with elements in set design and costuming,” Bussanich said. “In the 1950s, (Sen. Joseph) McCarthy named about 205 artists and actors as Communist sympathizers. Miller was one of them. There were trials and all were found innocent but their names (and thousands of others) were ruined and many lost their livelihoods. Miller wrote the play, setting it during the Salem Witch Trials, in response to McCarthyism.”
“Arthur Miller still holds his own with modern audiences,” Hamer said. “In ‘The Crucible,’ the characters are like us — we are faced with our own failures, our own trials, our own sins. We watch John Proctor come to terms with himself — something we all have to do.”
“I think the story has three themes,” Bussanich said. “There’s the love story between John and Elizabeth (Proctor), the idea that truth and reconciliation have costs and that some things don’t change.”
Hamer is a native of New Zealand. She married Frank Hamer 19 years ago when he was in the military. The couple moved to Kentucky and then back to New Zealand.
“We stayed in New Zealand for about five years,” Hamer said. “Frank missed the seasons and we missed being able to go outside without something eating us.”
The family, which now includes nine children, two of them toddlers adopted from Ethiopia, spent time in Pennsylvania before moving to Monument eight years ago.
Hamer has been doing theater work for more than 30 years, starting in elementary school. Raising a family and keeping up a career takes balance, she said.
“Seven of our nine children are with me at theater camp this week,” she said. “You have to integrate family into your career if it’s all going to work.”
Many of Hamer’s plays are adaptations of Jane Austin novels.
“I still love to play ‘pretend’ and I love reading Jane Austin,” she said. “My idea is that I could go and inhabit these books... We try to make audiences feel like they could dwell in the story.”
Hamer also does a lot of Shakespeare.
“I like universal stories and Shakespeare wears well,” she said. “American playwright David Mamet once said ‘People go to the theater to be told the truth.’ I don’t think they need to be ‘told’ the truth. I think they recognize it when the see it.”
“The Crucible” will play Aug. 18-28 at the First United Methodist Theater, 420 N. Nevada Ave., in Colorado Springs. Tickets are $10 and $15 but there will also be one matinee with $5 tickets for students. Tickets are available at www.tinroof-productions.com, by calling 719-502-9056, or at the door.