All the town's a stage in Poolesville this weekend. A cross section of its population, including a minister, bus driver, veterinarian, 4-year-old, teenager and middle-ager -- 100 residents in all -- will step before the footlights to present a community musical entitled "If Wishes Had Wings."
Several cast members, including Tom Torosian, a minister at the Poolesville Presbyterian Church, have never been on a stage before.
"I really struggled with my part," said Torosian. "I had great fear. It's this whole aspect of feeling dumb and stupid that goes back to public school in the '30s when I was horrible at memorization. People who think it's easy for me because I give sermons every week forget that on Sundays I have a script and it's a script I write."
For Emily Gardner, who drives a bus for the Poolesville school system and has lived in the town all her life, the musical offered a chance to make up for lost opportunities.
"There was nothing like this when I was going through school so I thought I'd try it," she said. "It's exciting being on stage. I don't feel nervous because I sing in a gospel group at church and the dancing is easy to catch on to."
Gardner is one of the few who is not nervous about being on stage.
"I was scared to death," said Kathy Dwyer, whose 8-year-old daughter, Erin, is also in the musical. "In high school I refused to have even a speaking part."
Now Dwyer will be singing and dancing in the musical and she obviously loves it."You can really loosen up," she said. "It lets you be something maybe you wouldn't be otherwise."
Both the company and the musical are the creation of Barbara Eklof, a dynamic, 30-year-old former resident of Baltimore, who enjoys teaching, writing, acting, dancing and singing and believes firmly that anybody can learn to perform.
"If you come to me with the desire and the willingness then I can make you a star," said Eklof. "We all have it inside of us and we must not let these reality boundaries stop us. If you want to forge ahead, you can."
Eklof does not mean a star in the usual sense. She is talking about becoming a star in terms of one's own world, of reaching inner goals that may have seemed impossible.
"Barbara convinces you you can do anything. She wills it," said Sharon Hopkins, a dental hygenist who joined the production with her 9-year-old daughter, Heather. "She believes in it so wholeheartedly and she's a little bit of a con man, too. She'll say, 'I know you'll be great.'"
Tina Parrish, who works with the county library system, joined Eklof's dance and exercise class to lose weight and found herself, months later, on stage dancing and singing.
"I've never done any singing in my life, but Barbara knew how to worm into me and get it out," said Parrish. "She makes you feel like you're the most important person in the play no matter how small your part, and she doesn't make you feel like a dope if you have a problem."
Eklof is what the world would call a mover and a shaker.
When she moved to Poolesville two years ago with her husband, an electronics engineer from Sweden, and their three children, Eklof decided there was not enough going on in the arts, and set up, under the sponsorship of the Montgomery County recreation department, what she called self expression classes, which gave students of all ages a chance to explore creative outlets in dance, music and theater.
After seeing "The Wiz" in 1978, she decided to try her version of the musical, rewriting the script and introducing a new series of dance sequences. Entitled "Wizzin" ("that name felt like movement to me"), the musical was produced in December 1978. Fifty-five Poolesville residents, most of whom came from Eklof's classes, were in the musical. The production had four performances, all played to packed houses, according to Eklof.
Having met the challenge of putting together a musical based on someone else's idea, Eklof said she decided to try writing her own work.
The idea was "If Wishes Had Wings," an original musical.
The story in the musical reflects Eklof's positive view of life. A young girl, who has been a psychological cripple, gradually breaks through the mental barriers to realize her ambition of becoming a Broadway dancer. Eklof's message comes through clearly in the final song as the young girl, now dancing sings, "To think, I had it all the time, all the wasted time."
The cast members, even if a little nervous, are anxious to share the fun with others.
"I invited all my neighbors and friends," said Donna Bowers, a past president of the Potomac Valley Garden Club in Poolesville.
"But I told them, 'remember, this is not off-Broadway; this is off-Poolesville.'"
"If Wishes Had Wings" starts at 7:30 Friday and Saturday nights and 3 p.m. Sunday. Performances are in the new auditorium at Poolesville High School, 17501 Willards Road. For further information call Bob Fredricks at 840-2633. Tickets will be available at the door.