Samantha Gibson, center, directs the choreography of Chatfield Wits' End Theatre's production of "Spamalot."  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
Samantha Gibson, center, directs the choreography of Chatfield Wits' End Theatre's production of "Spamalot." GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
Sam Gibson has spent the past five summers working with the Chatfield Wits' End Theatre (WET), both on stage and backstage. As an actor, director and now choreographer, Gibson has shared her talents in the past five Western Days productions and is currently working on the choreography for the upcoming "Spamalot" production that opens this weekend.

"It's very exciting, very intense. I never realized how dance-heavy 'Spamalot' was until Tony (Cole) asked me to choreograph it," said Gibson. She is in charge of making the men onstage in the Wits' End Theatre (WET) Western Days Monty Python production move the way they're supposed to, with or without a signature Monty Python shrubbery.

Gibson's WET career began in 2008, when she was part of the cast of "The Sound of Music."

"My first big role was in 'Brigadoon' in 2009, and I had a big role in 'Footloose.' I was backstage last year, helping with 'Last Boy in Blue' and I assistant-directed that with Joe Chase. That was pretty fun," she said. "I also helped with 'The King & I.' It's great to have done a lot of stuff with them."

Gibson has also appeared on the stage of "Over the Back Fence" at the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro and worked at the conservatory there for a couple of years as well.

Newly graduated with a bachelor's in theater from St. Mary's University in Winona, she's now officially qualified to do what WET directors already knew she could do - teach men who don't dance how to dance as the opening night for the spoof play approaches.

"I heard back when they first decided to do 'Spamalot' that they were toying with the idea of having a choreographer and I started having ideas in my head how the show would work out," Gibson said. "Tony asked me once I was in the cast if I would help out with a dance, and then another, and he finally asked me, 'Do you want to be the choreographer for the show?' So now I'm in the cast and I'm the choreographer."

Gibson added that she has been in the theater since she was about 8 years old.

However, she added, "This is the first show I've been the choreographer for - I've directed and assistant-directed before - so this is pretty big."

She admitted that since this is her first official choreography assignment, she's learning on the curve, but she's truly enjoying the experience.

"It's got a lot more dancing than I thought it would have, so it's overwhelming, but in a good way. Everyone is working hard and willing to try, and they've all come to the level that's needed," she explained. "This show has a great dialogue that stands on its own very well...it's very spoofy, very cheesy, and it has dance that's very spoofy of traditional theater...the style of dancing we're doing is about getting rid of inhibitions and just being goofy, dancing silly in front of people. It makes a show like 'Spamalot' really fun."

Opening night is barreling down on the cast as the production starts this Friday, Aug. 2, so it's "crunch time" on the Potter Auditorium stage. Gibson has noticed that her thespian-dancers have become rather aware of their actions, but having an audience to laugh at the jokes they have long gotten sick of is going to be a great change.

"We very much buckle down and focus on what we're doing, technicians come in to do lighting and sound, and it's more difficult for the actors to focus on their lines," Gibson said about this last week of rehearsals. "But once we get to the performance, people let go and just have fun. It's a stressful week, but when people do let go and have fun, that's my favorite part."

Gibson is giving Broadway a chance after "Spamalot," if Broadway will give her a chance.

"I love Wits' End. It's always been my huge family, but I'm moving at the end of the summer to New York to pursue a career there," she shared. "If I come back, I maybe will help out with the theater, but this is something every theater kid dreams about...whether they want to admit it or not. Broadway sounds cool, and I've got to give it a try."

She invited the public to get their "Spamalot" tickets and attend the show, slated for Aug. 2, 3, 8 and 9. For more information on the show, log onto www.witsendtheatre.org, or call the Chatfield Center for the Arts box office at (507) 867-8780.