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SPECIAL PROJECT: How the Dilettantes make theater magic

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TWIN FALLS — In the garage behind the auditorium, director Lori Henson’s entrance ignited clapping and cheers, and Cesar Loza rushed toward her with his cellphone recording live video.

Dilettante Group of Magic Valley fans on social media were getting an inside look at the last moments before the curtain rose on “Jekyll and Hyde.”

“I want to do a few warm-ups,” Henson told the misshapen circle of performers waiting among music stands and stacks of chairs.

“Whoo! Whoo!” she led them in unison. “Yum, yum, yum!”

Loza, still holding the phone, got Henson’s attention with a slashing motion to his throat.

“Are we still live?” she said, eyes wide and mouth dropping open.

Everyone erupted in laughter. Henson, too.

Then she turned serious. It was March 2, the opening night of five shows, and more than two months of preparation and sacrifices would pay off on stage: The long nights away from family. The dinners missed. Children asleep before parents arrived home. Weekends of rehearsing lines and perfecting songs. Perhaps even the chorus of “Murder, Murder” still fresh in their minds as they dropped into bed.

“I have no idea how many people will be in the audience. But you know what? It doesn’t matter,” Henson told the cast and stage crew. “Anything but crisp translates to phoning it in.”

The Dilettantes, in Twin Falls’ oldest troupe, have 58 years of community musical theater to uphold every time they step on stage.

With fewer than 10 minutes left, the Dilettantes locked arms. They hung their heads as JR Clark led them in prayer and drum-heavy music from the next room penetrated the wall. In a huge huddle, they shouted a countdown in unison:

“... three, two, one, showtime!”