NYC actress, writer, and filmmaker Stephanie Iscovitz talks finding home, making it big, and her latest projects, including ‘Bruce Loves You’

From a southern city to the Big Apple, actress, writer, filmmaker, producer, casting assistant, and T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre graduate Stephanie Iscovitz learned it takes a quick study to make it in the big city.  Working on a variety of diverse projects, Stephanie continues to inspire and entertain through her unique storytelling.  She will run the New York New Works Theatre Festival this October.  Click here for more information on entering the festival and further details.  Submit for free by August 15.

New York New Works Theatre Festival

Film submissions are free through August 15. Festival with Broadway panel takes place in October. Photo courtesy of New York New Works Theatre Festival

Stephanie talks about finding home, her current project, her most challenging and rewarding experiences as a woman in film, and who she would love to work with in the future.

Sleepless Critic:  You are from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, but you decided to pursue your career in NYC.  What do you love most about the city and what ultimately inspired you to stay?

Stephanie Iscovitz:  I knew I wanted to move to New York when I was 12. Oprah calls them ‘Ah-ha!’ moments. I visited the city with my family and it wasn’t the bright lights or tall buildings that enticed me, but truly the first time I felt home. I felt connected to the city unlike anything else.  Nine years after moving here, I still love the energy, the urgency, the constant inspiration, and creativity.

T. Shreiber Studio

T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre graduate Stephanie Iscovitz with class of 2011 Photo Credit: T. Schreiber Studio & Theatre

 SC:  You have delved into a wealth of projects as an actress working in New York City, always with enthusiasm for the next project.  Please tell me what it was like when you first arrived.

SI:  I really had to get it together when I first arrived because the competition is too fierce. I awakened to the reality of what it actually takes to be an actor and to stay afloat in the industry. Coming from Florida, I thought I would audition, book this role, and be rich and famous before I’m 30.  It’s so hard.  So many steps on the ladder and hoops you have to jump through to succeed and as a woman, a glass ceiling.  You have to be somewhat naive to get into the business and then an ultimate bad-ass to stay in it.  The first time I felt like I got it right was an audition for a role portraying a very complex, troubled stand-up comedian. I never felt more alive and was still reeling from the audition when the producer followed me out of the room and thanked me for my work, which never happens. I didn’t book it, which is a lesson that talent sometimes has nothing to do with who gets the job.

SC:  You have delved into a variety of female driven projects. What has most surprised you working on these productions?

SI:  What surprised me most was the real, systemic issues preventing women from rising through the ranks. Women graduate from film school at 50 percent, the same rate that men do, so there are no lack of trained, qualified, and willing female directors. Women are held to a much higher standard than men before they are considered qualified. There are countless examples of male directors who were snatched up by the studio after having only directed a very small micro-budget film and literally handed the opportunity of taking on a multi-million dollar studio movie. That kind of risk has almost never been taken on by a female director. I was never aware of these greater challenges until I got into the business which is why it’s imperative to have these conversations about the revolution of women in film.

SC:  Of the various jobs you do, what has been most challenging and rewarding for you?

SI:  Though every role has its own set of challenges and triumphs, the most rewarding is being able to collaborate with other independent female filmmakers to create something that grows organically.  I’ve learned that the film you shoot will be different than the film you write and the film you edit will be different than the film you shot.  It’s movie magic to nurture this idea with a team you respect, admire, and have a final product you never could have created on your own. Each learning experience gives me the confidence to guide me through to the next project.

Big Apple Film Festival with Jerry Stiller

2014 Big Apple Film Festival – Stephanie won for her first film, which was screened alongside Jerry Stiller. It was a comedy called ‘Ladies Night’ Photo Credit: Stephanie Iscovitz

SC:  You have taken on thrillers, dramas, comedy, and other genres in your work.  Just a couple of the comedies you are a part of is OK, Cupid and the web series, Third Wheel.  I understand Third Wheel is doing well and was nominated for an award.

SI:  I enjoy all genres and hope to continue to create a diverse body of work. As an actor, I tend to play darker, troubled characters but also have extensive improv experience having completed The People’s Improv training program. I was on two indie improv teams performing in comedy clubs throughout the city for a few years and loved it.  Improv is a reminder to stay in the moment and inspires a ‘yes, and’ attitude for life. It’s where I met my close friends Sarah and Darin who are part of the Third Wheel team.  On Third Wheel, Sarah plays the lead character, ‘Lu’ and Darin directed, shot, edited and scored the entire project.  We were nominated for Best Ensemble at the NYC WebFest. Third Wheel got distribution through SeekaTV, a streaming platform for the independent filmmaker. See the complete first season here.

Scene from 'Bruce Loves You'

Stephanie Iscovitz in her latest film, ‘Bruce Loves You’ Photo Credit: Darin Quan

SC:  Tell me about your latest film, Bruce Loves You.

SI:  I reconnected with Sarah and Darin after Third Wheel to film Bruce Loves You. Chris Roberti of HBO’s High Maintenance and Comedy Central’s Broad City is Bruce, a charismatic and handsome ghost in a complicated relationship with a young woman who happens to be alive. When he begins to compliment her roommate’s speaking voice, it becomes clear he is not a one-woman ghost.  I portray the roommate.  The inspiration behind Bruce focuses on improbable or ridiculous stories and how they can help alleviate the inevitable problems of time and money in film production.  A blender was also always breaking down, so this story was a natural expression of all those elements in a true ‘indie’ spirit.  See the trailer here.

'Bruce Loves You' cast at Lighthouse International film fest

‘Bruce Loves You’ team at the 2017 Lighthouse International Film Festival Photo courtesy of Darin Quan

SC:  You also work for the Donna Grossman Casting Agency.  How did you get involved in that line of work?

SI:  I am so grateful I got the job through my best friend.  Every actor should have an opportunity to work in a casting office.  You learn nothing is personal and the best person for the job doesn’t always get it for reasons beyond anyone’s control.  Once we were casting for a luxury eye-wear company and the model they wanted to book had a small cut on her finger and lost the job even though it would have been healed and completely unnoticeable by the shoot date.  Another time we were casting a commercial and booked an actress in her mid-40s.  The client changed their mind and wanted the role to be for an 80 year-old actress. So even after booking it, that actress didn’t get it. You’re not in it ‘til you’re in it.

SC:  Please tell me about projects you are currently working on and who you would like to work with in the future.

SI:  I’ve been working on a virtual reality (VR) project in narrative form for the past year. VR experiences have an unprecedented potential to elicit empathy, which makes it perfect for a story I’m exploring about unconventional love and “otherness.”  It’s the first time I’m focusing more on myself and creating a role that showcases my acting range instead of a more ensemble piece where all my friends have equal screen time.

Right now I’m dying to work with Ana Lily Amirpour. Her debut feature, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, is a huge inspiration for my VR project. She also spoke at the Nevada Women’s Film Festival in March where my film, The Man with the Western Hat, was accepted. I admire her work and she offered some real insight into navigating this industry. Her sophomore feature, The Bad Batch was just released June 23rd. I hope our paths cross one day.

 

 

The Academy of the Company Theatre Teen Conservatory presents the dark comedy, ‘Heathers the Musical’

What does it take to be popular?  Long before Glinda sang about it in the hit musical, Wicked, or queen bee Regina George and the Plastics ruled the school in the satirical teen comedy film, Mean Girls, the Heathers dominated Westerberg High in the dark cult comedy film, Heathers.  Heathers takes a bitingly funny and satirical look at teen life and all the drama that comes with it.   Directed by Steve Shannon with musical direction by Melissa Carubia with the Academy of the Company Theatre’s summer workshop program, The Academy of the Company Theatre Teen Conservatory proudly presents Heathers the Musical (High School Edition) on Thursday, July 13 and Friday, July 14 at The Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts at 7 p.m.  This show contains mature themes.  Click here for tickets and here for more information on the Academy of the Company Theatre.

Heathers the Musical is based on the 1988 film adaptation that stars Winona Ryder, Shannen Doherty, and Christian Slater.  A television adaptation is also currently in development.  Taking a look at the ruthless side of high school, clever Veronica Sawyer finds her way into the Heathers, Westerberg High’s ultimate, cruel clique, just as she encounters mysterious new boy at school, J.D.  In a wild scheme, Veronica plans to show the world life is so much more than popularity.

Performances for the Academy of the Company Theatre’s Teen Conservatory of Heathers the Musical (High School Edition) take place at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts on July 13 and 14 at 7 p.m.  Click here for tickets or call the box office at 781-871-2787.  Click here for more on the Company Theatre and its extensive upcoming productions like Disney’s The Little Mermaid and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Amanda Pekoe of NYC’s The Pekoe Group, shares her Tony Awards predictions and sheer love of theatre

 

The 71st annual Tony Awards, hosted by Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Tony award-winning actor and singer Kevin Spacey, are coming up on Sunday, June 11 and will be broadcast live at Radio City Music Hall in NYC and on CBS at 8 p.m.  It is always an honor to speak to Amanda Pekoe, founder of NYC’s The Pekoe Group, about her thriving business and her sheer love for all things theatre.

Each year, Amanda offers her Tony predictions for theatre’s biggest night! Click here for more on the nominees and here for further information on the Pekoe Group.

Tony Awards 2016

Another shot of Amanda Pekoe, Christopher Lueck, and the Pekoe Group at the Tony Awards/Photo courtesy of Amanda Pekoe/The Pekoe Group

Sleepless Critic:  It’s a very exciting time for The Pekoe Group and your team.  The Pekoe Group recently celebrated its eighth anniversary.  How are you feeling about year eight?

Amanda Pekoe:  I’m really excited about our team and the high level of work we are doing.  Our digital department has expanded and we’re seeing huge ticket sales results from our digital campaigns.  We also won an award this year for the poster design for the Off-Broadway musical, The View UpStairs.

SC:  Congratulations!  It’s an especially busy time leading up to the Tonys every year.  Please tell me how the Tonys impact your business.

AP:  Awards season is such a busy and magical time of year.  I love when shows and artists are recognized for their tremendous work and talent. This year is particularly exciting because there are so many new musicals and different points of view being expressed in the writing on stage. I’m very grateful to continue to be a part of the social conversation.

 

SC:  The 71st annual Tony Awards, hosted by award-winning actor and singer Kevin Spacey, will be held on Sunday, June 11.  This is a special year as the Tony Awards is returning to its traditional venue, Radio City Music Hall.  It was at the Beacon Theatre last year.  It must be nice that it has returned to its roots.

AP:  I am looking forward to it being back at Radio City Music Hall. It’s such a large and beautiful venue, and so many people get to actually be in the theatre for the awards.

SC:  Kevin Spacey is a wonderful and unexpected choice to host.  He is not only an award-winning actor, but has proven to be a song and dance man many times over.  It is surprising that this is his first time hosting.

AP:  I think Kevin Spacey will have a great time hosting the Tony Awards. I’ve never met him in person but I think he’s so talented.  I love him in House of Cards!

SC:  It is wonderful to have an insider at the Tony Awards each year and you’ve been predicting the winners for about five years now.  Groundhog Day the Musical, Come from Away, Dear Evan Hansen, and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 are the nominees for Best Musical.  What nominated show do you think stands out to win this year?

AP:  All four of these shows are so terrific and so terrifically different from one another. It’s been such a well-rounded season of new musicals and they all offer something very special. I think Come from Away and Dear Evan Hansen are neck-in-neck, but I’m rooting for Dear Evan Hansen. I think the music is incredible and the story is extremely relatable for anyone who has ever felt like they’ve been on the outside looking in and not being seen.  I know I sometimes do.

SC:  Best Play nominees include Indecent, A Doll’s House Part 2, Oslo, and Sweat. Which ones do you think will prevail?

AP:  The plays are tough because they are all so good.  Sweat is a Pulitzer-Prize winner!  Of all the shows, I think my favorite would have to be Oslo.  I thought it was one of the most well-written plays I have watched this season and the topic was fascinating. The play’s rhythm moved so well and featured tremendous performances.

SC:  Denis Arndt for Heisenberg, Chris Cooper for A Doll’s House Part 2, Corey Hawkins for John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, Kevin Kline for Present Laughter, and Jefferson Mays for Oslo are all up for Best Actor in a Play.  Cate Blanchett for The Present, Sally Field for The Glass Menagerie, and Jennifer Ehle for Oslo, Laura Linney for Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, and Laurie Metcalf for A Doll’s House Part 2 are up for Best Actress in a Play.  Who do you think are the big standouts?

AP:  These actors and actresses are all so great in these roles.  My personal favorites have been from the great and hilarious show, Present Laughter‘s Kevin Kline and Jefferson Mays in Oslo.  As for the actresses, Laurie Metcalf in A Doll’s House Part 2 and Jennifer Ehle in Oslo.

SC:  The nominees for Best Actor in a Musical are Christian Borle for Falsettos, Josh Groban for Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Andy Karl for Groundhog Day the Musical, Ben Platt for Dear Evan Hansen, and David Hyde Pierce for Hello, Dolly!  Best actress nominees in a musical include Denee Benton for Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Christine Ebersole for War Paint, Patti Lupone for War Paint, Eva Noblezada for Miss Saigon, and Bette Midler for Hello, Dolly!  Patti Lupone and Bette Midler in the same category!  Who do you think will win?

AP: I’m in love with Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen.  At every performance, he barely leaves the stage and sings his heart out. As for the actresses, it’s really hard for me to say. Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole are forces of nature in War Paint and Bette Midler, well, there are no words.  These are three greatest of the greatest performers all gracing the Broadway stage in the same season and how awesome is that!  I think Denee Benton and Eva Noblezada are both so talented and very strong singers. This really is a tossup.  The category features some of the most gifted actresses and all of their performances are stunning.  I wish they could all win together.

SC:  What is The Pekoe Group’s specialty and what goals do you have for The Pekoe Group’s future?  I’ve noticed you often offer marketing advice to those who follow you on social media.

AP:  Our specialty is working with experienced producers, finding new audiences, and new ways to talk to traditional audiences.  Click here to check out our blog for marketing tips and pointers.

Besides our work, Christopher Lueck and I have been co-teaching a marketing class for CUNY Baruch College’s Masters Program in Arts Administration and that’s been really fulfilling.

Looking ahead, we hope to connect even more new audiences to theatre productions they’ll love.

SC:  What is the best or easiest way a business can contact the Pekoe Group?

AP:  Reach out to us on facebook or twitter: @ThePekoeGroup

REVIEW: Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s compelling musical, ‘Oklahoma’ a stompin’ good time

From the first few angelic notes from one of Oklahoma’s most popular songs, Oh What a Beautiful Morning sung a capella by Jack Cappadona as charismatic Curly, it is easy to see that Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s (HCMT) spring musical is something special.  Celebrating its 75th anniversary, Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s Oklahoma! combines elegant costuming, an impressive, distinctive cast, and an interactive set that makes the audience settle into its own home on the range.  With its wealth of historical references weaved into Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic soundtrack capturing the spirit of the time, it is no wonder that Oklahoma! won the Pulitzer Prize for musical composition in 1944 and remains relevant today.  Hingham Civic Music Theatre delivers the show’s joyous zest for life, comedy, and, make no mistake, dark moments with zing and suspense.

HCMT Oklahoma Peddler and the Territory Boys

Michael Andre as Ali Hakim and the cast of ‘Oklahoma’ Photo courtesy of Eileen McIntyre/HCMT

Directed by Nathan Fogg and musically directed by Sandee Brayton with choreography by Tara Morrison, Hingham Civic Music Theatre offers two remaining performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, Oklahoma! on Saturday, April 29 and a Sunday matinee on April 30 at the Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Tickets are also available at the door.

Based on Lynn Riggs’ play, Green Grow the Lilacs, an interactive, colorful, and rustic set rewinds the clock to the Oklahoma Indian Territory at the turn of the century, equipped with softly flickering lanterns, vintage photos, bales of hay, colorful blossoms, lush greenery, and interactive props hanging on the walls.  In this particular production, the lighting is its own character, effectively setting the mood from a soft, rising sun to a nightmarish hue.

The splendid costumes, by Kathryn Ridder, are meticulously-detailed from gold embroidered shirts, brightly-colored satin costumes to delicate, richly-designed dresses with thick bows and petticoats.  Whether it is a cow scarf adorning an outfit or a carefully matched wicker hat, those details wonderfully capture the authenticity of the time.

Ruggedly dressed in suede chaps over khaki pants with a button down shirt and cowboy boots, Jack Cappadona portrays Curly McLain with an imaginative streak and a confident and at times, a mischievous smile.  Whether engaging C.J. Hawes as Laurey in a whimsical carriage ride during the playful song, The Surrey with the Fringe on the Top or musing about life in Oh What a Beautiful Morning, with silvery vocals, Jack slides right into the role as Curly with a natural charm.  With curly red hair and green striped overalls, C.J. Hawes portrays sassy, levelheaded Laurey with great comedic timing and sardonic wit.  Jack as Curly and C.J. as Laurey are enchanting together and their soaring vocals make beautiful harmony.

HCMT Oklahoma Laurey and Curly

Jack Cappadona as Curly and C.J. Hawes as Laurey Photo courtesy of Eileen McIntyre/HCMT

With thick curly hair, bright eyes, and a deep drawl, Rylan Vachon portrays Will as fun loving, somewhat hotheaded, and spontaneous.  Will’s rendition of the song, Kansas City, has never been more fun with lively vocals and slick choreography as The Territory Boys stomp, slide, and perform various stunts.  The entire cast captures the distinct spirit of Oklahoma! in all its stomping, sweeping joy.

HCMT Oklahoma Ado Annie and Will

Rylan Vachon as Will Parker and Jess Phaneuf as Ado Annie Photo courtesy of HCMT

Jess Phaneuf as Ado Annie brings a wild-eyed vivaciousness to the role.  She seems to know how to take command of any room she is in one way or another with a wink and a grin.  Her interaction with any cast member is fascinating and her comic timing is infallible.  Her chemistry with both Will and Michael Andre as bewildered peddler Ali Hakim, have their own distinct charm.  Michael Andre as Ali Hakim does a great job of balancing a dynamic character with comedy and cleverness.

HCMT Oklahoma Ado and Peddler

Jess Phaneuf as Ado Annie and Michael Andree as Ali Hakim Photo courtesy of Eileen McIntyre/HCMT

Athan Mantalos portrays disheveled, hired hand Jud with a slow burn and deep, compelling, operatic- sounding baritone.  Athan masters this role in the quiet moments, adding tension and making his character that much more mysterious.  His scenes with Curly are especially powerful and their vocals have seamless harmony.

HCMT Oklahoma Jud and Curly

Athan Matalos as Jud Fry and Jack Cappadona as Curly Photo Courtesy of Eileen McIntyre/HCMT

With spectacles and a high collared dress, Kate Fitzpatrick brings sensibility and a bit of sarcasm to the role of Aunt Eller, who is much wiser than she lets on.  Emily Gouillart as Gertie Cummings is a great deal of awkward fun with an unmistakable laugh.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s Oklahoma!  offers its share of romance, comedy, and plenty of uproarious moments, but dark moments as well.  Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote their second musical, Carousel, shortly after Oklahoma’s success and both shows share some of the same themes.  Hingham Civic Music Theatre delicately weaves in the themes of loneliness, temptation, and violence effectively, balancing this timeless tale.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre offers two remaining performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, Oklahoma! on Saturday, April 29 and a Sunday matinee on April 30 at the Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Tickets are also available at the door.  Be sure to follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook and click here to learn how to support HCMT’s upcoming productions.

 

Company Theatre proudly presents the uplifting musical comedy, ‘Sister Act the Musical’

With an incredible lineup of catchy, uplifting songs by Academy award-winning composer Alan Menken, Company Theatre proudly presents the hilarious musical comedy, Sister Act the Musical from Friday, March 17 through Sunday, April 9 at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Based on the 1992 smash hit film starring Whoopi Goldberg, Sister Act the Musical is a humorous, inspiring story about loyalty, friendship, and discovering what is really important.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Set in Philadelphia, lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier finds herself in a terrible predicament and needs protection.  She finds it in a convent with a group of dutiful nuns led by rigid Mother Superior, but she has never felt more out of place until the power of music steps in.  Featuring a cast that will bring audiences joyfully to their feet, see Sister Act the Musical from Friday, March 17 through Sunday, March 19 then Wednesdays through Sundays through April 9.

Company Theatre Sister Act 2

‘Sister Act the Musical’ cast Photo courtesy of Michelle McGrath/Company Theatre

Sister Act the Musical is part of Company Theatre’s stellar 2017 season which includes Disney’s The Little Mermaid with an adult cast this summer.  Auditions will be held on May 3.  Click here for audition details.

Company Theatre MermaidAuditions-300x174

Company Theatre presents Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ this summer. Courtesy of the Company Theatre

Other highlights of the season include the psychological thriller, Lizzie Borden in October and the holiday family musical comedy, Company for the Holidays in December.  All performances take place at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Get discount tickets on Family & Friends Fridays. Click here, call the box office at 781-871-2787 for tickets or email sally@companytheatre.com for more information.  Follow the Company Theatre on Facebook.

Bay Players of Duxbury presents romantic comedy, ‘Lovers and other Strangers’

Sometimes laughter is the best medicine, even around Valentine’s Day.  Bay Players of Duxbury is proud to present a collection of comedic and romantic stories with Lovers and Other Strangers by Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna.  A hit on Broadway and adapted into a film starring Bea Arthur, Lovers and Other Strangers is five tickling tales of love, sex and marriage set in the 1970s.  Among its many topics, it takes a lighthearted look at sexual freedom, gender roles, and women’s lib as relationships evolve over time.  Lovers and Other Strangers is a perfect show with a Valentine, a friend, or with a group.

Lovers and Other Strangers will be held for two weekends only.  Performances take place on Fridays February 10 and 17 and on Saturdays February 11 and 18 at First Parish Church at 842 Tremont Street (Rte 3A) in Duxbury, Massachusetts at 8 p.m.  Directed by Michael Pevzner and showcasing an intimate cast of ten local actors, click here to get more information or tickets to Lovers and Other Strangers, call 781-269-9885, or email Bay Players at tickets@bayplayers.org.  Tickets are also available at the door.  Group, student, and senior rates available.  Follow Bay Players of Duxbury on Facebook for updates, upcoming auditions, and more.

The 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Award winners and New England viewing party at Laugh Boston

Kicking off without a hitch, the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards was an evening of political statements, undeniable talent, and surprises on Sunday, January 29 at 8 p.m.  To celebrate, SAG-AFTRA’s New England chapter celebrated with their 5th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Viewing Party at Laugh Boston.  The festive evening included an official red carpet for photos, cash bar, full dinner, cake, raffles, and prizes.  Television screens showcased the awards show throughout the venue.  Click here to learn more about the New England chapter and where all the viewing parties take place here.

Broadcast on TNT and TBS, The Screen Actors Guild Awards had its share of excitement and surprises.  Among the many acceptance speeches that delved into the state of the world, winner Julia-Louis Dreyfus of Veep shared her story of her immigrant father and her love for the United States.  Perhaps the most powerful moment of the evening was the surprise win for the popular Sci-Fi Netflix series Stranger Things.  Bringing the crowd to its feet, David Harbour, who portrays Chief Jim Hopper, made a metaphorical statement about fighting fear and exclusivity through great acting in a mostly narcissistic culture.  He spoke about battling the monsters and bullies of real life, helping to bring unity to the world.

Unfortunately, Jane Fonda could not attend the awards show to complete the 9 to 5 reunion, but Dolly Parton was her usual engaging, humorous self presenting friend, comedian, and actress Lily Tomlin with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.  The Screen Actors Guild Awards also took a moment to acknowledge actors lost in 2016, an especially tough year.  Prince, Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, Mary Tyler Moore, Garry Shandling, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Gene Wilder, and Garry Marshall were among the long list of memorable faces in a tear-jerking tribute.

The Screen Actors Guild Awards are awarded to actors in the film and television industry from fellow actors, some of the big winners of the evening included Denzel Washington and Viola Davis for Fences, Emma Stone for La La Land, the cast of Hidden Figures, as well as Claire Foy and John Lithgow for The Crown, Click here for the full list of recipients.

 

Richard Bento, President of South Shore Theatre Works, talks about building a theatre dream

Building a dream has always has its share of surprises and challenges.  However, with determination, hard work, and more than a touch of luck, these sought after dreams can become a reality.  Sleepless Beyond the Stage explores the reality of making that dream come true, whether by building an organization, finally bringing that dream play or musical to life, or starting an artistic or musical group that has made a difference.

Richard Bento, Executive Director and President of South Shore Theatre Works (SSTW) in Holbrook, Massachusetts, talks about the excitement and surprises of starting a new community theatre, South Shore Theatre Works.  South Shore Theatre Works’ premiere season features Into the Woods, Steel Magnolias, and much more.  Click here for more information, auditions, and for tickets.

 Jeanne Denizard:  Please tell me about your background and what inspired you to start South Shore Theatre Works?

Richard Bento:  I’ve participated in community and semi-professional theatre throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Georgia, and San Francisco.  One of my goals was to have a group of my own who share the same mission and passion I had for the arts. Three years ago, I decided to participate in theatre here and assist another community theatre group.  I fell in love with the people. Their passion was parallel to what I felt in my heart. When we were at a crossroads, needing to decide whether we were going to bring this other group to another level or start our own with other people who shared that same drive, I decided to put together South Shore Theatre Works. In this group, we spoke about what we loved about community theatre and what we wanted our theatre home to be like.

sstw-board-of-directors-including-richard-bento

South Shore Theatre Works Play Reading Committee led by Richard Bento Photo courtesy of Kelly Webber

JD:  Did you run into any surprises pulling a project like this together? 

RB:  When putting together a non-profit, learning how to comply with the nonprofit laws is ever-changing. We ran into some obstacles such as what we thought was the proper way might not necessarily be the right way on paper and when you’re working with a group of people who are volunteering their time, the challenge is finding exactly where they best fit.  Sometimes we all think that we’re good at one thing, but until we really get into the nitty-gritty of things, that’s when we decide, hey, wait a minute, I might not be a good Treasurer.  My passion might be as a good publicity person.  I think it was not necessarily a struggle or obstacle within the organization, but an obstacle within each one of our board members to find out exactly what they’re truly good at, and how to put those talents and skills into play.

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South Shore Theatre Works dress rehearsal for youth production, “Big Bad Musical” Photo courtesy of Rachel Nope Beasley

JD:  What would you say to those who are considering starting a community theater?

RB:  I wish them a lot of luck and determination. Starting a community theater is a difficult project to take on. It is not an endeavor for everyone or for the weak-hearted. Just like an actor who wants to perform professionally and tries to make it on Broadway, 99% of that actor’s experience will be rejection. When you’re putting together a community theater or theatre group in general, you are going to face a lot of doors closing on you, a lot of people who feel threatened, or don’t understand why you’re creating this new project.  What’s important for anyone who wants to create something of this nature is to make sure that the reason behind you creating this endeavor comes from a good place, from a place of love, and a place of passion.

Before people decide they’re going to start another community theater or another theater in the South Shore or in the Boston area, decide why they want to create that theater. What is the mission behind it and see if there are other groups that share that mission because there are always groups looking for help. For example, if there’s someone out there who is looking to start a brand new theatre company that shares the mission we have at South Shore Theatre Works, join us. We’re always looking for new people to support our mission.

JD:  What is most important in making an investment like this?

RB:  Measuring what is important in an investment can be different for different people. At SSTW, the way to measure whether we have succeeded in our first year’s endeavor is by seeing the membership, those people that we have been able to cultivate and bring together to put on quality theatre in this area. If South Shore Theatre Works ended today, we as a Board of Directors would be extremely proud of what we did because our first major musical was a huge success financially and included a talented cast. We had 64 wonderfully talented people from across the South Shore who came and auditioned across Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  We had people from all over audition who wanted to be part of something new. That for me is a measurable moment of success.

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“Into the Woods” cast Photo courtesy of Rachel Nope Beasley

JD:  How did you select the shows you would be presenting in your premiere season?

RB:  When choosing a season, you have to come up with the season’s mission. I’m very fortunate I have a marketing director who works in the industry and understands what is needed to accomplish things. Every show has to have a specific goal or target audience, whether it is trying to reach actors, expand our membership, or to make money, which we all need to survive.  We wanted to do some shows that were really going to get our name out there and would bring people to work with us and grow with us as an organization.  Not just work with us once, but wanting to come to South Shore Theatre Works to become lifelong members.

JD:  What are your future plans for the theater and the best way people can contact South Shore Theatre Works?

RB:  Our goal for South Shore Theatre Works is to be the leading community theater in the South Shore. We want to have a home where we can perform all year round, a place where people can feel comfortable, and share their talents and their passion for the craft with audiences from all over.

A way to get involved financially or supporting us is by being an audience member and an active member within the theatre company.  Go onto our website, sign up for our emails, keep in touch and find that one project where you really want to help.  Support the arts in any way possible. Spread the word that there is a new community theater in the area excited to branch out and get our name out there.

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South Shore Theatre Works present the beloved musical, “Children of Eden” Photo courtesy of South Shore Theatre Works

Click here for a closer look on how to support South Shore Theatre Works.  Call 774-386-8258, visit their website, and follow them on Facebook for a closer look at their new season and more.