‘Steel Magnolias’ and ‘Children of Eden’ part of the exciting premiere season of South Shore Theatre Works

From Sondheim’s enchanting fall musical, Into the Woods to the upcoming beloved spring musical, Children of Eden, South Shore Theatre Works (SSTW) in Holbrook, Massachusetts, is having a stellar premiere season.  With a group of dedicated volunteers and Board of Directors, Executive Director and President Richard Bento is thrilled about South Shore Theatre Works’ promising future.  In a “sink or swim” sort of industry, Benton says South Shore Theatre Works is “Michael Phelps-ing” it.  Click here for more information on auditions, how to support and becoming a member of South Shore Theatre Works, and more on upcoming performances.

 Jeanne Denizard:  Your first musical was Sondheim’s Into the Woods.  For a first show, that must have been quite an undertaking.  I understand you had a very good turnout though.

Richard Bento:  Yes, we had about 64 people from across Massachusetts and Rhode Island that came and auditioned. Into the Woods is a very difficult show acting-wise because it’s about relationships. It’s about relationships between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, children and their grandparents, brothers, and new found love.  It’s a very challenging piece, not just vocally, but we wanted to do a production that shows people we’re really out to play. We want to be on the map as one of the best community theaters in the area, and doing a show like Into the Woods really put us out there. You know, it’s one of those “sink or swim” shows and we didn’t just float.  We definitely Michael Phelps-ed it and we swam successfully.

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The cast of ‘Into the Woods’ Photo courtesy of Rachel Nope Beasley

JD:  To start the New Year, you presented the musical comedy, The Big Bad Musical.  Please tell me about that.

 RB:  The Big Bad Musical is part of our junior production season for young performers under the age of 19.  It was a great production. I think it really piggybacked on the production of Into the Woods with some of the characters, like Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, and brought it to a different world.  It had a lighter side that Into the Woods does not necessarily have and brought a sense of humor to the fairy tale stories.  It introduced other characters like The Boy Who Cried Wolf and the Three Little Pigs. The Big Bad Musical was an exciting adventure to work with young children and see how they grow.  It’s amazing how they step up to the plate. With an adult who is performing in community theatre, you expect to have a certain level of professionalism and respect for the craft, but to see these kids who are young adults doing a show unknown to most people, doing music that people don’t know, and having to do a show that has so much dialogue, and really putting it on themselves, is something great to be a part of.  I’m honored to be a part of it.

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Rehearsal for the musical comedy, ‘The Big Bad Musical’ Photo courtesy of Rachel Nope Beasley

JD:  Please tell me how can someone participate in these educational workshops?

RB:  Our Junior Workshop programs are for anyone under the age of 19 who want to participate in a youth production. We not only teach them about the acting side of dramas and musicality of musicals depending on the show, but also what it is like to put on a show and be involved from beginning to end. We are very fortunate for our summer junior workshop. This summer, we’ll be performing Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr.  Keep a lookout on our website, and join our email list for updates.  Auditions would be in the late spring for this August production. It’s open to anyone under the age of 19 who wants to participate, have some fun, learn, and improve their skills.

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South Shore Theatre Works dress rehearsal for youth production, ‘The Big Bad Musical’ Photo courtesy of Rachel Nope Beasley

JD:  Now, South Shore Theatre Works is producing the lauded play, Steel Magnolias, a classic story featuring a much smaller cast.  When does that show kick off?

RB:  We had auditions for that show right after Into the Woods in November and we’ve been rehearsing throughout the holiday season. We’re really focusing on it now that it is the New Year. It’s a great, well-known show, not just for the play, but also for the movie. They’re very similar to one another, but also extremely different because the play only takes place at Truvy’s Hair Salon. It really involves the six actresses on stage connecting with the audience on a different level that they would be if it was a different type of show. The show is about emotion, the interaction between friendships, and also the interaction between all different kinds of relationships. I think the motif of South Shore Theatre Works 2016-2017 season has been about relationships.

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‘Steel Magnolias’ from Friday, February 17 through Sunday, February 19

JD:  South Shore Theatre Works runs fundraising campaigns, most recently with the restaurant, Not Your Average Joes.  In what ways can people support South Shore Theatre Works?

 RB:  We partner up with local restaurants and local businesses throughout the year.  We’re very fortunate to have the support of The Chateau in Stoughton, who held a fundraiser for us last year. Uno’s Chicago Bar and Grill helped us out as well. We had our good friends at Five Below on the Stoughton/Brockton line continually help us out with our endeavors by holding numerous fundraisers for us, which is greatly appreciated. Not Your Average Joe’s, the last one we just did in the month of December, was a great way for people to be able to go out to eat like you normally would and support a great cause. We’ll be continuing to do this with other restaurants in the area. Another one is scheduled for February in Holbrook. It is a great way to get some extra revenue in and for people to participate without having to do lot of work while you are putting on a full season.

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

We here at SSTW are very ambitious!  We technically have been putting on a main stage and junior season, two seasons simultaneously.  To be able to do that financially, we need the support of the community.  Not just by supporting us on these fundraising events, but helping us with sponsorships and ads.  If there’s someone in the community who would like to support the arts and see it continue in their community, check out our website to see how they can assist us, whether it’s a program ad or a sponsorship.  Someone once told me it takes a village to raise a child. It’s the same thing with a community theater. It takes the town and the surrounding communities to raise and bring up a successful community theater.

Volunteers are always needed, whether you can sew, help with the box office, hang up or design a flyer or a poster, or with media.  Volunteer your talents, whatever that talent may be.  You can start off assisting a stage manager or helping on a crew and by the next show, you can get more and more involved.  We would greatly appreciate it.

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South Shore Theatre Works present the beloved musical, ‘Children of Eden’ Photo courtesy of South Shore Theatre Works

Click here to get involved with South Shore Theatre Works, join their mailing list, and learn about their upcoming productions.  South Shore Theatre Works is also on Facebook.

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.

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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.