Sleepless Beyond the Stage: Building a dream with Richard Bento, President of South Shore Theatre Works

Building a dream always has its share of surprises and challenges. However, with determination, hard work, and more than a touch of luck, those 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 production to life, or starting a group that makes a difference.

Richard Bento, Executive Director and President of South Shore Theatre Works (SSTW) checked in with Sleepless Critic a few years ago as the theater was just getting on its feet.  Boasting a successful run of Seussical in December, SSTW’s upcoming productions include Blithe Spirit, Ordinary Days, and Chicago.  Richard Bento talks about how this Massachusetts theater has grown in a short time.  Click here for more information, auditions, and for tickets.

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Past performances of ‘Seussical the Musical’ December 2018

Sleepless Critic: 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 theater 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.

A few years ago, I decided to participate in theater here and assist another community theater group.  I fell in love with the people.  We shared the same passion.  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.

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South Shore Theatre Works presents ‘Blithe Spirit’ February 15-17 in Randolph, MA Photo courtesy of South Shore Theatre Works

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

REVIEW: Led by CeCe Winans, Boston Pops Gospel Night rings in a joyous 25 years

Over the past 25 years, Boston Pops Gospel Night has stood the test of time as a glorious and revered annual tradition.  An illuminated brass backdrop, shining music notes, and a floating, celluloid film strip adorned the Symphony Hall stage while an enthusiastic crowd filed in for this highly-anticipated, one night only, 25th anniversary event.

Each year, Gospel Night features a special blend of acclaimed musical guests, a variety of beloved and new songs from the Boston Pops Gospel Choir, and memorable performances.  With multiple Grammy Award-winning singer CeCe Winans, a resounding, patriotic, monumental speech about freedom and peace, and rousing performances from the Boston Pops Gospel Choir, the Boston Pops Gospel Night has certainly outdone itself.  It’s an annual concert with toe tapping reverence and a spirited finale that always brings the audience to its feet.  Click here for more information on the Boston Pops, upcoming events, and more.

Warmly greeting the crowd and the orchestra was accomplished conductor, pianist, and composer Charles Floyd, who has been conducting Gospel Night for the past 23 years.  Click here for a closer look at Charles Floyd and his career.  Distinguished looking in a white tuxedo with black pants and a bow tie, Charles Floyd gave an appreciative wave before opening the 25th anniversary concert with Aaron Copland’s spirited Fanfare for the Common Man, as horns blared distinct and clear.  It was a mix of tender, powerful, and upbeat melodies that included Bach’s Little Fugue in G Minor and Chadwick’s Jubilee, which culminated into a vigorous finish and wondrous applause.

Gospel Night also recognized what would have been the recent 100th birthday of the late President John F. Kennedy by paying tribute to him and also honoring award-winning conductor, John Williams, who was the subject of this year’s Boston Pops season.  Young and naturally charismatic Reverend Thomas Crowley who is Senior Pastor of Myrtle Baptist Church, passionately delivered JFK’s famous inaugural address, “Let the Word Go Forth,” a stirring and thrilling speech which remains especially prevalent today.  The audience was captivated as the Reverend spoke of freedom, peace, ambition, and achieving the American ideal of brotherhood as musical excerpts of John Williams film score, JFK and Celebration 2000: Journey of John Williams rose underneath.

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Legendary, Grammy award-winning Gospel singer CeCe Winans Photo courtesy of the Boston Pops

 

The excitement for multiple Grammy award-winning singer CeCe Winans was tangible.   Dressed in a black and multi-colored floral gown, Cece Winans took the stage to roaring applause.  CeCe Winans is a flawless soprano whose vocal tone at times is reminiscent of Whitney Houston.  CeCe and Whitney collaborated together for the uplifting song, Count on Me in 1996.  With a joyful warmth and tenderness and as the Boston Pops Gospel Choir swayed and clapped, CeCe performed an array of faith-filled songs from her latest album, Let Them Fall in Love such as Run to Him, Dancing in the Spirit, Peace from God, Never Have to Be Alone, and the title track.  “Welcome to church,” CeCe exclaimed as she gracefully took the stage.  Many of her songs spoke about finding hope in despair, forgiveness, and in the state of the world today, how much we are in need prayer.  She concluded with a beautiful cover of Fanny Crosby’s hymn, Blessed Assurance, bringing the crowd to their feet.

Featuring a number impassioned performances from talented soloists, Charles Floyd continued to lead the Boston Pops Gospel Choir.  Soloist Suzanne Buell and Raymond Martin opened with upbeat, jubilant renditions of Celebrate followed by Carolyn Saxon and David Grandy singing King of Kings.  A particular highlight was Katani Sumner’s powerful, expressive, and bluesy rendition of When Sunday Comes.  Katani’s smooth version of the song hinted of Ella Fitzgerald in its delivery.

Each year, Gospel Night offers a grand, spirit-fueled finale.  Led by The Boston Pops Gospel Choir Artistic Director Dennis L. Slaughter, it is a party that could go all night long, if only they could.  One of the biggest highlights of the evening came from soloist Renese King, who sang a tambourine-infused, rollicking rendition of the classic Gospel hymn, Oh Happy Day.  Oh, Happy 25th Anniversary indeed.

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.