Paradise, a longtime 40s Detroit Jazz Club, holds many secrets. As those secrets gradually unfold, nothing is as it seems.
With multi-faceted direction by Elise Joyner and Logan Pitts, Gloucester Stage Company presents Dominique Morisseau’s noir drama Paradise Blue through Sunday, September 18 live and in person at Gloucester Stage, 267 E Main Street on Cape Ann in Gloucester, MA. The show has some adult language. The half moon stage and intimate venue does not have a bad seat in the house. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Though the show’s main focus didn’t seem immediately clear, many revelations piece the production together for its stunning conclusion that may leave you thinking about it long after the show is over.
Paradise Blue focuses on a group of people tied in one way or another to a jazz club/boarding house called Paradise, run exclusively by no-nonsense Blue, portrayed with guarded complexity by horn player Durrell Lyons. Now in danger of closing, the club has its own mysterious roots in Detroit and everyone in Blue’s world has a stake in the club’s future.
Paradise Blue taps into the cast’s multilayered personas as each character makes surprising choices as the show progresses. This complex and unpredictable production boasts strong performances with particular standouts from Destiny Deschaun Washington as Pumpkin and Alexandria Danielle King as Silver. Destiny Deschaun Washington infuses Pumpkin with warmth, humbleness and compassion towards everyone while consistently putting others first at times to her own detriment. Pumpkin’s maternal nature endears her to each cast member as she shares bittersweet and complicated moments with Blue and a natural camaraderie with James Ricardo Milord who only recently joined the cast, but kept up with the best of them as trusting and steadfast piano player Corn.
Chatty, curious, and hardworking, Pumpkin is the seeming antithesis to new tenant Silver, portrayed with blunt and worldly shrewdness by Alexandria Danielle King. Both Silver and P-Sam, depicted with agitated energy by Darian Michael Garey, possess a learned tenacity and restlessness from bitter past experiences. Darian Michael Garey exudes palpable energy while King simmers. Seeing these characters face conflict in their own unique way is a fascinating character study, but due to vastly differing perspectives, Pumpkin and Silver are particularly intriguing with each interaction.
Paradise Blue itself exudes its own restlessness in the Black Bottom neighborhood of Detroit which society considers the club a ‘blight.’ Word travels fast and gossip carries its own weight in this enigmatic neighborhood. Paradise Blue succinctly carries the tense and rueful undertones through Toni Sterling’s stirring lighting and Aubrey Dube’s soulful and bluesy sound design. Nia Safarr Banks’s sharp vintage suits and distinctive and colorful dresses pop against Janie Howland’s modest and earthy-colored set.
Paradise Blue is a powerful drama with grit and gall as each character pours their hopes into Paradise for a brighter future unsuspecting of what lies ahead.
Gloucester Stage Company presents Dominique Morisseau’s noir drama Paradise Blue through Sunday, September 18 live and in person at Gloucester Stage, 267 E Main Street on Cape Ann in Gloucester, MA. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Bikes fly, a plane takes off, and cars zoom as a world unfolds in interactive shadows. Produced by Hit the Lights Theatre, Isla is a documentary experience which combines shadow puppets, photos, animation, and live action to depict the warmth of Samantha Blaine’s homeland and the realities of the Cuban invasion she grew up in. Her unique and personal journey with her mother and two free spirited sisters integrates nature and song to demonstrate the realities of invasion, family, and how everything is connected. Featuring strong vocals as well as heartwarming and wistful performances by Samantha Blain, Marlena Mack, Tiffany Ortiz, Kristopher Dean, Mikayla Stanley, Claron Hayden, and Casey Scott Leach, Isla is a fascinating production that explores heartache, division, political turmoil, pollution, and how Blaine’s world was shaken by communism.
A car crash and a tense, mysterious encounter lead to much more than either of these characters bargained for at a river at the Mexican-US border. Directed by Martin Balmaceda, Spanish language production Acheron: The River of Tragedy serves up a wealth of twists and turns in this sordid and at times clever tale. This production has mature themes and is not for children.
A secretive and menacing presence, portrayed by Cinthia Perez Navarro, has entered the life of Leonardo, portrayed with strained intensity by Aline Lemus Bernal, a nattering, impulsive, and yet perpetual optimist who dreams of freedom as soon as that tumultuous river is crossed. However, there is a heavy price for that dream and neither are savory characters. Navarro’s searing intensity and cryptic glances make for some skittish moments while Bernal’s jaunty moves and brisk chatter never quite distract from Navarro’s distressing wrath. Cinthia Perez Navarro and Aline Lemus Bernal are also behind the show’s sharp choreography. Acheron: The River of Tragedy is a gritty tale about the darker side of humanity in the pursuit of happiness.
Body Through Which the Dreams Flows also explores what it takes to achieve a dream. In this case, it is achieving the Olympic dream as past footage of Olympic champions kick off the production. Part documentary and part stage performance, creator Soomi Kim and company takes a look at the incredible world of gymnastics and the corruption and tragedy that has seeped into the sport and the lives of young girls in training. What does it take to be a champion? Sometimes the price is too steep.
What is really compelling about Body Through Which Dreams Flow are the reenactments of some real life footage as well as Soomi Kim and Alexandra Beller’s beautiful choreography, the sheer athleticism, and interpretation from athletes Lucy Meola, Olivia Caraballoso, Madison Rodriguez, Shayna Wilson, Nora Avci, and Ai Clancy. Enhanced by Amanda Ringger’s haunting lighting, Body Through Which the Dream Flows is a stirring and eye opening production addressing the pressures and what seems like the impossible expectations from coaches while focusing on what past athletes have endured. It also delivers a powerful message on the importance of a child having the chance to be a child.
The New Ohio ICE Factory 2022 continues live and in person at the New Ohio Theatre through August 20 with virtual availability through August 27. Click here for more information and tickets.
The quest to discover one’s destiny can be both exciting and harrowing.
After opening with musical classic West Side Story last month to kick off Reagle Music Theater of Greater Boston’s summer season, Bob Fosse’s unmistakable style took the stage in Reagle’s follow up summer musical Pippin, a tale within a tale about destiny and realizing where one fits in the world. Pippin resembles a morality play and Pippin, portrayed with earnest naiveté and enthusiasm by Kenny Lee, is convinced he was created for an extraordinary purpose and will stop at nothing to find it.
Directed and choreographed by Rachel Bertone with Music Direction by Dan Rodriguez, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston had a lot more magic to do, but the musical Pippin had to shorten its run due to Covid concerns. However, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston will have another chance to create some magic at a one night only cabaret fundraiser featuring the Pippin cast on live and in person on August 26 at Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston in Waltham, MA at 7 p.m. Purchase tickets early and get a discount. Click here for more information and tickets.
Led by Boston based award-winning actor and singer Davron Monroe, the musical Pippin was a wonder to witness though the plot itself is a bit uneven at times and the musical is not appropriate for children. Based on the originally-directed Bob Fosse musical and Diane Paulus’s Tony award-winning revival, Pippin ran at Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston in Waltham, MA through August 7. Click here for more on Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s upcoming events.
Set initially in a traveling circus, cast members immersed the audience in this mystical tale within a tale also set in the Middle Ages by occasionally marching down the aisles, addressing the audience and encouraging an occasional sing-along.
Scenic designer Cameron McEchern seamlessly handled the frequent “magical” changes of scenery as Pippin explored various aspects of one’s existence from sophisticated royalty to military life to the simplicity of farming life and much more in between. From bright, bedazzled and exotic costumes to the simplicity of the Middle Ages, costume designer Jake O’Hara and Emerald City Theatricals helped to create this versatile and dynamic world shared skillfully by charismatic Davron Monroe as the complicated narrator and mysterious advisor, Leading Player. Monroe’s resounding vocals and quick comic wit lent to his compelling performance, especially for Magic to Do and the lively On the Right Track. However, Monroe’s most captivating work was saved for the twist-filled finale.
The costumes along with Rachel Bertone’s dazzling and at times racy choreography offered subtle nods to Fosse’s signature style including top hat, cane, and scantily clad, Chicago-inspired dancers. Even Monroe gave a subtle nod to Fosse’s Razzle Dazzle.
Like Chicago, Pippin has some surprising moments and often addressed the dark side of humanity. Pippin is looking for meaning as expressed quite wonderfully with Corner of the Sky. Lee portrays Pippin with wide-eyed optimism, chatty naiveté, and a free spirit which make him more sympathetic than egotistical, even when Pippin makes some poor choices.
King Charlemagne, depicted with gravitas, charm, and stubbornness by Damon Singletary, is no stranger to the monarchy having portrayed the king in Concord’s past Umbrella Arts Theatre musical, Head over Heels. Stern and shrewd Singletary delivered some wise and memorable dialogue and has a good rapport with his son, Pippin. Kathy St. George as spicy and fun loving Berthe is a particular highlight, especially during the number, No Time at All. Berthe offers Pippin and the audience valuable life lessons and an occasional sing-along through humor, joy, and wit. Kenny Lee as Pippin and Kathy St. George have some endearing chemistry and Berthe’s vibrant dance moves and her occasional engagement with the audience make her a difficult act to follow.
Katie Ann Clark as seductive and materialistic Fastrada and Joel Douglas as handsome, dimwitted and egotistical Lewis make formidable adversaries and Kayla Shimizu shines as headstrong, patient, and graceful Catherine.
It is a shame that Pippin could not continue for its full run because it had a lot to say about the key to happiness and what is truly important in life. However, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston will have another opportunity for some magic at a one night only cabaret fundraiser featuring the Pippin cast live and in person on August 26 at Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston in Waltham, MA at 7 p.m. Click here for more information and tickets.
Having to wait for food isn’t easy, but the crazy antics that result are quite extraordinary in Slow Food, a wild comedy that focuses on a long time married couple on their anniversary vacation who finds themselves in pursuit of their meal. It’s a good thing that Hub Theatre Company of Boston cleverly sets this production in a dinner theatre setting because not only does the show address love, marriage, manipulative food service and more, but most importantly, the very art of being frustratingly hangry.
With witty direction by Daniel Bourque, Hub Theatre Company of Boston presents Slow Food through Saturday, July 30 live and in person at Club Café Boston at 209 Columbus Ave in Boston, MA. This show is 90 minutes with no intermission and tickets are on a pay-what-you can-basis. Club Café offers a discount on the menu when attending Slow Food. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Club Café’s backroom was once artfully transformed into a hair salon setting for Steel Magnolias, one of Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s lighthearted past productions held at Club Café Boston. Though a Palm Springs Greek restaurant setting is less of a stretch, set designer Justin Lahue’s subtle candlelit setting, vine adorned walls and framed photos onstage flow with the candlelight and Ukraine flags that frame Club Café while sound designer Ted Kearnan’s inviting Greek soundtrack sets the mood.
Slow Food’s immersive and interactive vibe continues as Jyoti Daniere as Irene, Steve Auger as Peter and Victor J. Shopov as Stephen the Waiter wander through Club Café at various times, making it easy to engage in the frustrating hilarity of this pair as they attempt to navigate a stubborn, preoccupied waiter and each other through it all.
Slow Food features a small and strong cast with dialogue that is pretty snappy at times. Shopov pushes all the right buttons and stealthily builds tension as a nosy, savvy and neurotic waiter that doesn’t know his boundaries. With a dry sense of humor, natural chemistry, and a gift for pushing each other’s buttons, Daniere and Auger make a likeable and relatable couple. Daniere as perceptive, exasperated, and sympathetic Auger as business minded, occasionally distracted and blunt Peter know they must rally to negotiate a good meal if they can get past their personal grievances as secrets gradually unfold along the way.
Slow Food is only the name of the show and Club Café delivered quick and attentive service. Try the delicious Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake for dessert.
Hub Theatre Company of Boston presents Slow Food through Saturday, July 30 live and in person at Club Café Boston at 209 Columbus Ave in Boston, MA. This show is 90 minutes with no intermission and tickets are on a pay-what-you can-basis. Club Café offers a discount on the menu when attending Slow Food. Click here for more information, tickets, and for more about Hub Theatre Company of Boston.
‘I’ve just met a girl named Maria/And suddenly that name/will never be the same/to me.”
Having seen the classic musical West Side Story from the stage to the 1961 film adaptation to Spielberg’s recent Oscar worthy film, Reagle Music Theatre’s Blake Du Bois as Tony’s moving rendition of the classic song, Maria is a must see. Many Tonys have floated through this number with surprise, naiveté, and the excitement of attraction while blinded by love, but Du Bois’s delivery evokes a more meaningful perspective. Enhanced by his extensive vocal range, this soulful rendition depicts not naiveté, not necessarily blindness, but an overwhelming feeling of love for Maria and the fear of what that means. So overcome by love that he must move forward in spite of it. It was like understanding Maria anew.
Sharply directed and choreographed by Rachel Bertone with seamless musical direction by Dan Rodriguez, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston delivered powerful and clever performances as it kicked off its summer musical season with West Side Story continuing through July 16 at Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston live and in person in Waltham, MA. This show is not intended for children under 13. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is the timeless tale of the Sharks and the Jets, two rival gangs who cannot seem to coexist in Manhattan without a fight. However, when Blake Du Bois as streetwise Tony and Eevie Perez as idyllic Maria lock eyes, everything quickly becomes complicated.
Helmed by a captivating cast, Reagle Music Theatre’s West Side Story is intriguing from the start as it lays out mischief, antics and petty outrage over owning the streets. A broad city landscape, chain linked fences, a retro jukebox and detailed drug store are just part of Janie Howland’s retro, rolling set that successfully rewinds the clock back to the 1950s.
A great deal of West Side Story hinges on its sharp dance and fight choreography and director and choreographer Bertone hits the ground running. Along with Fight and Intimacy Director Angie Jepson, the high-kicking choreography blurs the lines between dance and fighting as the gangs intertwine in innovative and precise movements. A leap becomes a punch and aggressiveness turns graceful…all in the same move. Jack Mullen delivers an intense performance as the tough talking, swaggering Jet leader Riff, especially during a catchy and memorable rendition of Cool as each tense moment pops to Franklin Meissner, Jr’s intricate lighting. Mullen as Riff and Du Bois as Tony share some affable camaraderie as they do with their fellow Jets and their fair share of united animosity toward the Sharks. Nate Walsh stood out as hot head Action, on edge and ready for a fight while Gracin Wilkins delivers a stirring performance as outcast Anybodys.
Eevie Perez is charming and spot on as Maria, her chiming vocals and naiveté especially evident with Ana Viveros as Consuela, Marissa Pineda as Rosalia, and Karina Gonzalez as Tesesita in the exuberant and playful number, I Feel Pretty and in a gorgeous duet with Du Bois as Tony for One Hand, One Heart. Tall and distinctive, charismatic Bianca Rivera-Irions as Anita knows how to make an entrance in a show stopping red dress, just one of the many rich, vintage, and vibrant costumes provided by Tiffany Howard. A lively dancer, Rivera-Irions as Anita stands out in any room as only Anita can. Rivera-Irions as Anita and Diego Klock-Perez as proud and protective Shark leader Bernardo share lighthearted and steamy chemistry. The dynamic cast performs an exhilarating rendition of Tonight, their robust sound and stirring harmonies build the anticipation and excitement of a night that will change everything.
Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston presents musical classic West Side Story continues through July 16 at Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston live and in person in Waltham, MA. This show is not intended for children under 13. Click here for more information and for tickets.
How can a childhood fib possibly be part of the best summer ever?
Amid Carter Miller’s vivid and dynamic lighting against a cloud covered sky as multi-instrumentalist and sound effect aficionado Robertson Witmer stands over a grill in an apron and sunny yellow sneakers ready to serve a hot dog, Merrimack Repertory Theatre’sBest Summer Ever might give you the urge for summer to arrive a little sooner. Rowan Doyle’s breezy set design is not the alone in setting up the carefree days of summer. In a button down shirt, dark pants and striking red and white sneakers relaxed in a lawn chair, popular storyteller and NPR contributor Kevin Kling is an open book ready to share an engaging, wild, and moving account of incredible hijinks during the life changing and unforgettable summer he experienced at 9 years old.
With compelling direction by Steven Dietz, Merrimack Repertory Theatre presents the east coast premiere of Best Summer Ever through Sunday, May 22 live and in person at Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, MA. There will be no virtual show available and the show runs 70 minutes with no intermission. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Kevin Kling knows how to tell a great story. Full of liveliness and spontaneity, what sets Best Summer Ever apart from other productions is Kling’s unique and distinctive touch. He shares personal anecdotes with plenty of asides, quirky details, and having experienced the show on Mother Day, it is easy to tell each tailored performance is fueled by the interaction and enthusiasm in the audience. He has a great rapport with Rob who dives head first into some of the production’s sillier moments of Vikings, a purple snow cone gone awry, and chilling ghost stories. Both seem a kid at heart and they work succinctly as Rob provides the soundtrack and dynamic mood-setting sound effects at a sometimes thrilling pace.
Kling strikes a clever balance of adult reflection and falling right back into his childhood mindset of growing up in Minnesota. He uses the phrase, ‘unstructured time’ and equating that with ‘boredom’ or in speaking about his farming grandparents, Kling exclaims, “If Grandpa could cut it off, Grandma could pickle it.”
The show also has its share of heartwarming family moments and explores the wonder and imagination of childhood that just might take you back too.
Merrimack Repertory Theatre presents the east coast premiere of Best Summer Ever through Sunday, May 22 live and in person at Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, MA. There will be no virtual show available and the show runs 70 minutes with no intermission. Thursday, May 19 will be a Q and A Ask the Artists night. Click here for more information and for tickets.
The power of music is in full force in Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s (MRT) production of Alison Gregory’sWild Horses streaming on demand through Sunday, October 17. Merrimack Repertory Theatre previously offered the production in person from September 15 through October 3 at Western Avenue Studios in Lowell, Massachusetts. The show contains mature language and some adult themes. Click here for more information and tickets to this virtual performance.
Directed with heart and humor by Courtney Sale, Wild Horses delves into the life of the mother of a teenage daughter, portrayed with a blend of lively charm and excitable nervousness by Leenya Rideout, as she gets wrapped up recalling her story of a special California summer during her 13th year in the 70s while onstage at an open mic night. Rideout evokes a sense of adventure during this musically-fueled Moth Radio Hour featuring lyrics from 70s greats Rolling Stones, Heart, Van Morrison, America, and more.
Having delivered a likable performance in the 2020 indie film, Love, Repeat, Rideout further showcases her dynamic range in this meatier Wild Horses role with a humorous, heartfelt and sometimes raunchy performance. See what Sleepless Critic had to say about Rideout in Love, Repeathere.
With a love for music almost as much as horses, Rideout sings, strums an acoustic guitar, and proves an energetic and engaging storyteller sharing her experiences from a studious perfectionist to a teenager not afraid to break a few rules with the encouragement from her daring friends. With no shortage of excitement, scandal, humor, and heartache, Rideout’s onstage demeanor switches from responsible mother in need of a night out to wide eyed, youthful innocent with all the angst that goes with it. She blends what she remembers with her current wisdom, dwelling in the sacredness of youth. Ranging from teenage pranks to rites of passage, Rideout recalls these stories with wistfulness and passion, interacting with the audience like old friends.
Costume designer A. Lee Viliesis has Rideout ready to rock in an animal print scarf, Fender T Shirt, and ripped jeans and accompanied by guitarist Rafael Molina, she slips right into this adolescent spirit longing to be wild and free. All that is necessary is a little courage.
Here’s to the ‘freedom takers’ with Merrimack Repertory’s production of Wild Horses continues streaming through Sunday, October 17. Click here for more information and to get a closer look on MRT’s new season.
Forgive me for being excited. This was the first music concert the Sleepless Critic has attended since 2020 and by none other than a Grammy-nominated group during the final days of summer. For A Far Cry, it was not only this renowned chamber orchestra’s debut at the South Shore Conservatory, but their first set of live performances to kick off their 15th season after last season was done entirely virtually.
Elegantly dressed in flowing dresses and suits, this Boston-based group of musicians couldn’t have been more thrilled to take the outdoor stage in front of a live audience again as the skies grew dark, the crickets chimed in, and the Amphitheater’s twinkling lights began to burn.
Tackling life’s tumultuously journey from sweeping birth to a peaceful end, A Far Cry opened their new season with Circle of Life at South Shore Conservatory’s Jane Carr Amphitheater on Saturday, September 18 in Hingham, Massachusetts. Click here to find out where A Far Cry will perform next.
A Far Cry’s Grace Kennerly offered a warm introduction as all 18 ‘criers’ took the stage for their opening work arranged by Alex Fortes of Bela Bartok’sTraditional Lullabies and For Children arranged by Leo Weiner. This work of sweeping, wondrous, and charming lullabies also delivers bursts of foreboding and urgency through a solo violin. Its soft, soothing strings create a dreamlike quality as the movement gallops toward exuberance and a sense of adventure.
A particular highlight of the concert lies within Franghiz Ali-Zaheh’sShyschtar: Metamorphoses for String Orchestra which is described as ‘the development of oneself in the teenage years.’ Instantly captivating, Metamorphoses evokes strife and a mysterious urgency, almost sounding like something borrowed from Hitchcock. The carefully-timed violin plucking, occasional vocalizing, and haunting tapping enhances the work’s thrilling and suspenseful rhythms as the work builds to a searing climax before it takes an unexpectedly poignant tone and draws toward its eerie conclusion.
A Far Cry’s Jason Fisher introduced Antonin Dvorak’s stirring Serenade for Strings. This work carries its own quiet excitement as Dvorak wrote it while he and his wife were expecting. It has occasional undertones similar to a wedding march and like Lullabies, a dreamlike quality and a gentle building of anticipation. The lengthiest movement, Serenade for Strings delivers chirping peacefulness and quiet interludes with a touch of melancholy as it builds to an uproarious, gallivanting glee.
Karl Doty’sCastles, though it is Circle of Life’s shortest work, packs a no less powerful punch. It has a vibrancy and incandescence that comes together in a rush. With its occasional vocalizing, it evokes vitality, strength and a degree of reminiscing as this piece was written when Doty returned to his childhood home.
To complete the Circle of Life, A Far Cry performed Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 16 in F Major, Op. 135. It’s a combination of a quiet musing, searing rhythm, and an intangible foreboding of the inevitable. However, this piece also evokes a settling and resignation of what is to come.
Kicking off their 15th season on a powerful note with the exploration of life’s journey, A Far Cry will continue in October. Click here for A Far Cry’s upcoming performances and here for more information on South Shore Conservatory’s upcoming events.
Michael Hammond may change the way you look at life. Are you afraid of the audition? He’ll show you a way to succeed. Having a bad day? He’ll show you a way to lift your spirits. As the new Director of Development at the Company Theatre, a role he calls a lifelong dream, his positivity may help others the way Company Theatre has helped him since childhood.
The Company Theatre, located at 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts, joyously held their first indoor production since their absorbing musical, Fun Home early last year. Rock of Ages was an edgy and energetic rock jukebox musical that took place last month. See Rock of Ages review here and click here for Sleepless Critic’s full podcast.
Sleepless Critic: Please tell me what it was like to be back in the indoor setting for Rock of Ages.
Michael Hammond: It’s so fantastic. It’s emotional, exciting, and the energy in the air was just electric. You were there. You saw it. People were cheering and screaming.
The show starts with Sally Forrest’s voice doing her standard announcement which we are all accustomed to hearing. It was such a welcome back and to hear her voice and I think people cheered over her entire announcement. Just to be back inside, hear that familiar voice, and to know we’re about to see a really fun and exciting show was just great.
SC: I know this was the opening weekend for indoor theatre, but you did have some outdoor theatre experiences like Avenue Q before this show.
MH: Avenue Q was incredible. The kids were so talented. Their commitment to what they were doing and their characters were dynamic. It was Broadway-type quality coming out of these kids on the outdoor stage of the Company Theatre out back. We have had other things like Divas with a Twist and Donny Norton’s band,The New Band there. That’s been a really nice addition to the Company Theatre as well as now being back inside.
SC: So getting back to Rock of Ages, you had your opening weekend and you felt like everything went as smooth as can be?
MH: Absolutely! So many new people in this show and as is typical of the Company Theatre, they are already saying this is my new home. It’s this overwhelming feeling that you’re home and you found your family at the Company Theatre even if you did one show and you never come back, it still feels that way. I’ve been involved since I was 19 years old.
SC: I was going to say that you are familiar with that feeling.
MH: I’m very familiar with that feeling. I don’t know what my life would have been like without Company Theatre. I would have taken a completely different path.
SC: It’s hard to replicate the kind of friendly and welcoming atmosphere you have when you’re in theatre.
MH: Absolutely! Such a nice group of people too that do theatre especially the teens. They just stay out of trouble. They have a common goal they are working towards and they enjoy each other’s company and make lifelong friendships. I can’t say enough about it.
I’ve just seen so many kids, even this summer just come through the doors and they leave just completely changed and confident and more themselves. It’s just a beautiful thing to witness.
SC: When you said you had been with Company Theatre pretty much your whole life, you said it was a lifelong dream to do something like this as the Director of Development now. I’m really excited for you.
MH: Thank you! Like a lot of people during the pandemic, you start to question ‘Am I doing what I want with my life? Is this fulfilling and rewarding?’ Like many people, I came to the conclusion that what I was doing was not for me anymore.
It had run its course and I needed something new and Jordie Saucerman, one of the founding partners of the Company Theatre, had passed away and that really accelerated my thought process because her wake was attended by so many people. I thought ‘Look at all the lives that she touched.’ The impact that Jordie had on people is immeasurable. Even if I make just a little sliver of that impact on people, I would feel great about my life. That set the wheels turning.
I approached Zoe one day and said, ‘I will be your janitor. I basically don’t care what you have me do, if there is a spot for me here, I am coming.’ That seed was planted awhile ago and it sort of blossomed into Director of Development. I’m so excited to try new things and just give back what I got from this theatre.
SC: Not only that, but you have a similar positive way about you like Jordie had. Where do you get your positive outlook from? Where do you draw it from considering I’ve also seen videos of you on social media?
I’m not attempting to fill Jordie’s shoes in any way. That’s not a task that anyone could accomplish. She is a unique individual who I feel is still around in the atmosphere and in the joy of the theatre. If I’m upset or have a bad day, it makes me feel better to brighten someone else’s day. That is such a nice feeling to buy someone in line a coffee or just compliment someone or encourage someone to do something they didn’t think they could do. I live off of that. If I am having the worst day of my life and I do something nice for somebody, I instantly feel recharged. I think that’s how I basically go through life.
SC: I hear that from a lot of comedians as well. It makes them feel better to make someone else laugh even if they are upset or having issues.
MH: I tried standup comedy once. I did it more for the writing aspect, but I did perform. It was an interesting experience because you come out onstage and you look at a sea of faces who want you to succeed because if you succeed, they have a fantastic time. You have an overwhelming amount of support that you just want to hold onto and it was an incredible feeling.
SC: What did you did before this that you wanted to walk away from and join the Company Theatre?
MH: I was the station manager at a local cable television station. I was so grateful because it was also a non-profit. I probably learned so many skills that I could apply to this job I didn’t necessarily have before. Just the behind the scenes stuff, the QuickBooks, the budgets, and managing a non-profit was extremely helpful and then also applying my video experience to the job as well. Filming and creating events and learning special effects.
So all of that which at the time was a perfect job for me, but nine years later I felt like I needed a change and so I am going to apply what I learned there and bring it to the Company Theatre. We can offer acting for camera classes and improv for camera classes.
I’ve been on auditions and in commercials. We want to provide those skills to kids who like to act and be on camera. We want them to be able to go into an audition and know how to slay what they are going to be asked to do and be prepared for anything.
I actually started with a class over the summer. Some of the kids were auditioning so they got immediate training for those auditions. When they came back, they would tell the other students that they did just what Michael showed us. I asked if they felt more prepared. Did you do a better job with the audition? Their faces lit up and they said, ‘Absolutely!’ That was a nice thing.
We want to get in touch with the local casting agencies which we already have a good relationship. We want to create a talent database where you can see video auditions and we can send those out so we kind of want to be a bridge between the local movie and theatre scene. We’ll provide students with the training. They’ll have the skills to go out and nail professional auditions and maybe get cast in movies and commercials. We just really want everyone to have new and exciting opportunities to excel in a career in film and theatre if that is something that they are interested in.
SC: Let’s face it – the audition process is the most nerve-wracking and hardest part I think to convey right off the bat because in your head, you are saying,’ I know what I can do for you’ but then you get up there and it is not exactly what you picture.
MH: Having directed before, people come in and they are nervous. The reality is the casting company is nervous and they have roles to fill. So, the second you come in, put them at ease, and they know they have options, they feel better. I always say in my mind when I got into an audition, ‘Here I am! You can relax. I am going to be that person you need.’ I think it’s an interesting way to keep yourself calm to think I am exactly what you need instead of I hope I’m what you need.
SC: I never really thought of it like that.
MH: Think about it. You have a reputation. You have a project. You want to cast the right people because that makes you look good as well. If you find the right people not only are you confident about the project, but it brings excitement.
When I direct a show, I’m not very excited about it until I know who is in it and then I can tailor their performances to their talents. It is such a thrill to watch people blossom.
Please tell me about the projects you are working on now and upcoming projects.
I don’t think I’ll be directing anything for a little bit. I’ll probably take on some projects here and there. I definitely can’t leave that part behind. I’m really going to focus on the video classes. I’ll be working with Christie Reading. She is extremely talented with anything video related. So, I will be teaming up with her teaching improv for camera, acting for camera, and getting people ready for auditions.
We want to nurture and encourage that. That is kind of my goal. It’s to really push people to excel in any way that they can.
SC: You can’t forget about Boston Casting. How convenient is that! There are all kinds of films going on in the state.
MH: Exactly and literally a mile down the road they are making motion pictures. So how can we not be a part of that? They are working on the new Jon Hamm movie in Cohasset. I know Angela at Boston Casting who is an incredible woman and I don’t know how she does everything she does, but with all those films going on, eventually they will run out of actors.
We get casting notices all the time and I’m forwarding them off to everybody I know that I think fits. For example, I sent a buddy of mine a notice yesterday. They were looking for an actual butcher with acting experience and I happen to know a butcher with acting experience. I’m thinking he might get it.
SC: I know. Some of the requirements are so wild.
MH: It’s so specific, but every once in a while I’ll say, ‘Wait a minute, that is me.’
Company Theatre is offering theatre classes in the fall. Click here for the full schedule and upcoming events.
Opening with a remarkable reflection connecting theatre to the human heart, a bare stage shows signs of life once again.
Potomac Theatre Project (PTP/NYC) opened their virtual summer play series earlier this month with Lunch, a clever show that unconventionally explored the art of conversation. Directed judiciously by Cheryl Faraone, Standing on the Edge of Time waxes both political and poetic in conversation as it explores the bleak yet hopeful state of the world through a selection of works from different authors.
Standing on the Edge of Time is the second of three summer virtual plays presented by PTP/NYC and continues through July 27. Viewings are free and donations are encouraged. This show was filmed adhering to Covid guidelines, runs approximately 90 minutes, and has mature themes. Click here for more information, how to view the show, and how to support PTP/NYC’s mission.
From the haunted balconies of an old, empty theatre, even the dead wrestle with their wild, melancholy, and world-weary experiences in Mac Wellman’sCrowbar. This segment provides the perfect framework leading into various works that delve into contemporary issues from freedom, frustration, road rage, and relationships to downsizing, grief, sex, and paranoia.
Though each segment is written by different authors, its engaging format provides a flow that rarely veers off course. The show boasts poetic and timely musings such as Mornings at the Lake with Madison Middletonand Spell of Motion by Stacie Cassarino with Stephanie Janssen featuring some beautiful outdoor cinematography as well as haunting James Saunders’Next Time I’ll Sing to You with Tara Giordano. Though the majority of Standing on the Edge of Time is thought-provoking, these quieter segments provide respite from the production’s heavier topics and satirical themes.
Some highlights include Dominique Morisseau’s relatable and occasionally humorous Skeleton Crew, the zany and unique ideas presented in David Auburn’sWhat Do You Believe about the Future, and the surprising facts revealed of history repeating in Constance Congdon’sTales of the Lost Formicans.
The cast portray a myriad of roles, but apart from Crowbar, do not seem like they are playing particular characters for the most part. The lively cast seems like a semblance of individuals exploring contemporary issues, fears, and unique ideas of the future.
PTP/NYC’s Standing on the Edge of Time continues streaming through Tuesday, July 27. Click here for more information. Please note there is a final segment following the production’s credits. PTC/NYC will present their final virtual summer show, A Small Handful from August 13-17.