Tag Archive | "Paula Brannon"

The Addams Family Comes to Sag Harbor Tonight

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Colleen Samot and Denis Hartnett as Morticia and Gomez Addams lead the cast in a rehearsal of the Pierson High School musical production of The Addams Family in the school auditorium on Tuesday, April 21. Photo by Michael Heller.

Colleen Samot and Denis Hartnett as Morticia and Gomez Addams lead the cast in a rehearsal of the Pierson High School musical production of The Addams Family in the school auditorium on Tuesday, April 21. Photo by Michael Heller. 

By Tessa Raebeck

A man wearing a white fur toga and an Einstein-esque wig is stroking something. Earlier, he was a tree, dancing around with branches alongside a flapper, a Native-American woman, a woman resembling Marie Antoinette, and others, all dressed eerily in white. The man is neither Socrates nor Einstein, but is in fact a “Cave Man Ancestor”—or, in reality, Pierson High School student Nick Knab. He is one of the many unnerving, yet strangely comedic, “ancestors” in “The Addams Family,” the latest theatrical production at Pierson High School.

Pierson’s take on the musical comedy will come alive this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, under the leadership of musical director Paula Brannon and producer Melissa Luppi, who also teaches sixth grade English at Pierson Middle School.

Based on the characters in the classic comic strip by Charles Addams, the show was first staged in 2009. Written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, it opened on Broadway in 2010 starring Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia.

The talented cast of Sag Harbor actors, musicians and stagehands was at school late in the evening on Tuesday, April 21, to work out the final kinks, which always seem to magically disappear come opening night. During the cast’s last run-through before Wednesday’s dress rehearsal—the culmination of near-daily rehearsals since February—students appeared from all sides in between scenes, expertly weaving among one another to pull props and erect elaborate sets.

Ms. Brannon designed the set and the costume concepts, with Ms. Luppi—“seamstress extraordinaire,” according to Ms. Brannon—in charge of costume construction. In addition to the creative duo, many hands are on deck to ensure the music, set and performances run smoothly. Pierson student Jennifer Hall is the assistant director, and her classmate Christen Heine is stage manager. Former Sag Harbor students have returned to their alma mater, helping as make-up artists and teaching workshops on props construction and various elements of entertainment.

Pierson chorus director Suzanne Nicoletti is the vocal coach for the production. Oscar Gonzalez, called the “Zumba king” by Ms. Brannon, is the choreographer. The tech director is Doug Alnwick, a shop teacher at Pierson. Some of the student actors also act in roles behind scenes: Shane Hennessy is the lighting designer, Paul Hartman is student choreographer and Zoe Vatash designed the playbill.

The play has the classic characters of “The Addams Family,” but with modern jokes about pat-downs by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), thyroids and healthcare, and even Jews living in Florida. The comic relief is not reserved to a few staple characters; the whole cast, from leads to extras, adds to the show’s humor and entertainment.

As in most tales, the plot revolves around love. Wednesday, the morbid daughter of the morbid family, has fallen in love with Lucas, the cheery son of a nice, “normal” family from Ohio.

When Wednesday, played by Rebecca Dwoskin, is pleading with her father, Gomez, begging him to act more like a Fred or a Joe in order to impress her new fiancé and his family, she tells him, “We’re who we are and they’re from Ohio.”

“Ohio—a swing state! Monsters!” replies Gomez, with an eerily on-point vampire accent portrayed by actor Denis Hartnett.

Morticia, played by Colleen Samot, swishes around the stage in an elaborate gown of black and crimson. Even with the knowledge that Ms. Samot is a high school student without an extensive rap sheet or a gang of ghosts, the audience will undoubtedly be intimidated by her portrayal of Morticia.

All the classic characters are easy to recognize as their singing selves in the play. There’s gargling, mumbling Lurch, played by Oree Livni, and creepily hilarious Fester and Grandma Addams, played by Matt Shiavoni and Shannon Keane, respectively.

In one scene, a giant set of wood and chains suddenly appears from behind the curtain. Gomez and Morticia’s son, Pugsly, portrayed by Emma McMahon in the classic black and white t-shirt, is on a contraption, holding chains that his sister Wednesday is using to playfully torture him.

Later, the curtains open to reveal the Addams house, complete with the white-clad ancestors—Yani Bitis, Hope Brindle, Alexandra Dudley, Natalie Federico, Jennifer Hall, Charlotte Johnson, Sofia Karamolegou, Zeb Kinney, Courtney Kinsella, Nick Knab, Phoebe Madison Miller, Rachael Miller and Zoe Vatash—crawling in and out of picture frames and acting as picturesque statues on podiums. In the corner, Kerrie Vila acts as a somehow charming “Thing,” sitting in a box as her hands dance on top of it.

After asking the audience for directions, the “normal” family of Wednesday’s love-interest, Lucas, portrayed by Paul Hartman, makes it to the Addams house. Lucas’s parents, Alice and Mal, or Audrey Owen and Shane Hennessy, are apprehensively in tow, dressed in beiges and yellows and slightly skeptical of Wednesday’s accessory choice: a crossbow.

“This is how they live in New York,” remarks Alice, decked from head to toe in yellow, when she enters the Addams house. “They spend all their money on rent and have nothing left for furniture.”

Show dates for “The Addams Family” are at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 23, Friday, April 24, and Saturday, April 25, with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 25, in the auditorium of Pierson Middle/High School, located at 200 Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor. Tickets are available through the main office or by emailing agalanty@sagharborschools.org.

Pierson Cast of “A Chorus Line” Wins “Best Ensemble” on the East End at the 2014 Teeny Awards

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Pierson's production of "A Chorus Line" took home the highest award, "Best Ensemble," at the 2014 Teeny Awards.

Pierson’s production of “A Chorus Line” took home the highest award, “Best Ensemble,” at the 2014 Teeny Awards. Photo by Zoe Vatash.

By Tessa Raebeck

A testament to both their talent and their teamwork, the cast of “A Chorus Line” at Pierson High School took home the highest honor at the 2014 Teeny Awards, “Best Ensemble.”

Held Sunday, June 8, at Longwood High School, the Teeny Awards are put on by the East End Arts Council to recognize the talent of local actors, musicians, technicians and all other artists of the theater.


Photo by Zoe Vatash.

“As ‘A Chorus Line’ is a musical about the ensemble–about them as individuals, who make up the chorus as a unit–this is the ultimate compliment to our group,” Pierson Theatre Director Paula Brannon said. “It means we did it right.”

“As their director, I am extremely proud of these young thespians for not just their talent, but [their] dedication and extremely hard work as a unit,” said Ms. Brannon. “They were truly an ensemble and we are honored to have been recognized for that work.”


For a full list of the Teeny Awards taken home to Sag Harbor, click here.

To read more about Pierson’s production of “A Chorus Line,” click here.

Pierson Middle Schoolers to Stage Musical, ’13′

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Thomas Lawton, center, practices a number with a cast of "Rabbis" during a rehearsal of the Pierson Middle School production "13" in the Pierson auditorium on Sunday. Michael Heller photo

Thomas Lawton, center, practices a number with a cast of “Rabbis” during a rehearsal of the Pierson Middle School production “13″ in the Pierson auditorium on Sunday. Michael Heller photo

By Stephen J. Kotz

The scene inside the Pierson High School auditorium on Sunday afternoon as the cast and crew of “13,” this year’s middle school musical, ran through their tech rehearsal, bordered on the chaotic.

“Quiet, people! Let’s go!,” shouted Paula Brannon, the play’s director, as she tried to marshal her charges, who were being fitted with their portable microphones, to their positions on stage. “Stop talking! If you are backstage and you talk, everybody will hear you!”

Organizing the kids, who had been grabbing a slice of pizza in the lobby during lunch break or lounging about in the auditorium seats, was about as easy as shoveling smoke with a pitchfork in the wind.

It didn’t help that members of the lighting crew, made up of high school volunteers, were interrupting things as they checked their stage lights. Or that the musicians were going over last-minute changes. Or that one girl, who could be identified as having a major role by a handwritten sign hanging from her neck, had a stomach ache that would soon send her home for the day.

Somehow, Ms. Brannon said, when the curtain goes up on Thursday, March 27, for this year’s four-day run, things will have fallen into place and a lead character, who was battling a cold this weekend, will find his voice, confusion surrounding the prop changes will be ironed out, and the stage lights, which were flickering ominously at times on Sunday, will remain lit.

This year’s musical, “13,” was written in 2007 by Dan Ellish and Robert Horn with music by Jason Brown.

“It could be called a coming-of-age show,” said Ms. Brannon, who by day is the account clerk for the Village of Sag Harbor but serves as director of the school district’s musicals, a position she has held for more than a decade. “It’s about the angst of growing up and trying to hold onto being a child.”

The play tells the story of Evan Goldman, a 12-year-old Jewish boy from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, played by seventh-grader Thomas Lawton, who is looking forward to his 13th birthday and the over-the-top bar mitzvah party that will come with it.

Evan’s dreams are dashed, though, when his parents go through a messy divorce and his mother moves, for reasons not explained, with her son to the small town of Appleton, Indiana.

In his new town, Evan tries to salvage his bar mitzvah party dreams by befriending Brett, the star quarterback, played by Graham DiLorenzo, and his buddies, Malcolm (Aidan Mega) and Eddie (Jack Nolan). Evan hopes that by helping Brett get Kendra (Anna Schiavoni), the most popular girl in the school, to be his girlfriend, Brett will get the other kids in the class to attend his bar mitzvah.

It becomes a serious uphill climb. First, Evan has to reassure his friends that a bar mitzvah is not, as the duplicitous Lucy (Saneya Graves),says “a weird Jewish thing where they make you talk backwards and everyone gets circumcised,” but a “a party with a hot DJ and wild dancing.”

Along the way, Evan finds himself betraying his only two true friends, Patrice (Charlotte Johnson) and Archie (Yani Bitis), as he devises ever more elaborate schemes to be accepted by the popular crowd. Not surprisingly, by the end of the play, Evan realizes the errors of his ways and makes giant strides in growing up.

“They throw themselves into this 100 percent,” said Bethany Dellapolla, an Amagansett native who comes out from her home in Queens to choreograph the musicals. “I try to choreograph it so it is doable, but challenging for them. I think they like that too.”

Despite the many lose ends in the production, Ms. Dellapolla said she could see real progress. “Last week they couldn’t sing and dance at the same time,” she said.

Besides Ms. Dellapolla, Ms. Brannon is joined by English teacher Melissa Luppi, who is the musical’s producer; music teacher Eric Reynolds who will conduct a pit “orchestra” made up of Bridgehampton School music teacher Dave Elliot and pianist Amanda Jones; vocals coach Karen Hochstedler, and about a dozen Pierson High School students who handle the backstage work and lights.

Ms. Brannon agreed that the musical was rounding into shape, despite the fact that the group lost a solid week of rehearsal time this year because the Pierson sports seasons started earlier than usual.

“It’s a job juggling all their schedules and the adults involved as well,” she said. A typical rehearsal day starts at 2:30 p.m. with vocal lessons with Ms. Hochstedler and dance lessons with Ms. Dellapolla until about 5  p.m. when Ms. Brannon takes over until 6:30 p.m.

About 55 students signed up to participate in the play, and xonly about five dropped out, mostly because of conflicts with sports schedules.

“I could never have done this demanding a schedule when I was their age,” Ms. Brannon said. “I am constantly amazed at their stamina, talent and drive.”

The Pierson Middle School musical, “13,” will be performed in the Pierson High School auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 27, Friday, March 28, and Saturday, March 29, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 30. Tickets are $7 and can be reserved by calling the Pierson High School office at 725-5302.