Tag Archive | "Theatre"

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.

“Viva Los Bastarditos” Premieres at Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater Lab

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bastarditos-thumbBy Tessa Raebeck

Coming out of Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater Lab workshop for up-and-coming East End artists, “Viva Los Bastarditos” is a new musical by Jake Oliver about two villains in Western Massachusetts who use a fake land grant to gain control over the poor citizens and tenants at their mercy.

The New York Times called Mr. Oliver’s past writing “proudly silly and prurient, broadly satirical and filled with sensationalistic gags that would shock your grandmother.”

In a  story of “the little people” rising up to fight “the man,” three rock stars unite, forming Los Bastarditos, “a music-based, costume-wearing People’s Revolution—to fight the would-be dictators and their army of rent collectors,” according to a press release.

“Seamlessly combining elements of golden-age musicals, vaudeville, bedroom farce, B-movie westerns and stream of consciousness surrealism, the show simultaneously honors the dramatic forms of the past while repurposing them into something uniquely modern,” the release added.

The musical is directed by Tony Award nominee Ethan McSweeney and features a cast of Broadway performers.

Free for all audiences, “Viva Los Bastarditos” is Tuesday, September 16, at 7:30 p.m. at the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall, located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, call (631) 324-0806 or visit guildhall.org.

“The Fantasticks” Premieres as Pierson’s First Student-Directed Musical

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The cast/production team of "The Fantasticks." From left to right, front row seated: Emily Selyukova, Becca Dwoskin, Audrey Owen. Middle row: Shane Hennessy, Paul Hartman, Colleen Samot, Matthew Schiavoni. Top row: Denis Hartnett. Photo courtesy of Paula Brannon.

The cast/production team of “The Fantasticks.” From left to right, front row seated: Emily Selyukova, Becca Dwoskin, Audrey Owen. Middle row: Shane Hennessy, Paul Hartman, Colleen Samot, Matthew Schiavoni. Top row: Denis Hartnett. Photo courtesy of Paula Brannon.

By Tessa Raebeck

In its first ever musical produced and directed entirely by students, Pierson Middle/High School presents “The Fantasticks,” a comedic romance that tells the story of two neighboring fathers who pretend to feud in order to trick their children into falling in love.

First opened in 1960, “The Fantasticks” is the world’s longest running musical, after running for over 52 years in Manhattan. Tom Jones wrote the book and lyrics and Harvey Schmidt composed the music, which includes classics like “Try to Remember,” “They Were You” and “Soon It’s Gonna Rain.”

Along with acting in the show, Pierson Senior Emily Selyukova is making her directorial debut.

“With a keen eye and natural instincts, she guides her fellow classmates through a difficult but beautiful score, iconic characters and a story that is both familiar and needed,” Paula Brannon, Pierson’s theatre director, said of her student.

Acting as both performers and production designers, Becca Dwoskin, Denis Hartnett, Paul Hartman, Shane Hennessy, Audrey Owen, Matthew Schiavoni, Colleen Samot and Zoe Vatash make up the rest of the cast.

“The Fantasticks” will run Wednesday, April 30 and Thursday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance by calling 725-5302 or emailing pbrannon@sagharborschools.org. All proceeds benefit the Pierson Theatre scholarship fund. The show, which also marks the first time Pierson High School is offering a third musical in one school year, was not budgeted for by the district and was instead funded entirely through donations by local merchants and parents.

The Neo-Political Cowgirls Dance for Justice at Bay Street Theatre

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Last year's performance of Eve Ensler's "V-Day, One Billion Rising" by the Neo-Political Cowgirls at Bay Street Theatre. Photo by Tom Kochie.

Last year’s performance of Eve Ensler’s “V-Day, One Billion Rising” by the Neo-Political Cowgirls at Bay Street Theatre. Photo by Tom Kochie.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Neo-Political Cowgirls return to Bay Street Thursday, February 27 with their rendition of Eve Ensler’s, “V-Day, One Billion Rising.” Eve Ensler, creator of “The Vagina Monologues,” started the worldwide event as a way for people to rise up, speak out and dance together to demand justice for women and girls who are victims of violence.

Director Kate Mueth and the Neo-Political Cowgirls are again partnering with The Retreat and the Bay Street Theatre in the thought-provoking performance aimed at empowering women through self-expression.

Renditions of the dance, which is largely improvisational, will be performed around the world. Those looking to join the global movement are welcome to attend an hour-long dance rehearsal prior to the event, at 5:30 p.m. in the theatre. No experience is necessary and men, women and children are all invited.

Those less inclined to dance are welcome to come to the main performance at 7:30 p.m., which includes music, spoken word and, naturally, dance.

With the slogan, “Rise, Release, Dance!” One Billion Rising for Justice is a global call to demand an end to violence against women and girls. Through transformative dance, survivors of violence are encouraged to release their pain and rise up against their tormenters. Dances usually end with the dancers’ arms spread wide, their head held high and mouth open in a message of release and renewal. In 2013, feminist activists in 207 countries participated in the Valentine’s Day event.

The Neo-Political Cowgirls’ staging of “V-Day, One Billion Rising,” will start at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 13 at the Bay Street Theatre, Corner of Bay and Main Streets in Sag Harbor. A suggested donation of $20 will benefit The Retreat. For more information, email Kate Mueth at gladmueth@aol.com or call the box office at 631.329.7130.

 

“Roots” Actress Tina Andrews Celebrates Life of Coretta Scott King in Southampton Play

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Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, with playwright Tina Andrews (photo courtesy of Tina Andrews).

Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, with playwright Tina Andrews (photo courtesy of Tina Andrews).

By Tessa Raebeck

Before she began dating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King traveled with her boyfriend at the time, a white, Jewish boy, to spend Thanksgiving with his white, Jewish family. Upon arrival, however, Scott King, a college freshman, learned that her boyfriend had failed to mention to his family that the new girlfriend he was bringing home to meet them was black. The family objected, refusing to let them stay, and the young couple ate their Thanksgiving meal at a roadside diner.

“It took me a long time to get stories like that out of her,” said Tina Andrews, a noted actor, screenwriter, producer and director who spent over 120 hours interviewing Scott King before she passed away in 2006.

Conducted over the course of three years, the extensive interviews act as the foundation for Andrews’ new play, “Coretta: Promise to the Dream,” a one-woman show chronicling the life of Coretta Scott King. The show will premiere at the Southampton Cultural Center this Friday, February 7.

Tina Andrews

Tina Andrews

Best known for her role in the famous and groundbreaking 1977 mini-series “Roots,” Andrews wrote the play, directs it and stars in it as the only actor, alternating between playing Coretta and herself.

“I would like to think of her as a friend,” Andrews said of Coretta. From 2002 to 2005, during the last years of Coretta’s life, the pair spent significant time sharing ideas and swapping stories of their lives, from their experiences dating in college to the impact of the civil rights movement.

Hesitant to go public with her stories, Scott King permitted Andrews to interview her only after she saw “Sally Hemings: An American Scandal,” a television miniseries written by Andrews.

“What I love about the story is that I think of myself as a child of the dream,” said Andrews, who, like the modern civil rights movement, was born in the early 1950’s.

“So,” she added, recalling her friend, “she and Dr. King stood against the hoses and the dogs and the billy clubs beating them and jail and all of that, so that I could actually become an executive producer and writer of a CBS miniseries.”

When they first met, Andrews told Scott King, “I stand on your shoulders.” She began to cry and then, struck by Scott King’s beauty, exclaimed, “’Dr. King must have lost his mind when he first met you!’”

That mix of humor with drama, of light stories with harsh realities, is present in all Andrews’ work and especially throughout “Coretta: Promise to the Dream.”

Although it chronicles a lifetime’s worth of progress at the center of the civil rights movement, the play is, above all else, a love story.

“It was that love that endured,” said Andrews, “that made her then fight and pick up the gauntlet after he died to find the other co-conspirators in his death and to make his birthday a holiday.”

Following Dr. King’s death in 1968, rather than shying away in mourning, Scott King picked up her husband’s gavel. For three months, she gave his speeches and fulfilled his obligations. She spearheaded fundraising efforts and established The King Center in Atlanta that same year.

For 15 years, she lobbied Congress to make Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday. President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law in 1983, making the third Monday of January Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

In 1999, Scott King won a civil trial against Loyd Jowers, a co-conspirator in the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Shelby County, Tennessee trial found Jowers and unknown co-defendants, including government agencies, civilly liable for participation in a conspiracy to assassinate Dr. King. Despite its huge implications, the trial received virtually no publicity in the mainstream media.

“It did not reach the front pages of not one newspaper in this country,” Andrews said of the civil trial. “She couldn’t understand it. I can’t. No one can understand it.”

Civil trials require financial attachments to proceed; Scott King attached a mere $100.

“She only wanted the information to get out,” said Andrews, who uses the testimony and trial transcripts in her show, adding, “At least with this one person, there was enough justice so that she felt that she had done her little part to at least expose that there may have been a conspiracy with regard to the death of Dr. King.”

“She said,” added Andrews of Scott King, “everybody’s getting older and everyone is getting sick and I want to know, I want it out there even if I only can take one of these guys to trial, I just want some justice for my husband…I just need to get to the bottom of this for my peace of mind.”

When Scott King brought Dr. King’s body back from Memphis following his assassination, she promised him she would “get to the bottom of this,” Andrews said, making her promise to the dream.

“She was his first lady,” said Andrews, “but people always push the partner aside in talking about the powerful man, not realizing that that man cannot be as powerful as he is without the help of a powerful woman.”

“Coretta: Promise to the Dream” will be shown Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. from February 7 through February 23 at the Southampton Cultural Center, 25 Pond Lane in Southampton. For more information, call 631-287-4377.

JDTLab Brings “The Family Room” to Guild Hall

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Playwright John J. Mullen (courtesy of Guild Hall).

Playwright John J. Mullen (courtesy of Guild Hall).

By Tessa Raebeck

As part of the JDTLab program, Guild Hall of East Hampton presents a free staged reading of “The Family Room,” a new play by first time playwright and longtime East Hampton resident John J. Mullen.

Steve Hamilton directs the play and also performs alongside Joseph Brondo, Lydia Franco Hodges, Ellen J. Myers and Julie King.

The play, which will be shown February 11, explores the complications of familial relationships and the power of childhood experiences, focusing on the relationship between siblings struggling to find forgiveness and reconciliation. Two sisters and a brother have been estranged for 30 years and are reunited in a hospital waiting room as their mother lies dying in the Intensive Care Unit.

Director and Actor Steve Hamilton (courtesy of Guild Hall).

Director and Actor Steve Hamilton (courtesy of Guild Hall).

“The Family Room” is “funny and hard-hitting,” according to Hamilton, who acted alongside Alec Baldwin on the John Drew stage at Guild Hall in “Equus” in 2010. Also serving as Mullen’s script coach for the play, Hamilton has worked on various projects in New York City and on the East End as an actor, director and producer. Most recently, he directed “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” which opened at John Drew in 2013.

The JDTLab program at Guild Hall provides “actively-engaged performing artists” with resources and guidance during the creative process.  Artists are selected to present a one-night showcase in collaboration with the Guild Hall team that is presented at John Drew free of charge.

The staged reading of “The Family Room” will be presented Tuesday, February 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the John Drew Theater in the Dina Merrill Pavilion at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton. For more information, call 631.324.0806 or visit GuildHall.org