Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)

Byrds

A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

If you do theatre in Connecticut, you know the name Chris Peterson. In fact, if you do theatre anywhere in the United States, you probably know his name. Chris is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the well-trafficked and oft controversial theatre blog, OnStageBlog.com.

When I first heard the name Chris Peterson, it was just a scant three years ago. In 2014, I was directing Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at The Ridgefield Theater Barn (a venue in Connecticut, if you are not familiar). At the time, Chris was the host of a theatre podcast and had a burgeoning blog that was dedicated to supporting and reviewing local theatre. For Chris, an East Haddam resident, local theatre meant Connecticut and parts of Westchester County. To be honest, I thought he was a recent college graduate, not (as turned out to be the case) a university recruiter. It was cool. He gave me a shout out and applauded the fact I chose “edgy” musicals to direct (or something to that effect). It seemed at the time, in his book, that was a good thing.

Peterson’s timing was perfect. He arrived on the Interweb when theatre critics working for local newspapers were retiring or losing their jobs, primarily due to the shift from print media to online media. Theaters were looking for ways to get reviewers to come to their shows and, with timing on his side, Chris was more than willing to attend and review shows (or send delegates in his stead). Fueled by a sprinkling of hot topics and some highly debated opinion pieces, OnStage’s readership grew at a fever pitch. Chris built a network of reviewers and contributors that, at one time, even included yours truly.

When OnStage was in its infancy, what I loved about it was that it filled a void that our community was about to be starved of : feedback. As a writer, director, actor, board/committee member, marketer and producer, I know one thing for certain – theatre artists want to know if you like them. Even more, do you really like them? Do you like them enough that you will bestow upon them an award? It doesn’t matter if you do a show in your back yard or if it is a nationally televised live production – artists want to know what you think.

Whether it was the once coveted and now mostly-defunct Paddy Award, an OnStage Award, or if the consumers of community theatre are recognizing the outstanding performances in Hoof Hearted via the BroadwayWorld.com Awards – we all love our laurels.

So, OnStage, the bestower of some of the aforementioned awards and the site that was once the steadfast provider of reviews has, for want of a better term, “re-branded” themselves:

“We can be a site that covers the industry like everyone else or we can be the one that turns it on its head. We can be the ones to make an impact so great, it forces change. We can tell the stories of people who deserve a million times more credit than they’ve gotten. It’s time people stopped saying ‘OnStage is like everyone else’ to ‘Holy shit, did you see what OnStage said?'”

— Chris Peterson, OnStage

Since Chris made that decision, he has shifted the primary focus of his blog to being the voice for the unsung heroes of theatre – and there are a lot of them – believe me. He also intends to represent issues in theatre that, no matter where you stand on the opinion spectrum, do exist : copyright infringement, gender inequality or racial/ethnic casting standards – to name a few.

The OnStage writers are actors, directors, writers, designers, fans and most importantly rebels. They write with their own voice and honesty.

Since he announced and implemented his revised mission, OnStage’s readership has soared. As a blogger, I get it. To have a reach of over 3 million is a big deal. Good on him. Truthfully, so many aspects or our lives have benefited from the work of rebels.

But that leaves those of us in Lower Fairfield, Lower Westchester and Putnam counties – the ones who do it because we love it – with a bit of a void. Do you like us? Do you like what you see? Would you tell your friends?

And that is where I come in…

I grew up in theatre. My father – a playwright, director, actor and theatre professor – immersed me in the life theatrical. I’ve been actively involved since the 6th grade (some time ago, in the 70s, I think), when I appeared as the ironically foot-plastered Dr. Beetle in Once Upon A Clothesline. I pursued a degree in the Theatre Arts and have a fair amount of theatre knowledge. Also, I know people that know a shit ton more than me. And most of them don’t hate me.

Then there is this: for the last 21+ years, I have worked for a highly regarded IT research and consulting firm. I have designed customer satisfaction programs and managed marketing databases for the majority of my “offstage” career. I know data. I also know how to analyze it.

Since I’ve sworn to my children that I would not do any theatre until they all graduated from high school, I needed a way to stay involved. So here I am, a creative and analytical person with experience in theatre and relational databases. Also, I’m a parent of three teenage girls, two of whom are fraternal twins. I’m fun, a little bit of a bad ass and growing out of my fear. Ask me. I’ll tell you.

That said, I am introducing my newest project: The SWCT-SENY Community Theatre Database. For the immediate future, I will be collecting data about productions done by the following companies:

Bedford Community Theatre
Brewster Theatre Company
Brookfield Theatre for the Arts
Carriage House Theatre
Center Stage
Curtain Call
Downtown Cabaret Theatre
Eastbound Theatre Company
Infinity Repertory Theatre
Musicals at Richter
Performing Arts Center @ 32 Below
Ridgefield Theatre Barn
Sherman Playhouse
Spring Street Arts Center
Square One Theatre Company
TheatreWorks New Milford
Town Players of New Canaan
Town Players of Newtown
Two Planks
Vagabond Theatre Company
Westport Community Theatre
Wilton Playshop
Yorktown Stage

If your theater is on the perimeter of the 20 mile zip code radius and is not represented above, please let us know if you would like to be included. E-mail us at SWCT.SENY.CTDb@gmail.com.

We will be asking people to provide very simple feedback about the last three shows that each venue has produced. From that point, we will be compiling and analyzing the data with the intent to share the outcome with any of the venues, upon their request.

There will always be the ability to provide anonymous feedback. But, if you choose to become an identified member of the feedback community, you will also have the opportunity to respond to exclusive surveys with the continued assurance of anonymity and discretion.

So, until we pull in all of the productions into the more specific feedback mechanism, tell us about the last time you attended a community theatre production.

No names. Just honesty.

Becoming Sarah: Part Five

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (A.K.A. Act I, Scene 3)

FUD
When working on a show, regardless of your contribution to it, there are points in the process where you begin to doubt yourself or question your choices. Generally speaking, everyone is working toward a common goal – to put on the best production possible. However, as humans who are putting something out there to entertain or connect with other humans, those inevitable moments of uncertainty are bound to appear. There are the universal questions that we all ask: Will the show be good? Will people come? Will they like it? Then there are the personal moments of doubt that we deal with throughout the process.

The first time I heard about the “FUD factor” was in my role as a marketing professional in the corporate world. Regardless of its corporate roots, the “FUD factor” – or Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt – has certainly been alive and well in my journey to bringing the role of Sarah Goodwin to life. I’ve already talked about the daunting task of learning a ton of lines and thankfully I have somehow managed to rise to that Herculean undertaking. Yet there remain other points in the show where I find myself more vulnerable than others. In my ever-obsessive mind, I have dubbed a particular scene in the show as The FUD Scene, where seemingly trivial fears, uncertainties and doubts seem to crop up in quick succession. I always breathe a sigh of relief when those moments in Act I, Scene 3 are over and I can get out of my head a little bit.

Fortunately, these moments come in quick succession and are over within five minutes of performance time. The first moment comes when my character has to fall to the ground. Having been injured in a roadside bomb in Iraq, Sarah is outfitted with a fair share of medical equipment, including a full leg brace, arm sling, wrist brace and crutch. To make the fall even more exciting, I have spent the better part of the last eight weeks recovering from foot surgery. Every time I fall, I am painstakingly aware of how I will fall, how I will land, where the crutch will go and, most importantly, if I will feel any pain in the recovering foot. So far, most of the falls have been without incident.

OK – so I’m on the ground and presumably have not broken or bruised anything. Now I have to get up. Remember, I have a full leg brace and an “injured” arm, so I can’t just bounce up like a Mexican jumping bean. This is where Aaron, the actor playing my boyfriend, has to help me up. Let me tell you, my right quad muscles have gotten quite a workout while trying to assume as much of the effort of raising 150 pounds from the ground as possible. But does it end there? Oh, hell no! Now he has to lift me up and carry me across the stage. As someone who has spent the better part of her life worrying about her weight, that 30 seconds is generally spent in silent prayer hoping I don’t end up on the ground again. Thankfully, I haven’t been dropped yet. And now I’ve been transferred to the bed for the next awkward moment which the producer has affectionately dubbed “sexy times.”

As someone who has spent the majority of her acting career as the sidekick or in a supporting role, I have managed to generally evade the need for any romantic interaction onstage. My first onstage kiss was in The Fantasticks when a 15-year-old me was portraying Luisa. My last onstage kiss was about 20 years ago when I was doing an irreverent mash-up Christmas comedy and, as it would happen, that kiss was with the man who would become my husband. The reality is that I haven’t kissed another man onstage or off since. Now let me tell you, musical theatre and comedic kissing is very different from kissing which is meant to come off as believable, which is generally not set to music. Yeah, I panicked about this a little. It gave me a newfound respect for all of those actors I directed in Spring Awakening, who had to take onstage intimacy to a whole new level. The reality is that onstage kissing is less about romance than it is about mechanics, like blocking, finding your light and being aware of volume and projection during the dialogue. It is also about having mutual respect for your scene partner and maintaining a sense of humor, which thankfully exists in my situation. Most importantly, it is about avoiding onions, garlic and tuna fish. Thanks to Liam Hemsworth for the reminder (Skip to 2:45)!

So, I’ve made it through the fall, the transport and the sexy times all with what is perhaps my biggest underlying fear, which unfortunately does not go away at the end of the scene. As a Type 1 diabetic, I am constantly thinking about my blood glucose levels, hoping they don’t plummet to the point where I pass out onstage. Mind you, this has never happened in my six years as a diabetic but the thought is there, nagging at me like a child pulling on my pants leg. In this production, I spend very little time offstage. Fortunately, there are Skittles stashed in the dressing room and in offstage spots and I diligently test my levels when I can to avoid any kind of dramatic medical situation. I honestly don’t know how Elaine Stritch or Victor Garber did it. I have such respect for them as performers with diabetes and I breathe the hugest sigh of relief when I’ve successfully made it through the final scene of the show.

The thing about fear, uncertainty and doubt is that they are surmountable. When you face your fears head on, you become a stronger and more agile performer. Thankfully, conquering my fears in The FUD Scene has given me a new respect for both myself and for performers that overcome similar uncertainties, if not more challenging ones. In all honestly, I feel taking a little risk and exposing yourself more than you normally would is what makes for an interesting and memorable performance. So by the time this performance is over, I will no longer fear The FUD Scene but embrace it for all it has done to develop my character and me as a performer.

Becoming Sarah: Part Two

Back to School

As you can imagine, I have a lot of friends who are in theatre. Over the past decade or so, I have heard a lot of them use the phrase “first day of school” to describe the first day of rehearsal. I only recently started to use the phrase, being the lemming that I am, and I find it a perfectly suitable analogy for the rehearsal process.

Will the teacher like me? Will I know anyone in my class? Will the other kids like me? How much homework will there be? Am I smart enough? What will the classroom look like? What kind of grades will I get.

As I stated in Becoming Sarah: Part One, I haven’t been on stage in quite some time and I haven’t experienced a legitimate rehearsal process as a performer since 2006. The first thing I learned is that It is very different starting a new class being the student, as opposed to the teacher. The first day of school as a student is pretty nerve wracking but it can also very exciting. If you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself in a class where you can grow and thrive.

The cast for Time Stands Still is comprised of four actors (the other three being Aaron Kaplan, Will Jeffries and Erin Shaughnessy). Fortunately, none of them are performers I’ve directed, reviewed or acted with. It really is nice to have a clean slate upon which to start the rehearsal process. It truly gives us the chance to explore and learn our personalities and characters together. This is also the first time I have worked with the director, Sonnie Osborne, as an actor.

School
We had our table read a couple weeks ago. Being the Type A person that I am, I spent the time prior to the rehearsal highlighting Sarah’s lines in my script. I was so prepared, so excited and ready to begin. Then, around lunch time that day, I had a major panic attack. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced them in the past. Fortunately, those experiences have helped me to tell the difference between a panic attack and a cardiac episode. A few hours and a Xanax later, I was right as rain and on my way to the “first day of school.” As my friend Will pointed out, this return to the stage might have induced a little more anxiety than is readily apparent. Perhaps he’s right.

As I write this, we are about to begin Week 3 of rehearsals. Thankfully there have been no more panic attacks. I am happy to report that I like the teacher, the kids in my class are pretty awesome and I’m loving the material. I’ve a feeling this is going to be a class where I learn a lot – about myself, about my character and about the relationships I will be cultivating with my classmates. And I can’t wait to see all of our names on the Honor Roll!

X is for xfinity: Blogging from A to Z Challenge

X

Man, am I slugging along through the end of the A to Z Challenge. I have already missed the official deadline by 17 days but I promised myself that I would at least finish the challenge, even if within my own time. The end is so near I can taste it. In all honesty, I was struggling to find a good “X” word. Xanax was too boring and cliché, xenophiilia/xenophobia was too pretentious and Xanadu was an easy way out, not to mention my friend’s “X” word.

Then it hit me: xfinity.

I supposed xfinity isn’t really a word so much as it is a brand but I have to tell you, it has saved my life. It has been 9 days since I had minor foot surgery and I have been instructed to stay off my feet as much as possible. So I’ve been watching a lot of xfinity (and Netflix and Amazon and regular ol’ cable TV).

With the help of streaming, I’ve caught up on all of my favorite shows that are currently airing or wrapping up their seasons. In the past few days I’ve seen the finales of four shows. There was some good TV going on in the last couple weeks and I thought I’d share my “nutshell” reactions.

[WARNING: Spoilers Ahead.]

SeasonFinales

The Good Wife. Unlike the surprise of Derek’s departure from Grey’s, we knew that Kalinda was leaving the show. The finale gave Kalinda’s storyline a little more closure. Much like Grey’s Anatomy, Season 6 of The Good Wife left a pretty open playing field for Season 7. It was no surprise that Louis Canning will continue to figure into Alicia’s legal career and it remains to be seen how Finn figures into Alicia’s life, both personally and professionally. It will be interesting to see Alicia, Louis and Finn going head to head with Cary, Diane and David next year.

Bates Motel. So this is the season where Norman really starts to lose it and his split personality with Norma starts becoming more prominent. The season finale was decent. Nothing really jaw dropping. The show had a few dramatic turns that could develop into something compelling next year. No confirmation has come from A&E as to whether or not they are picking Bates up for Season 4. I would like to see it go at least one more season so we can see Norman really coming unhinged, which is when Freddie Highmore is at his best.

Grey’s Anatomy. I have to say that Shonda doesn’t deliver Grey’s season finales like she used to. All in all this was basically a “cleaning up house” kind of finale, giving her a fairly clean slate to start with next season. Following Derek’s death, she raced through an entire year in one episode so she could get us quickly to new conflicts and challenges for the Grey Sloan Memorial gang. It’s been renewed for Season 12, so I’ll keep watching. Natch.

Scandal. Okay. Scandal was the finale the elicited the most gasps from me when I was watching it, making up for some of the ridiculous stuff we endured this season. Papa Pope is truly the hell, the high water and more. I love how evil he is. There were a couple good cliffhangers that should ensure that Season 5 will start with a roar and not a whimper. The fate of Huck and Jake (I refuse to believe we’ve seen the last of him) should prove to be very exciting next season. Fitz finally grew a pair and shook things up at the White House. Also, he got the girl. But the question is for how long?

BONUS: Wrapping Up Tomorrow Night, Forever

The Following. The recent cancellation of the Fox series saddens me a bit but I have to say that it has lost a little of the sizzle it once had. The recipe is the same, the players just get changed up a bit. I think the series suffered when they lost Joe Carroll as a primary character. While Theo is certainly a formidable opponent, I don’t see him bonding with Ryan Hardy in the same way Joe did/does. The season, and now series, finale is tomorrow. The producers are apparently shopping different networks but if they don’t find a home, I hope tomorrow night’s episode gives us a somewhat tidy ending.


* My doctor said I’m healing because I’m calm and compliant. I don’t freak out and I do what I’m told.

T is for Television: Blogging from A to Z Challenge

T

I am a television addict and the onset of the age of binge watching has made it all the more appealing. I feel like there is a lot of really good television out there and I thought I would provide you with my own personal “must see TV” list. This list does not include network sitcoms. There are few that I’ve loved over the years but for the most part, I prefer dramatic television, so I’m going to focus on that particular genre.

I know that this list is by no means exhaustive. I am not a fan of science fiction and while I’ve enjoyed CSI-type shows, I’ve never gotten hooked on them like I have on other dramas, so no Doctor Who or Law and Order here. There is also a pretty lengthy list of shows* that I have in the queue based on recommendations and the types of shows I like. I have a tough time getting into the historical stuff, which is why Downton Abbey has yet to be watched. I’ll get there though.

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As for the shows that I have watched or do watch, here my list in alphabetical order:

  • American Horror Story I love the idea of having each season be its own contained story utilizing repeat actors from the AHS company of performers. My favorite was Season 1, Murder House. I think the seasons get weaker with each year but not weak enough for me to stop watching. Each story (Asylumn, Coven and Freak Show) had its own redeeming moments but I felt that Seasons 2 through 4 were a little more uneven than the show’s debut season.
  • Bates Motel The Psycho-prequel that focuses on Norman Bates’ late teen years and his relationship with his mother. The show is set in modern day Oregon but has a cool retro feel about it and the sky’s the limit when it comes to creating back story for one of Hitchcock’s most notorious characters. Currently in Season 3 on A&E.
  • The Big C Showtime’s original television series starring Laura Linney about a suburban mother who is diagnosed with terminal melanoma. There were some incredible performances in the series and it remains one of my favorite things that Oliver Platt has done. It is a wonderfully human show about dealing with cancer – at times funny, at times sad. It was also filmed in Stamford, CT, where I lived with scenes actually filmed in my high school.
  • Breaking Bad I didn’t think I was going to like this show. The idea of a high school chemistry teacher becoming a drug kingpin didn’t sound like something that would appeal to me. However, I feel pretty confident in saying that Breaking Bad is the best television show I have ever seen. Everything about it was top notch: the writing, the acting, the direction. Just incredible.
  • Damages This legal drama starring Glenn Close as a ruthless lawyer and Rose Byrne as her protégée is outstanding. Each season has its own primary case but the series also follows the complicated relationship between Patty and Ellen, which is pretty interesting. Also, have I mentioned Glenn Close was is in it?
  • Dexter Man do I have a thing for shows about serial killers and sociopaths. I just loved Dexter, despite the less than stellar ending to the series. Michael C. Hall is outstanding as Dexter Morgan, the serial killer with a code aimed at retribution for criminals who evade justice.
  • The Following This Fox series stars Kevin Bacon and is in its third season. Bacon plays FBI agent Ryan Hardy, who has a very special relationship with serial killer Joe Carroll. Each season deals with a group of followers and the havoc they wreak upon Ryan and his family and friends. Good, fast-paced crime drama.
  • The Good Wife Part legal drama, part political drama, part soap opera. The Good Wife stars Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, the scorned wife of politician Peter Florrick. Over the course of the last six years, she has made herself quite the powerhouse attorney, with a new case being featured with each episode. The supporting cast includes the magnificent Christine Baranski, Alan Cumming and Chris Noth as well a slew of great guest stars.
  • Grey’s Anatomy Most certainly a guilty pleasre, this medical drama has been a television staple of mine for several years. I came late to the party but binge watched my way through the first five seasons and have grown to love all the heartbreak and stress that comes with watching Grey’s.
  • House of Cards Nobody does a take to the camera like Kevin Spacey. His portrayal of power hungry Francis Underwood is deliciously reprehensible, as is Robin Wright as his First Lady . Tailor made for binge watching, Netflix just released Season 3 with a 4th season set for 2016.**
  • Lost A bunch of lost souls that crash on an island together and are embroiled in mystery, philosophy and a bunch of fun back stories. I love the idea of thrusting people who are completely different from one another into a story. The ending was predictable and disappointing but it was a fun ride for sure.
  • Masters of Sex The story of how famous sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson came to publish some of the most renowned findings about human sexuality. Set in the late fifties, I love the feel of the show along with the story of how Masters & Johnson worked (and played together). Only two seasons so far but I love it and the cast is outstanding.
  • Nurse Jackie I love Edie Falco and I love how conflicted Jackie Peyton’s demons and angels make her. Her addictions reign supreme and the choices that she makes are not always the best ones. But Jackie is smart, and she’s a great nurse and she has a heart, so I love her. The current season that is airing is the last season. <insert sad face>
  • Orange is the New Black I jumped on board this Netflix train early. Based on a true story about a drug runner who ends up in the Danbury Prison, Orange Is The New Black is another show where very different people find themselves in a similar and serious situation – prison. Just a great show with great writing.
  • Parenthood This is a sad, weepy show with some very real and identifiable characters. The show features a wonderful cast that includes Craig T. Nelson as the family patriarch, as well as Bonnie Bedelia, Lauren Graham and Peter Krause, among others including Ray Romano. I particularly love how they tell the story of Max, a young man with Asberger Syndrome but there are many relatable moments in Parenthood, which just wrapped up its sixth and final season.
  • Scandal The story of Washington D.C. fixer Olivia Pope and how she rights the wrongs of the capitol’s most high powered people, including the President. Who she is in love with. It is very complicated and has a lot soap opera-type drama but there are some great characters and several gaspworthy moments. I highly recommend this show.
  • Six Feet Under Oh, the Fisher family. How I miss you. Peter Krause is Nathaniel Fisher, who inherits a funeral home from his father following a tragic accident. Nate runs the business with his brother, David, played by Michael C. Hall. <Ga-gung.> The women of family, widow Ruth and sister Claire, are played by Francis Conroy and Lauren Ambrose respectively. A fairly quick binge watch with only five seasons.
  • True Detective This anthology series from HBO is only eight episodes long. You can watch it over a weekend or a very ambitious day of binge watching. The first season focuses on a two Louisiana detectives, played brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, and their pursuit of a serial killers. It was creepy and I like creepy. Season 2 will be set in California and will star Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughan and Rachel McAdams as the detectives. As best I can tell, True Detective returns on June 21st.
  • The Walking Dead I didn’t think I’d like this show. I mean zombies? Really? But the show isn’t really about the zombies, it is about the people that are left behind to fight them. Once again, another show with diverse characters united to get out of a difficult situation. I love the cast but be forewarned – it is a show that has no qualms about killing off major characters.
  • Weeds Mary Louise Parker is a master of subtlety. Her Nancy Botwin goes from widowed mother trying to make ends meet to a key player in the drug world. It is not without humor and amidst all of the Botwin drama, Justin Kirk, Kevin Nealon and Elizabeth Perkins are welcome and memorable comic relief.
  • The Wire This HBO drama was written by a man who knew the inner workings of Baltimore firsthand. The Wire provides interesting insight into Baltimore’s drug trade, dock workers, politics, school system and media. Comprised of a cast of mostly unknown actors, it is one the best written and grittiest crime dramas out there.

Honorable Mention:

  • Ray Donovan Watched and loved the first season. Stars Liev Schrieber and Jon Voight in great manly roles. It only gets an honorable mention because S2.E1. didn’t grab me and pull me in, so the rest of Season 2 needs to be dusted off and watched before I can honestly weigh in.

* Better Call Saul, Downton Abbey, Friday Night Lights, Game of Thrones, How To Get Away With Murder, Mad Men, The Midwife, Sherlock and Sons of Anarchy.

** House of Cards, Scandal and The Good Wife are responsible for about 90% of my political knowledge.

 

 

 

S is for Sanctuary: Blogging from A to Z Challenge

S

There were two topics that I had intended to write about when I got to S – Stage Fright and Sleep No More. Both are topics that require more than the cursory glance and a hyperlink, which is all I’ve got time for right now. I promise to write about both at some point in the future.

I am currently in the process of reclaiming the zen in our bedroom, which has been buried beneath piles since mid-December. I want it to be a peaceful sanctuary in which to recuperate from foot surgery, which is scheduled for early May.

So forgive the lame entry for S but I’ve got boxes to fill.

Sherman Playhouse’s 1984 Is Chilling and Thought Provoking

Photo Credit: Josh Siegel

Photo Credit: Josh Siegel

Long before the popular dystopian fiction of The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner series, there was George Orwell’s 1984, a novel on the required reading list of most high school students of my generation. The stage adaptation by Robert Owens, Wilton E. Hall, Jr. and William A. Miles, Jr. is currently being given a stellar production at The Sherman Playhouse under the direction of Kevin Sosbe.

Winston Smith (Alex Echevarria) spends his days at the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to remove “unpersons” from historical documents, deleting the people who have been eliminated or “vaporized” from the Party’s version of the truth. He works alongside Syme (Bruce Tredwell) and Parsons (Kit Colbourn) who work diligently to rid the world of Oldspeak (Standard English) and replace it with Newspeak, a streamlined language devoid of flowery adjectives or superlatives. As they plow through their day, the omnipresent Big Brother (John Taylor) watches their every move through the telescreen.

When Julia (Carly Phypers) becomes employed at the Ministry of Truth, Winston recognizes her as someone that he’s seen several times before. He initially assumes that she is a member of the Thought Police and that she has been sent to spy on him. When Winston confronts her, she professes her love for him and two get secretly married, aided by their Inner Party friend, O’Brien (Viv Berger). In their room rented from the Landlady (Noel Desiato), Winston and Julia enjoy real coffee while she wears a pretty dress, all luxuries purchased in covert ways and definitely forbidden by the Party.

Winston gleefully reads from “The Book” by Emmanuel Goldstein, the enemy of the state and leader of the Brotherhood, and his independent thought and hatred of the Party become palpable. In short order, Winston and Julia are captured by the Thought Police and are taken in for interrogation at the Ministry of Love. After spending time in Room 101 under O’Brien’s relentless re-education, Winston confesses to his crimes and betrays Julia, his one true love.

Photo Credit: Josh Siegel

Photo Credit: Josh Siegel

While Orwell’s depiction of the year 1984 did not come to fruition in as drastic or well-timed a manner as he predicted, there are elements of his novel that bear frightening resemblance to our modern day world. We are constantly connected, leaving our ever growing and easily accessed digital footprint in our wake. Every experience has been customized to our personal taste and social media cultivates a hoard mentality. In many ways, we are being watched and are being told what to think, whether we know it or not.

In the role of Winston, Alex Echevarria delivers what may well be considered his magnum opus performance. Appearing in every scene, the bulk of the show’s weight rests on his shoulders. Every detail of his performance is sharply honed. His perfect English accent, his intricate physicality and the interpretation and delivery of the text are in top form. Whilst doing his calisthenics, you chuckle at his bumbling participation. When he is giddy with affection, you smile. When he is dismantled to the rawest emotion, you empathize.

Photo Credit: Josh Siegel

Photo Credit: Josh Siegel

As Julia, Carly Phypers is beguiling. She brings to the role the innocence and charm necessary to lure Winston outside of Big Brother’s world. As Winston’s comrades at the Ministry of Truth, Bruce Tredwell and Kit Colbourn are equally thrilled by and fearful of the importance of their work. Viv Berger delivers a deliberate and formidable performance as O’Brien. As the Landlady, Noel Desiato portrays an aging woman with sensitivity and humor.

One of the most effective aspects of the show was the director’s choice to take the Loudspeaker Voices and make them an onstage presence. Denise James and Vicki Sosbe, bedecked in matching blonde hairstyles and black frocks, announce the morning calisthenics, an afternoon execution or a victory at war with a chilling, monotone synchronicity that make you actually wonder whether or not “two plus two make five.”

Photo Credit: Josh Siegel

Photo Credit: Josh Siegel

Rounding out the cast are Maya Daley as the perky Messenger/Coffee Vendor, Mary-Genevieve Mason as Parson’s daughter and devoted Party supporter Gladys and Steve Stott and Chris Marker as the Guards, always a few short steps behind O’Brien.

At the helm of this exceptional cast is Kevin Sosbe, an accomplished theatre artist who has been far too long out of the director’s chair. Known for his outstanding scenic work at the Westport Country Playhouse, Sosbe’s direction is insightful and subtle, sending a shiver up your spine when a particular point is being made. His production design is simple but detailed, from the technicolor telescreen to the propaganda slogans painted on the proscenium to the rented room scrawled with hash marks and the anarchist’s circle-A symbol.

David White’s sound design adds the perfect ambient soundtrack to the performance. Al Chiappetta’s lighting design is specific and dark, portraying the Big Brother’s oppression with cold and unfeeling light. Denise James’ costumes are perfectly institutional in their shades of black and grey.

The Sherman Playhouse’s production of 1984 is splendid because it brings together all of the elements of a well-produced show. The combination of an outstanding cast, superior direction and impressive technical elements make this play worth the trip to the historical theatre, nestled in the hills of Connecticut.


1984 runs at The Shermans Playhouse at 5 Route 39 N in Sherman, CT on April 18, 24, 25 and May 1 and 2 at 8:00pm and on April 19 and May 3 at 2:00pm. Admission is $22. For tickets and more info, visit www.shermanplayers.org.

K is for Kids’ Night on Broadway: Blogging from A to Z Challenge

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I am incredibly fortunate because I was exposed to theatre at a very young age. My father was a college professor at SUNY Fredonia and then at University of Pittsburgh at Titusville. In addition to teaching English, he directed shows at each of these institutions. Needless to say, I spent many weekend afternoons at the theatre with him as he conducted rehearsals or worked on the sets. Undoubtedly, those early years were what sparked my insatiable passion for theatre.

When I was in the fifth grade, my father took a sabbatical from his teaching position and took me and my sister to London for a few months. We were enrolled in Fox Primary School, where we spent our days, while he hammered away at his typewriter, writing. In the flat that we lived in near Earl’s Court, we had a caretaker. He was an elderly gentlemen of modest means, yet he and his wife attended the theatre every week. When my father asked him why they went every week, he simply stated, “Because one should.”

I am a firm believer that theatre enriches the soul is so many ways. Yesterday I was in New York City with two of my daughters and my eldest noted that she has, at fifteen, already seen twenty Broadway shows. Twenty! I didn’t see my first Broadway show until I was seventeen, after we moved to Connecticut.

Clearly, attending Broadway shows is not a viable option for many. Unless you live in the tri-state area, it is not incredibly convenient to get to the Great White Way. And, even if you do live nearby, the price of a full priced Broadway ticket can run you in the neighborhood of $150 or more. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to see shows at a discounted price, most notably the Theatre Development Fund‘s TKTS booth in Times Square.

One great way to expose children to theatre is to plan your visits to Broadway in January, when Kids’ Night on Broadway gives children between the ages of 6-18 the opportunity to go for FREE with a paying adult. This is an incredible opportunity to bring your children to the theatre for half the cost. Not only do you save money, tickets are usually made available to shows that are otherwise sold out. I fully expect to take advantage of this deal if Hamilton participates next year and, given the show and its creator/star, I would be surprised if they weren’t included in the list.

In addition to the variety of shows that take part in KNOB, there are discounts for restaurants and parking, as well as special programming offered by a few venues! Tickets usually go on sale a few months before, so add your name to the mailing list and get ready to take your kids to the theatre!

B is for Boycott: Blogging from A to Z Challenge

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I believe in equality for all people. I believe that every human being has the right to the pursuit and attainment of life, liberty and happiness, no matter their beliefs. This tenet is one I feel especially passionate about as it applies to the LGBT community. The recent conversation regarding Indiana’s RFRA law, which goes into effect in July, has sparked quite a few debates in my predominantly liberal social media feed.

Even Gov. Daniel Malloy, the governor of the state I live in, Connecticut, has spoken passionately about the law that Gov. Mike Pence signed into law last week. He made Connecticut the first state to ban state-funded travel to Indiana and urged other states to do the same. As a result, Kevin Ollie, the coach of the UConn men’s basketball team, will not be traveling to the Final Four in Indiana to show support for Malloy’s ban.

When Chik-fil-A, a company who has openly contributed to groups opposed to LGBT rights, announced they were coming to my hometown, I made the decision that I would not be patronizing their establishment. In a sense, I have boycotted their company, much as I have boycotted the Salvation Army for their anti-gay hiring practices.

As a human being, I support companies with similar views to my own and I give money to those that share my belief that love is love. I also have no issue withholding my hard earned spending dollars from companies who use their love of God and scripture as a foundation for hatred. In doing so, my boycott is a personal choice.

While I understand and support the intention behind the boycotting of travel to Indiana (or any of the other 19 states with RFRA laws, including my own), I can’t help but think of the people that live in those states, who are the targets of the discriminatory laws that are in or going into effect, and how a broad stroked boycott can affect them.

Discrimination, at its foundation, is an action based on personal belief. No matter the law, the onus is upon each of us to treat one another with love and respect. It is only when we love and respect each other, regardless of our race, creed or sexual orientation, that we can make a real difference in our lives and in the lives of others.