Saturday, June 5, 2010



"After one of the most lackluster Broadway seasons in recent memory, "Annie Get Your Gun" is a welcoming tonic... notable performers include James Beaman as Buffalo Bill's right hand man, Charlie Davenport." --Stu Brown, Stu on Broadway


As I mentioned in my last blog post, I have been offered a chance to participate in the latest Bootleg Shakespeare production with Taffety Punk Theatre Company. They've offered me the hefty leading role of Theseus in Shakespeare and Fletcher's rarely produced "The Two Noble Kinsmen." Once I have learned all 324 lines of this central character, I will show up at the legendary Folger Theatre on July 26 for a breakneck few hours of rehearsal and then perform with the company for a packed house. Theatre at its edgiest!

And now for a little blogging from Goodspeed...

This week's post is about the temporary family that every production gives birth to. Theatre is a collaborative form, requiring intense creative exchange between all of the participants in a production, from actors, to design team, to stage management, to crew and musicians. In the course of rehearsing and performing, friendships--some of them to last a lifetime--will form; inevitably, the demands of the work and the intensity of the process will give birth to squabbles, misunderstandings and compromises. This is true in any family, but even more so amongst a bunch of dramatic theatre types! The longer the run, the more complex and dynamic the company's internal relationships become, and it is a testament to Goodspeed Musicals that for the most part, they gather together people of like minds and temperaments who not only work well together but who enjoy their off time communally as well.

Many who have worked here fondly call this place "Camp Goodspeed." While this is a top notch, Tony Award-winning regional theatre, part of its charm is that it retains a feeling of old fashioned summer stock, from the quaint New England town of East Haddam, to the charming Opera House with it's communal dressing rooms, to the various company houses--many of them from the 18th and 19th centuries--which we all share. I'll level with you: I am not the greatest at communal living. I am, by nature, a loner. I crave quiet and privacy, and am also a fastidious neat freak, which makes sharing a kitchen with five other people a sometimes less than delightful experience for me! I am at an age when I'm a bit set in my ways, and sometimes it can be a challenge to accommodate the habits of an assortment of people with whom one must share a space. That said, we do manage to have some good times, whether it be group game nights or poker tournaments, or cookouts, or "American Idol" viewing gatherings. Goodspeed does all it can to make us comfortable and provide each of us with a private room and bathroom; to that end, they are working diligently, in cooperation with the town of East Haddam, to construct a charming 'village' of brand new actor houses which they expect to be completed, at the very least, in time for next season. A very exciting development for all who work here.

This week, I enjoyed the benefit of my temporary "Annie Get Your Gun" family with a delightful day of barbecue, sun and fun, celebrating Memorial Day At gorgeous Harkness Memorial State Park in nearby Waterford. I was invited by our adorable star, Jenn Gambatese, who had planned the cookout with some of her friends from the area, and a few of us actors joined her, her sweet little girl, JoJo, and husband Curtis at the park.
Harkness is a sprawling state park, complete with grassy lawns and a small stretch of rocky beach, crowned by the summer mansion of the wealthy Harkness family, Eolia, a beautiful 1906 edifice surrounded by colonnaded terraces and lush gardens, which is open during the summer season for all to enjoy. It was a truly wonderful and quintessentially American holiday that we enjoyed, catching rays, watching the babies practice their wobbly new walking skills, feasting on burgers and franks, not to mention a spontaneous and entertaining whiffle ball game which attracted an entire group of rough-and-tumble little boys from all around the park. I reveled in the fun of meeting new people and of getting a chance to get to know Jenn and her family, as well as the other actors who shared the day with me.

A view of Eolia, the Harkness Mansion

While we all love the work of the theatre, and spend the majority of our time as actors hustling and auditioning for the chance to do that work we love, it is an added benefit far and beyond the joy of creative endeavor to live and work with such fine and loving people as Goodspeed has gathered to do this production. It says a lot about the values of our employers as well as the supporters and community that embrace the theatre, that "Camp Goodspeed" is as joyous an experience as it is for all involved. As we embark on our final month of performances, I already am hopeful that I will get a chance to come back and work in this unique environment again.

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