Playhouse Theatre Group

Liv(ing) at the Playhouse: November-December 2021

Greetings, Playhouse family!

Welcome to my new series, Liv(ing) at the Playhouse where I, Liv, take you with me on my Playhouse adventures! 

November:

Christmas is here at 244! Darlene (co-artistic director), Chelsea (administrator), and Eileen (prop master) have been hard at work transforming the lobby into a regency era parlor in anticipation for our production of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. While they were decorating, I was having a grand old time in the box office listening to their Christmas music and sneaking peeks at the progress. I was working on a project of my own; a dramaturgy packet for the cast and a dramaturgy insert for the program. I spent a lot of time researching Christmas in the regency era, which filled my head with so many cozy Christmas feelings. I know it’s only November, but I’m definitely feeling the Christmas spirit! 

A sneak peak!

All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 is back for the 2021 Christmas Season! The box office had a meeting to learn all about streaming and how we can best support our patrons. Box office staff turned tech support! Something else for my resume. I got to watch the stream and, let me tell you, it truly is something special. The voices are spectacular, the acting is heartbreaking, and the story is truly beautiful. Since I wasn’t at the Playhouse last Christmas season, this was my first viewing of All is Calm, and I was ecstatic to see my coworkers Michael Hinton and Niko Touros in the cast! It was so fun to see the people I know as Director of Education (Michael) and co-director/swing in Miss Bennet (Niko) in a totally different light.The first time I sold an All is Calm stream, director Sasha Brätt and Niko happened to be in the office. When I confirmed with the patron, “Oh, you’d like to purchase an All is Calm stream?” Sasha and Niko burst into excitement. Sasha even grabbed the phone and thanked the patron personally. It was so heartwarming to see artists get so excited about people enjoying their art. They deserve all the love they’re getting!

Photo by Meredith Longo
Photo by Chelsea Pollard

As you may remember, Playhouse did a drive to collect items for Afghan refugees who are moving to Connecticut to go along with our show Two Jews Walk into a War. Thanks to our generous patrons, we were able to collect a whole van load of items. Our van was loaded with household items like cleaning supplies, toiletries, and linens. Thank you so much to everyone who donated! 

December:

The lobby is dressed to the nines and the front of house team is ready to welcome an audience into our theatre! This team is actually the greatest. Our front of house managers, Chelsea, Matthew and Tori (who is mostly on her Christmas train this holiday season), our box office ladies, (Simone, Cianna, and yours truly,) and our lovely volunteers are ready to bring you this joyful holiday experience. When theatre people wax poetic about their co-workers and cast mates being like family, they’re not exaggerating. We have so much fun working together. Coming to work everyday is an absolute joy knowing that I’ll get to spend time with these folks. As a team, I think we could take on The Avengers!

Photo by Amanda Forker

Not only is the lobby GORGEOUS, but we have so many fun things going on. Fun fact, December is Jane Austen’s birthday month (She’s a Sagittarius!)  To celebrate, we made Jane Austen Birthday Boxes for our audiences to enjoy. We also have the beautiful River Bend Bookshop joining us for this show! You can browse the Jane Austen (and Austen inspired) books, and lots of other fun merch. Our very own Darlene (or Mama D as some may know her), has set up the Second Act Boutique in the corner of the lobby. Want to take home a relic of the Playhouse? Now you can! All items in the boutique come from our storage, meaning that they’ve all been onstage in one way or another. There’s jewelry, antiques, clothing, and so much more. I found these absolute gems for myself (I’m a big earring collector and always wear some fun ones in the office, come visit me!)

Feel like giving back? We’re collecting new books for kids and teens for The Hillcrest Area Neighborhood Outreach Center (HANOC). To quote their website: “HANOC helps families with limited economic means to become more financially independent and integrated into the schools and community by coordinating resources to meet their needs. These programs provide families with the opportunity to enhance the quality of their lives through self determination, responsibility, commitment and collaboration.” This is a wonderful cause, and what better time to celebrate the love of literature than during the run of Miss Bennet? You can bring in your new books when you come see the show, or during any of our open hours. Playhouse and HANOC thank you! 

On December 7th, Playhouse welcomed patrons, staff and friends into our new scene shop! I was unable to attend (so sad I missed it,) but from what I heard it was a huge success! Our executive director, Tracy Flater, commented 

It was a wonderful event for so many reasons. We loved being able to catch up with people/patrons we haven’t seen since before the pandemic all while showing off our new space and collecting amazing contributions. We received such a variety of items from our wishlist including a gorgeous mitre saw, drafting table & stool, Home Depot & Coastal Tool gift cards, brad gun, staple gun, ear plugs, utility knives, mallets, hammers, cash, trash can and so much more!  We still have needs and are still accepting contributions from our wishlist. So grateful to everyone who volunteered and/or contributed towards this exciting event.” 

Photo by Johann Fitzpatrick

We can’t thank our community for their endless generosity and love for The Playhouse. I grew up homeschooled, and something the homeschooled community often says is “thank you for being a part of our village,” encompassing the fact that it takes a community of teachers, mentors, and others to raise a child. Seeing that it’s the holidays, I feel like I can be a little sappy and say thank YOU for being a part of our village. We couldn’t do it without you! 

We at the Playhouse wish you the happiest and safest of Holidays and invite you to come celebrate with us! Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley has been extended to December 23rd, and All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 is streaming through January 1st. (PS: Playhouse is now on Tik Tok! @playhouseonpark4) !!!

Photo by Meredith Longo

From Darkness to Light: The Playhouse Mural

I (Liv) spend hours of my day sitting in the box office and staring at the Playhouse mural. Up until late September, there was a forest of colorful fabric scraps obscuring the walls. Being new to Playhouse, I thought these fabric scraps had always been there. Little did I know that there was an entire world behind them waiting to be unveiled. But eventually, the scraps came down and I’ve been marveling at the massive art piece ever since. Sitting in the office with my co-worker, Chelsea Pollard, we’d sneak glances at it between transactions, and one day Chelsea looked at me and said “why have we not done a blog post about the mural?” and, yeah, why haven’t we? 

Photo by Meredith Longo

The moment you step foot into Playhouse on Park, you are greeted by a massive two-wall mural. Its brightly colored, whimsical design will take your breath away and, in a wave of euphoria, direct you to the box office to purchase some tickets.  Taking a closer look, you’ll notice some icons of your favorite shows: Sheet music dictating Mama Morton’s ballad from Chicago, the gaping maw of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, and a little girl dressed in red who cannot put her faith in a cape and a hood. But you’ll also notice some things that don’t immediately spark a fond memory from a visit to the stage that takes a little bit of background to understand. What a good segue into the conception of the mural!

Picture it: It’s winter 2020. You’re stuck in your home, perhaps with some bored family who you can never seem to get away from, or perhaps falling into the void of loneliness and isolation. You get an email from the vibrant and ever-energetic Mama D (Darlene Zoller), who is offering dance classes via zoom. You jump (literally) at the chance, and ditch your ratty pajamas you’ve been wearing for a week, and don your favorite leotard and tights. With a team of dancers, you meet everyday to dance, chat, and feel normal again. Through your two-inch zoom box, you find community. To quote Mama D from her mural unveiling speech, 

Photo by Meredith Longo

“Through the wonder of social media I made connections with friends- old and new and I was lucky enough to build a strong community. Each day we gathered online for a dance class that would prove to be much more than a dance class…it became a lifeline for us. We truly all became better when we were dancing.”– Darlene Zoller 

-By the way, a quote from this speech is hidden in the mural, see if you can find it!

These dancers wanted to commemorate how these gatherings had brought them so much joy, and also to celebrate the resilience and strength of the artists among us. Everybody was hit hard by the pandemic, but artists still found a way to create in the dark times of sorrow and uncertainty. The dancers thought long and hard about how to portray these feelings, some making generous donations to the playhouse, when, *lightbulb!* They decided on a mural. And what better place than the outer lobby of our playhouse? After securing Costume Designer Kate Bunce and Scenic Artist Dave Lewis to bring the dancer’s vision to life, the project was a go. 

Kate and Dave were kind enough to chat with me about the process of bringing the mural to life.

Liv: “So, let’s start off with who you are, both in relation to the Playhouse and in real life?” 

Dave: “I’ve been designing at Playhouse for 3 seasons, both scenic design and carpenter, and painted a few shows as well. Outside of that, I work at Mohegan Sun full-time at the scene shop. I try to invest in real estate on the side. I also play dungeons and dragons.”

Kate: “I’m the costume designer at Playhouse for the last four seasons. I’ve also helped paint a couple shows. I also work at Mohegan Sun scene shop doing wardrobe and production. I’m a costume designer for other theaters as well.”

Liv: “From beginning to end, how long was the process?”

Dave: “We started drawing at the end of August 2020, so we were doing thumbnail sketches and talking with Darlene about concepts. We were through a few different iterations on sketch pads first, I think we started working on the wall sometime in September”

Liv: “So you both designed the mural collaboratively?

Dave: “Absolutely.”

Liv: “There are a lot of recognizable theatrical icons in the design, but are there any hidden easter eggs that non Playhouse people might not recognize?”

Kate: “I mean I wouldn’t necessarily say anything specifically, we did sometimes ask people at the theatre as they walked in and out, like Johann or Eileen, [Johann Fitzpatrick, Technical Director/Master Electrician and Eileen O’Connor, Properties Master.] or anyone, we asked them for little things and included little things that mean something or represent something to people that we know who work there [Playhouse]. I know Eileen has done props for a million shows so I asked her what she would recognize or what she felt was one of her favorite things or something and kind of included things that people who weren’t involved in shows may not recognize, but the people who have been around might.”

Liv: “Anything else you’d like me to know?”

Dave: “We have the obvious progression of darkness into light, the transition of us not being able to do theater into a hopeful new future. “

Kate: It went through some variations while we were designing it, it had the whole darkness into light and color feeling because of the whole pandemic thing we were going through, and Darlene wanted a very hopeful, forward-moving feeling to it. And as it progressed, some of it became more specific to the [Playhouse] things as opposed to general theater ideas. Some conversations we had with Darlene led to some ideas very specific to playhouse shows and playhouse experiences.”

Big thank you to Dave and Kate for the chat and your beautiful work!

One of my personal favorite sections of the mural is this, a quote from the time the Playhouse was featured in the New York Times by Anita Gates for our production of Angels in America, directed by Sean Harris. Complete with a coffee order, a symbol of what keeps us running: Caffeine!

Photo by Liv Fassanella

I’m also a huge fan of this little guy. I didn’t ask for his origin because I have my own backstory for him in my head. Art is in the eye of the beholder, right?

Photo by Liv Fassanella

Next time you come into the Playhouse to see a show or purchase tickets, take a moment with the mural. Find something in its colors that moves you and take that feeling home with you. It’s truly a celebration of everything we stand for. This sign says it all.

Photo by Liv Fassanella

Welcome Back!

Hello Playhouse Family!

Big news: THE BLOG IS BACK!!! 

After bending and adapting to create in the pandemic, we are back in person and indoors. We’re still looking for a sense of normalcy, but our staff and patrons have been incredible while we find our footing. Playhouse on Park is in the midst of a vibrant new season, classes are back in session at Playhouse Theatre Academy, and the dancers at stop/time dance theater are hard at work. Through the blog we’ll keep you up to date on everything Playhouse Theatre Group has to offer.  We’ll be hanging out at Playhouse on Park, stop/time dance theater, Playhouse Theatre Academy, and, come summer, The Connecticut Shakespeare Festival!

Before I say anything else, let me introduce myself: My name is Liv Fassanella. I’m 22 years old (about to be 23), a Scorpio, a writer, and a general theatre nerd. I started working at Playhouse back in August as a Box Office Administrator. After dropping hints to Tracy and Darlene that I was having some creative yearnings, they suggested I bring back the blog. So, here I am! You can learn more about me in my contributor bio, but you’ll be learning more about me in the coming months. 

What you can expect to see:

Interviews! Ever wondered who’s behind the scenes running the company you love? We’re gonna sit down with a bunch of our staff, writers, directors, teachers, and others to give you the inside scoop on who they are and what they do.

Dramaturgy! Basically, a deep dive into the world of a show. Research of the time period, culture, themes, and anything else relevant to the piece. Also some info from the production team to give you their perspective on bringing a piece to life. 

Liv(ing) at Playhouse! So you know what our theatre looks like on a show day, but what does it look like when we’re not performing? I’ll be giving you my perspective on what it’s like to have the theatre be your home. What do we do on a daily basis? What are we planning/scheming? How do we prepare for the magical time when the audience arrives? It’ll be like I’m your personal spy, Mission Impossible style..…..expect that everyone knows I’m here and nothing is classified. I’ll be hopping around the company and hanging out with stop/time dancers, students at Playhouse Theatre Academy, and lots of other fascinating theatre makers. 

We hope that you’ll subscribe to the blog and that you’ll come visit us in person! I’m certainly looking forward to it, how about you?

An In-Depth Conversation with Playwright & Actor David Arrow

By Contributing Writer: Amanda Forker

When asked what his favorite Robert Kennedy quote was, David Arrow, writer and star of Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade, had many but there was an especially poignant one at the top of his list: “If we believe that we, as Americans, are bound together by a common concern for each other, then an urgent national priority is upon us.” Robert F. Kennedy (also known as Bobby) said these powerful words during a speech at Vanderbilt University on March 21, 1968, and they are just as true now as they were then. 

In an interview conducted via Zoom on September 10, 2020, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Arrow on all things Kennedy, RFK, supporting the arts in the midst of a pandemic, and more. It was a riveting conversation with a man who is committed to telling RFK’s, or rather Bob’s (as Mr. Arrow fondly calls him) story from a unique perspective during a tumultuous time in both our nation’s and the world’s history, and in a format that’s brand new for Playhouse on Park’s audience members. Needless to say, viewers are in for an exciting theatrical experience with Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade.

Lobby Design by Darlene Zoller

About the Show

“This solo play portrays Kennedy during his short electrifying campaign for President of the United States. Told from Kennedy’s perspective, the play follows Bobby from his announcement to enter the race on March 16, 1968 to his last speech on June 4th at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The causes that Kennedy crusaded for and policies he championed on the campaign trail are remarkably relevant and incredibly prescient of the politics and concerns of today. The play contains many of Kennedy’s most famous and impactful speeches as well as his private apprehensions and some of the more personal, less publicized events of those four exhilarating months of his ill-fated campaign.” (http://kennedybobbyslastcrusade.com

Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade had its world premier in 2018 at the Theatre at St. Clements in New York City, and it was to this same theater that Mr. Arrow returned in order to film the production that Playhouse on Park’s audiences will see. “This is the theatrical production, it’s not a movie…We wanted people watching to feel like they’re watching a stage play; albeit with [different] vantage [points]. It’s [not just] a camera stuck at the back [of the theater]; we do it much like the National Theater or Live at the Met. We intentionally didn’t want to lose the theatrical quality of the play.”

Mr. Arrow made clear that this play is not a sweeping biography of Bobby’s life. It doesn’t delve into Kennedy Family history or gossip; the Presidency or personal life of RFK’s famous brother, John; or even the majority of RFK’s own life before he decided to run for President. The fact that it explores such a short, yet fascinating, span of time leading up to a tragic and defining moment in American history, makes it all the more compelling.

An Idea Took Shape

The idea for writing a play either about JFK or RFK and their relationships with Martin Luther King Jr. came to Mr. Arrow some years ago, as many ideas often do- over drinks with a friend. “That’s sort of a typical thing one does after a show when you connect with someone,” he said. But according to Mr. Arrow, even though the play that he and his friend discussed has yet to be written, it did get him thinking about a possible show that would revolve around at least one of the Kennedy men. 

Coincidentally, before he wrote Kennedy, he actually played the late Senator in another, different one-man show. In 2015 he starred in RFK (written by Jack Holmes) at the San Jose Stage Company for which he won a San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for his performance. When he was cast in the title role he did a lot of research on Bobby Kennedy, and as it happened, the “flood gates” opened. Mr. Arrow also credits Jack Holmes for “opening up Bob’s voice in a theatrical context.”

As Mr. Arrow was thrown into the world of Bobby Kennedy while performing in RFK, the world was witnessing the beginnings of the 2016 Presidential Election campaign season, and soon an idea for an altogether different play about Kennedy began to take shape. “I was just appalled by the rhetoric [on both sides]. It’s not what it used to be, or at least, it certainly wasn’t like Kennedy’s… I realized that what Bob was saying in 1968, particularly the issues with race and inequality, [was] incredibly relevant. And even more so today than it was when the idea of the play came to me in late 2016 [or early] 2017. And so I thought, a play that wasn’t about Bob Kennedy, the man, but the aspirations Bob Kennedy had for our country, specifically in 1968. Not trying to be persuasive politically, other than through Bob’s perspective. Let Bob do the persuading, not David….So, the play follows Kennedy’s campaign from the announcement to its conclusion and it was the speeches that [were] the leap frog, both for me into the play and for the play itself, to propel the story along.”

Becoming Bobby

Speaking about the many facets of being an actor, he said, “I think one of the great opportunities as an actor, at least for me, is I get to learn about [things] and people whom I would not necessarily have had any previous interest in.” As we spoke, it became clear that Mr. Arrow feels a responsibility to know the character he is portraying inside and out, whether they are real or fictional. “I think actors are psychiatrists and historians….Every play is rooted in reality. That’s the combination of acting that appeals to me. Delving into the psychology of a person as well as the historical context.”

Since his foray into the world of the Kennedys, Mr. Arrow has definitely become an expert on Bobby, having read upwards of thirty books about him as well as researched extensively online. When asked if he had any book recommendations on the subject, he had many (at least two bookshelves worth), but two pivotal works while he was researching were: The Last Campaign by Thurston Clarke & Robert Kennedy: His Life by Evan Thomas. 

Mr. Arrow is not only an RFK expert, though; it’s obvious that he also has an enormous amount of respect for the late Presidential candidate. Not willing to use unfounded, salacious gossip about Bobby or his family, he was committed to telling a well-rounded and robust story based on truth. He acknowledged the challenge of writing this type of show, however. “Whenever you do a one-person play about someone you respect, you are in clear danger of hero worship; and I can say I did my best to avoid it.”

Lobby Design by Darlene Zoller

Getting into the Politics

Now, some people may be asking themselves, I don’t like politics. Is this show for me? Mr. Arrow would argue, yes. “I think it could perhaps provide a new insight into what politics could be, and should be… I also hope that the play provides insight into his personality, his struggles, and the sort of odd things that can happen on a campaign. Things that you don’t expect or didn’t think about him..that life doesn’t stop because someone’s campaigning.” 

Even when it comes to political parties, this play shouldn’t be classified as either Democratic or Republican; you don’t have to sit on one side of the aisle versus the other in order to enjoy it. “You know, Bob in 1968, was running a very liberal campaign, but he has, over the years, been embraced by a lot of people in the Republican [party] on the right…It certainly wouldn’t offend someone whose policies and practices are different.”

When asked what he hopes audiences will take away from the show, Mr. Arrow remarked, “I hope they will take away a better understanding of what politics should be, and that they perhaps have a greater responsibility to contribute to their society. It doesn’t always have to be writing checks [or] activism, [but] involvement…sometimes it’s just making sure you know what’s happening.” (Visit https://playhouseonpark.org/web2/Season12/Vote2020.html for more information on non-partisan voting initiatives.)

Theater in the Time of Covid

Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, not only was Mr. Arrow unable to perform Kennedy in person at Playhouse on Park, but he never even got to visit the theater. “I had a trip planned to see a show right before everything shut down…We were really looking forward to doing it on that stage, and maybe someday we will.” 

Performing in a one-person show comes with its own challenges at the best of times and is always a feat in-and-of-itself. “…a one person play is not so lonely to perform, because you’re with the audience and they become your partner on stage. And their laugh here or chuckle there makes it alive and interactive.” Doing it for an empty theater, however, is another undertaking entirely, but Mr. Arrow had to do just that in order to bring this production to our audiences. “It was odd doing this for the camera because there’s no reaction from a camera. But having done [the show] a couple of times, I knew how reactions were [and] I did feel like I was talking to a person; I just pretended the camera was a person.”

Needless to say, many (if not most) actors, musicians, crew members & theater staff have been out of work since theaters shut down in March, so I was curious how it felt to actually be part of a production during these unparalleled times. “When we walked into the room, just to rehearse, it felt so wonderful to be back in the community that is my home; I just relax in a theater… I think both audiences and certainly, those of us who make theater, are desperate to get back to it. I’m glad people rent movies…but there’s still nothing like being in [that] shared experience. The theater is unique.”

Supporting the Arts During a Pandemic

It’s no secret that many Arts and Cultural institutions around the country are in danger of having to shut their doors forever. After all, how can they hope to pay their bills without patrons and audience members in their seats? Mr. Arrow, having performed in theaters around the country, had some thoughts. “If you’re in a community [that] has a theater or theater companies, and you think [they’re] an important part of your community’s culture and identity, then you need to keep that business alive until they can reassemble…I believe that communities need to support their local theaters. Absolutely.” 

‘Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade’ was written by David Arrow and Directed by Eric Nightengale. Visit https://playhouseonpark.org/web2/Season12/mainstage_Kennedy.html for watch codes, information on the show, subscriber/general public viewing options, school resources, voting initiatives, a special partnership with River Bend Bookshop, and more.

*Playhouse on Park has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support during these difficult times. As we continue to adjust, ‘go with the flow,’ ‘pivot,’ and stay ‘fluid,’ we want you to know that we appreciate that you’re all doing the same! It’s been an amazing summer of new local partnerships and exciting outdoor performances, and we hope you’ll continue to experience this new age of theater with us as we produce meaningful art in creative ways during Season 12. 

Ways to Watch Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade:

WATCH AT HOME – A screening of the film can be purchased for $20; you will be sent a link which can be activated anytime between September 16th – October 4th. Once activated, you will have 48 hours to view the film of the play. [More information] / Click here to purchase.

WATCH AT DUNKIN’ DONUTS PARK – A public, socially distanced screening will be held on Tuesday, September 22nd at 7pm (gates open at 6pm). Tickets are $12.50 (parking is $7) and concessions will be open. There will be a 20-minute Q&A immediately following the film with playwright/actor David Arrow and director Eric Nightengale. [More information] / Click here to purchase.

→WATCH AT THE INGERSOLL POP-UP DRIVE-IN – a public, socially distanced screening will be held on Thursday, Oct 1st at 7:30pm (gates open at 7pm) behind the Edmond Town Hall in Newtown.. Tickets are $20 per car load. [More information] / Click here to purchase.

Playhouse on Park: Temporarily Closed; Permanently Creating

By Contributing Writer: Amanda Forker

It goes without saying that these unprecedented times are beyond tough for everyone and we’re all trying our best to figure out what a “new normal” actually looks like for the foreseeable future. A constant for many of us, however, has been finding solace in the arts while we’re at home.

Streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ are thriving. Apple Music and Spotify are staples for many music lovers. Some major theater companies & productions are also staying alive (or at the very least, staying present on social media) thanks in part to financial backing and their large online followings. But what about the small professional theaters around the country? More specifically, the small, non-profit theater companies right in your own backyard? 

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Speaking of small (but mighty!), non-profit theaters, Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT may be temporarily closed, but fortunately for their community, is permanently creating. Like so many regional theaters they’ve had to close their doors and cancel upcoming productions in order to do their part in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Nevertheless, they didn’t waste any time creating virtual programming for their fans & community. Even though a lone ghost light illuminates a dark stage and they had to postpone their stop/time dance theater’s Spring show, “Divas,” they still have a lot to offer fans and are constantly coming up with new ideas for this virtual reality we now find ourselves in. So, if you are in need of creative fulfillment in a supportive, fun and theatrical community, look no further!


Here is a current list (with links!) of everything going on virtually right now at Playhouse on Park:

Creative & Fun Activities:

YouTubeOpenMic2Virtual Open-Mic on YouTube: This is for both participants and spectators! Catch actors from past productions, students from The Hartt School, the POP staff, audience members, band members, and/or folks from the community as they sing their favorite songs on their new Virtual Open Mic YouTube channel! Do YOU want to sing? They encourage anyone who is interested to send a video of themselves singing their favorite song. Make sure to include your name, where you are from and if you are connected to the Playhouse in any way! Actors – if you’ve performed there before, include what show/s! Send your video via a filing sharing site like Google Drive, WeTransfer, Dropbox, etc to Info@PlayhouseOnPark.org. 

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Where are They Now?: Check out and subscribe to Playhouse on Park’s “Where are they now?” YouTube Channel for a series of interviews that answers the question: Where are they now! Co-Founders/Co-Artistic Directors Sean Harris and Darlene Zoller will interview cast members from favorite Playhouse on Park productions and Playwrights on Park Curator Sasha Brätt interviews playwrights from past readings in our Playwrights on Park play reading series. Find out what everyone is up to, what they are working on, where they are working, what’s happened with the plays, and just enjoy their casual conversations

Playhouse Bingo: Click the link to print and play at home or Take a screenshot and play on social media! Share and post your results on social media and tag the POP: (Facebook, Twitter & Instagram, or take a picture and email the completed card (Info@PlayhouseOnPark.org)

Staying Active:

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Dance with Darlene: Stuck at home? Want to dance? Want to exercise? Well, Co-Founder/Artistic Director, Darlene Zoller AKA “Mama D” is teaching dance/exercise classes daily on Facebook Live for all ages and skill levels! She confirms the time the evening before on both her Facebook page and the Playhouse’s Facebook page (typically noontime – 7 days a week). You can also scroll through to find videos of classes from the past few weeks. We’re better when we’re dancing with Darlene!

Behind the Scenes:ShootShitSean2

Shoot the Sh*t with Sean Harris: Join Facebook Live via the Playhouse on Park Theatre Facebook Page on Saturday’s at 11am to learn more about the role of an Artistic Director, Casting Director and so much more. Sean Harris will interact and take questions with those who join him throughout the chat. Get a cup of coffee, grab a seat and talk shop!

FUNdraising Efforts:

Crystals for a Cause on Facebook: Place your jewelry orders with Leslie Frey of Screen Shot 2020-04-19 at 12.27.20 PMTouchstone Crystal By Swarovski in this special jewelry sale where 100% of the proceeds go to Playhouse on Park! ORDER BY April 29th using this link: www.touchstonecrystal.com/J2JIYTY2 (Remember, Mother’s Day is right around the corner!)

SeansHair_bw_smSean Shaves for the Stage: If Sean raises $4500 to benefit Playhouse on Park by his 45th Birthday on May 22, 2020, he will shave his head…LIVE! All donations must note: In honor of Sean’s locks! in order to be included in the total! Donations can be made online here: https://playhouseonpark.tix.com/Donation.aspx?OrgNum=2704  or By Mail: c/o Playhouse on Park; 244 Park Road; West Hartford, CT 06119 

Screen Shot 2020-04-28 at 2.09.13 PM* You can choose Playhouse on Park as your designated charity on Amazon Smile. You shop, Amazon donates! Start your shopping with smile.amazon.com!

*Fleet Feet is also having a fundraiser for local businesses: You can show your support of your favorite local business by purchasing a “Beat Goes On” shirt for $20 (+ $1.27 sales tax). For each shirt purchased, you can designate a local business who will receive the proceeds from your purchase. Visit this site for more info: https://www.fleetfeet.com/s/hartford/shirt

An In-Depth Interview with Sean Harris on “The Scottsboro Boys”

The Scottsboro Boys are making Connecticut History

by contributing writer, Amanda Forker

After their critically acclaimed, sold-out run of Lin Manuel Miranda’s, In the Heights, last summer, the artistic and executive directors of Playhouse on Park (Sean Harris, Darlene Zoller and Tracy Flater) know that producing The Scottsboro Boys presents some unique risks and challenges they haven’t faced before. They also know that they have a responsibility to produce relevant shows with diverse casts, involve their community through educational outreach and share vital stories that need to be told. They are ready for this challenge and eager to engage the community in the process.

The Scottsboro Boys is a musical that tells the true story of nine, young African-American men who were falsely accused of rape on March 25, 1931, and the grievous injustices they faced throughout the rest of their lives because of it. Written by the popular musical songwriting team, Kander & Ebb (ChicagoCabaretFosse), this musical received the highest of praise, but also met with some harsh criticism during its two-month run on Broadway in 2010. To be frank, this is a controversial show and a box-office risk for any theater company brave enough to perform it…and it’s coming to Playhouse on Park this summer.

As the 88th anniversary of the terrible event approached, I reached out to Sean Harris, who will also be directing the upcoming production of The Scottsboro Boys, to ask him some questions about this exciting and ambitious endeavor.

June 26-August 4

Q:  What motivated you to choose The Scottsboro Boys for the last show of your 10th season?

Sean:  I think The Scottsboro Boys represents exactly who we are as a theatre. Our mission has always been to find ways to challenge, entertain, and educate audiences, while immersing them in the story. We framed the theme of our tenth season around bravery. This production highlights the undeniable bravery of the characters but also calls us to step up to the challenge of producing it. We can think of no better way of not only celebrating our 10th Anniversary season, but doing justice to that achievement by producing this most important story.

Q:  Why is this is an important show for Playhouse on Park to produce?

Sean: This show features a fabulous range of musical styles and the opportunity to develop exciting choreography. But it also tells a profoundly important, true story that too many people know nothing about – nine young men falsely accused of rape in the 1930’s, whose criminal cases ultimately led to two landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings reversing their convictions, but whose lives were nevertheless ruined.   Racism, then and now, is often too difficult to discuss or can be brushed under the rug; the story of the Scottsboro Boys is no different. Yet, the music and the dance numbers are not only spectacular but critical to helping the characters tell their truth in a way that audiences can receive and, hopefully, not forget. Using the intimacy of our theater space, we want to create an immersive and visceral connection with the characters as well as a communal experience for our audiences.  

Q:  How do you think this show will benefit the Greater Hartford Community?

Sean:  The show has never been done before in Connecticut, so being able to tell this important story in the Greater Hartford Community is really special. We hope to learn and grow along with the community and we’re excited to engage with people after each show.  

Q:  Professional productions of The Scottsboro Boys have been met with protests and criticism for its use of minstrelsy and blackface. Considering current events, what are your thoughts on why they are necessary aspects of the show?

Sean: From what I understand, many (if not most) of those who protested The Scottsboro Boys during its run on Broadway did not see the show. I believe that Joyce Kulhawik, in an article she wrote on October 27, 2016 entitled; “A Tale of Justice Deferred in SpeakEasy’s Sharp-Edged ‘Scottsboro Boys,'” put it best: “Unlike an historic minstrel show, with its white (and often black) actors in blackface playing stock characters that caricature black folks, this cast of minstrels is entirely black. It proceeds to caricature the white folks, from the women who initially accused the boys to the politicians, police and lawyers who victimized them. The show takes the racial stereotypes of minstrelsy and puts them at the mercy of a true tale of racial prejudice. This subversive device is as brilliant as it is disturbing, affording us a rich menu of gospel, blues, ragtime, jazz and tap, and paying homage to the song, dance and narrative foundations upon which musical theater is built.”

Q:  Were you familiar with the story of The Scottsboro Boys before choosing this musical?

Sean:  I was only passively familiar with the story. My history books in high school and college very rarely addressed the darkest parts of American history, especially those parts steeped in racism. When we started talking about this show as a possibility, I dove deeper into the research and knew that this was a story that needed to be told again.   

Q:  How do you intend to engage the community in this production?

Sean: We will be having facilitated question and answer sessions with the audience and cast after every performance hosted by guests from the community. In the months before the run, we have a committee focused specifically on outreach and we hope to talk about the show as much as possible. We plan to create a study guide, for both students and general audiences, to read in advance of seeing the show and will be adding relevant literature to our website. Additionally, we’re exploring panel presentations, seeking support for small group conversations with skilled facilitators, working on educational outreach for younger audiences and engaging community organizations.

Q:  What do you want the community to know about this show and your production of it?

Sean:  We want the community and our audiences to know that we are going to produce this show with thoughtfulness, sensitivity and a deep commitment to telling this story honestly, using the most of our creative abilities.

Q:  How do you intend to tell the story of these young, African American men and the injustices they faced, in an authentic, informed and compassionate way?

Sean:  Research is important but what has been most important for us as a predominantly white creative team is to acknowledge that it is not our story to tell. This story is masterfully told through the point of view of the nine young men and the last thing we want to do is to tell this predominantly African American cast how to feel. If we are successful in our commitment to tell this story honestly and with thoughtfulness and sensitivity, it is because we will have created and formed this story together. If we are successful in the telling of this story, the audience will feel that connection, too. 

Q:  What are you most excited about for this production?

Sean:  I am very excited for the creative process. I am convinced that we will be inspired and challenged by every moment in the rehearsal room. Given the extraordinary work of Kander and Ebb and the power of the story itself, I anticipate that our creative, artistic, and technical teams, together with the cast, will be pushed to the height of our artistic selves; it will be an unforgettable artistic journey.    I am also eager to have conversations: Conversations about the process, with the press, with the audiences and with the community. Ultimately, I believe that this show perfectly aligns (perhaps more so than any other we’ve ever done) with our artistic mission, which is to challenge, to educate and to entertain our audiences.              

director Sean Harris

*Some of the above responses have been edited for length and clarity.The Scottsboro Boys plays from June 26 through August 4 at Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m.; with an added Tuesday matinee July 2 at 2 p.m. Tickets are on sale now!
$40 to $50; $35 to $45 for students, seniors & Let’s GO Arts members.

860-523-5900 x10.http://www.playhouseonpark.org.

Seven Ways to Save Money at Playhouse on Park

As you may already know, Playhouse on Park keeps ticket prices low as part of our mission to offer professional quality theater at an accessible cost to our patrons! But, of course, we’re happy to offer these additional perks to those who are watching their budget and still want to have a great night out at the theater! If you’re not familiar with the deals we offer, read on:

Lunchtime specials

Do you and your friends want to see a Main Stage show for $10? Simply pick the day of the show you’d like to go to, and visit our friendly box office representative (on the day of that show) between the hours of 12pm and 1pm for a lunchtime special ticket! This amazing deal is available cash only, so if you’re in the neighborhood, come on over and grab your discounted tickets. Our computer system picks your tickets for you, but remember, there isn’t really a bad seat in the house! Please note that given the popularity of some shows, it’d be wise to call our box office when we open at 10am to check and see how that evening’s show has been selling.

Student Rush

What do you need? Your college ID and $10 cash. That’s it. Take a break from the books and join us to escape with live theater. Student rush begins 15 minutes prior to each show.

Senior Discounts

That’s right, you’ve paid full price your entire life and now it’s time to start taking advantage of your “senior” status! Anyone aged 62 and up receive a $5 discount on any of our Main Stage Series shows. Now isn’t that special?

Group Rates

Grab the girls from your book club, or a bunch of friends for a group date night, or a gaggle of little ones for a birthday party celebration and save when you come to see a show! Purchase 10 tickets or more and save 10% off of regular ticket price, and receive 1 additional complimentary ticket.

Let’s Go Arts!

Our friends at the Greater Hartford Arts Council has a discount membership program promoting arts and entertainment in our community. Contribute at least $50 to the United Arts Program and you’ll automatically be enrolled as a Let’s Go Arts! member, earning you discounts at local eateries, museums and theaters. We participate in this program and offer $5 off any Main Stage Series ticket to Let’s Go Arts! members.

Subscribe!

There are so many benefits to being a subscriber to our Main Stage Series here at Playhouse on Park, and for more details, click over to this post for a full rundown of the perks. Subscribe and save up to 20% off of individual ticket sales.

Previews & Tuesday Matinees

The two nights preceding opening night for each Main Stage show (Wednesday and Thursday, respectively) offer deeply discounted tickets. Each seat is only $17.50! These previews are for any last minute changes that the director or production team wants to adjust before opening night – other than that, everything is ready for the public, from lights to costumes! We also offer a 2pm Tuesday matinee during each run with all tickets priced at $22.50!

Any questions?

Our box office reps are standing by for any of your questions about these deals! Give us a ring at 860-523-5900 x10, or email us at boxoffice@playhouseonpark.org.

Cocktail on Park: Spiced New York Sour

Meredith Atkinson, Director of Marketing & Public Relations

“‘Unnecessary Farce’ mocks corruption, curious marital relationships, power abuse and sexist behavior. It may be seen as a necessary antidote to non-farcical real-life news events of recent weeks.” Chris Arnott, The Hartford Courant

What a month it’s been! One of the (many) things I’ve always loved about the Playhouse is the escape it provides for audience members. If you haven’t had the chance to see the Connecticut premiere of Unnecessary Farce, come join us for one of the final four performances! I’m guessing we could all use a few hours of laughter as a welcome distraction.

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Meredith Atkinson

 

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Meredith Atkinson

In honor of playwright Paul Slade Smith, current resident of the city that never sleeps, and West Hartford native, I mixed up a Spiced New York Sour. It’s a New York Sour variation, which is a riff on the classic Whiskey Sour. This is a PERFECT cocktail to serve to your guests next week before an indulgent Thanksgiving meal. And, as if you needed another reminder (I’m lookin’ at YOU, over-the-top gilded store displays), the holiday season is here. This cocktail is a perfect compliment (or antidote) to December festivities.

To make the Spiced New York Sour at home, you’ll need 2 ounces bourbon, 1 ounce fresh lemon juice, and 1 ounce cinnamon simple syrup (click here for the recipe!). Add ingredients to a shaker filled with ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice, and top with 1 ounce fruity red wine. (Protip: kill two birds with one stone and buy an inexpensive bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau. It’s young, light, fruit-forward and will go well on its own with turkey and the works!) Garnish with a flamed orange peel for an impressive (and smoky!) finishing touch.

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Meredith Atkinson

Speaking of cocktails, laughter, and overall much-needed cheer, Playhouse on Park is hosting two (BYOB!) comedy events next week: Comedy Night & Improv with Franklin’s Peaches & Friends! For tickets, info, or just a friendly voice at the other end of the line, call our box office at 860-523-5900 x10!

 

Eight Reasons to be a Subscriber at Playhouse on Park

Meredith Atkinson, Director of Marketing & Public Relations

You may be wondering why a subscription to Playhouse on Park would be a good idea, and we’re here to help you understand. In honor of our Eighth Season of being in operation, here are eight reasons to be a subscriber, although I’m sure we could think of more! Let’s kick it off with a general “why?:

  1. Branch Out

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Think about the last time you went to the movies, or loafed on the couch binge watching a new, innovative and addicting TV show. Could you reach out and touch the person you were watching on the screen? Were they that close? It’s a tale as old as time (as Mrs. Potts says): live theater is living and breathing. No option to rewind. No pause button. No post production. Actors and musicians are giving you all they have, and the particular performance you’ve chosen to attend is one-of-a-kind. They tap into emotions that strike a chord with fellow actors and audience members alike. The stage is magic, and Season Eight’s Mainstage Series boasts seven remarkable productions.

2. Same Seats
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Creature of habit? Wanna sit in your same favorite seats every time you come to Playhouse on Park? Say no more! When you become a subscriber, your tickets for each production are in the same spot. Don’t forget….the back row is only four seats from the stage in our intimate theater. So really, there’s not a bad seat in the house.

3. Save Time
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Not only do you have the same seats, but when you subscribe, you pick the date of each show ahead of time. For instance, our shows typically have a five week run. If Thursdays are best for you, sign up for a Thursday preview subscription. Or, if you like to get your fun in on the weekends, why not buy a First Saturday night subscription? It’s always impressive when you’re able to say you were there on opening weekend!

4. Change Plans
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So, now that you’ve got your seats and nights all planned out for the entire season, what do you do when a conflict arises? We totally get it! Things come up, things we don’t plan on, but alas: it’s adulting, y’all. Our friendly box office staff is standing by to help. Give us a call if you need to exchange your tickets for another night in the show’s run. We will try our very best to get you as close to your original seats as possible. You have flexibility as a subscriber.

5. Sneak Peeks
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As a subscriber, you’ll be invited to exclusive behind-the-scenes events, along with subscriber appreciation nights.

6. Be Family
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Being a subscriber pretty much guarantees you’ll be a part of the family here at Playhouse on Park. We’ll be seeing you at every show of the season, and chances are you’ll also get to know the other subscribers too! Our community is growing and we’d love to have you as a part of it!

7. Save Money
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Who doesn’t love saving a buck or two? Individual subscriptions offer a 20% savings over individual ticket prices. Sit down, do a little quick math, and be amazed at the money you’ll save by subscribing.

8. Feel Good
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When you subscribe to Playhouse on Park, you’re essentially giving back to the community. We are a non-profit professional theater that aims to bring the highest caliber of talent to Greater Hartford – and Connecticut’s – theater lovers. In fact, Money Magazine confirms this in their latest issue! We deliver in other ways, too, by offering comedy nights, theater education for children, and a reading series for emerging playwrights….just to name a few.

Subscriptions for Season Eight are still available! We also offer subscriptions for our comedy night series featuring awesome comics from around the country. Subscriptions are also great gifts for friends, too. Did we leave any questions unanswered? Give us a ring if you like, or visit our website, http://www.playhouseonpark.org.

 

Howdy, Neighbor! Meet: Petals & Paws

Linda Starr, Guest Contributor

Fall, with its comfortable temperatures and back-to-real-life vibe, is always a great time to get out and reconnect with neighbors we’ve hardly seen since Memorial Day. So last week, as Playhouse on Park prepared for its fall production of Little Shop of Horrors, a musical featuring a nerdy florist and a man-eating plant, I set off on the short walk to 268 Park Road to visit with neighbor Suzie Mathes at her family’s unique and flourishing business, Petals and Paws. I was especially eager to learn how the Mathes family decided to sell pet supplies and garden and floral supplies under a single roof. Suzie explained, however, that the combination wasn’t so much a decision as an evolution.dsc_0639dsc_0636The business began, Suzie explained, as Canton Feed and Supply, which provided grain to local dairy farmers, sometimes even swapping the grain for cream. As the area’s population of cattle declined through the years, the company gradually turned its focus to providing high quality food for all types of family pets, from dogs to rabbits to gerbils. Eventually, reasoning that people looking for healthful, chemical-free products for their pets would appreciate the same premium supplies for their yards and gardens, they began to grow that side of the business as well. Finally, in 2004, the Mathes family built and moved into a new building at 465 Albany Turnpike in Canton — and Petals and Paws was born!

Today, the Paws section of the flagship store features an extensive selection of natural, preservative-free pet food (including fridges of raw meat specially formulated for dogs), a huge variety of pet supplies, dog-grooming and dog-training services, and a weekly Yappy Hour for pets and their families. The Petals side offers everything a home gardener needs to create a healthy and beautiful yard and garden, including grass seed, lime, fertilizer, straw, mulch, and more. If you’re neither a gardener nor a pet owner, you can shop for house plants and cut flowers, bird feeders and birdseed — and even treat yourself to some homemade ice cream at the in-store Canton Creamery.

Petals and Paws opened its satellite Park Road store in January 2016. Although smaller than the Canton store, Park Road carries a nice selection of the same high quality, chemical-free pet and garden supplies. The most popular items at the West Hartford location, Suzie noted, are dog food (yes, including fridges full of raw meat) as well as bird feeders and birdseed.
I enjoyed my visit to Petals and Paws and was blown away by how knowledgeable and passionate the family is about all their products. Stop in to this Park Road neighbor when you get a chance. You won’t find any carnivorous plants, I’m afraid, but you can pick up some mums and some treats for Fido. And their Canton Creamery ice cream is available at Hall’s Market, only a short walk down the Road.

To learn more about Park Road businesses and to receive promotions and discounts just by visiting local stores and restaurants, be sure to download the free Park Road app. You’ll find it listed as Park_Road at the App Store on your mobile device.

photos: Meredith Atkinson