Playhouse on Park

Cocktail on Park!

Meredith Atkinson, Director of Marketing & Public Relations

With July’s end, so left the cast and crew of A Chorus Line, our Season Seven Closer. Some days it was quiet, but for the most part, there was a different kind of hustle and bustle here at the Playhouse. Our exciting moments included: comedian Mike Jacobs returning to his old stomping grounds for a successful fundraiser, bidding a fond farewell to hardworking summer interns, the meeting of creative (or loquacious? wacky? take your pick!) minds for Play In A Day, and two nights in a row of hilarious improv.

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Meredith Atkinson

We are so excited to open Season Eight with Little Shop of Horrors! On a personal note, the music of Little Shop was one of my favorite things as a child. My cousins – the cool cousins, we all have them – introduced me to the movie when I was probably no more than 7 years old, and I was instantly hooked. It was a time of cassette tapes, and among my collection of hits taped off the radio was the Little Shop soundtrack. I should add that all of the cuss words were dubbed over carefully by my older cousin who considered my age and, therefore, impressionable mind. Of course I knew that “sugar” when uttered by Audrey II was really “shit” but that made it all the more funny, I guess.

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Meredith Atkinson

So anyway, our cast is in the midst of rehearsals and they already sound amazing! What better way to celebrate the beginning of Season Eight and Little Shop than with a cocktail? My list of favorites gets longer as I grow older, and mixing drinks has been on the list for a while now. I decided to turn to Audrey for some inspiration, riffed on a classic cocktail, and the result was Somewhere That’s Green, a pleasantly floral and herbal mix.

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Meredith Atkinson

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Meredith Atkinson

If you’d like to make this at home, you’ll need: 3/4 oz gin, 3/4 oz Wild Moon Lavender Liqueur (made in Hartford!), 1/2 oz Green Chartreuse (a delightful herbal liqueur), and 1/2 oz fresh lime juice. Add all of those ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice, shake well and strain into a chilled coupe glass. A word of fair warning: one too many of these drinks, and you’ll be channeling Audrey in your kitchen like:giphySo you’re probably better off calling our box office for tickets before you start mixing. We’ll be waiting for your call! 860-523-5900 x10!

Playhouse Spotlight: Mollie Cook

Nathan Schachter, Summer Intern, UConn ’19

Aside from the many actors, directors, and designers employed by the Playhouse on Park for each show, there are many people who work daily year-round to keep our wonderful theatre running! I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Mollie Cook, Stage Manager and Box Office Manager, to hear about the day to day routine of running a non-profit theatre.
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Tell me about yourself!
 I graduated from UMass Amherst in 2014 with a BA in Theater. I intentionally didn’t try to get a BFA and fail. I love golden retrievers a lot, and soon I’m moving to New York City!

How long have you been at the Playhouse?
    I’ve been working here for six and a half years.

What was your first job here?
My first job was Assistant Stage Manager and Wardrobe Chief for Trapezium. It was the last show of our first season in 2010.

What is your daily routine like here at the Playhouse?
    It depends on what I’m doing because I have  many different jobs here. As Stage Manager and during rehearsals, I may not even be at the theatre. However, on a normal day, I come in at 10. The first thing I do is check my email (and I usually have a lot!). I check the phone for any messages and check the ticketing system for any unprinted tickets to be printed and sorted. I then sit and wait for any customers to come in or call to buy tickets! Basically, I make sure everything goes smoothly in the box office and answer anyone’s questions about the Playhouse.

What is the process like before a show opens?
 As a stage manager, in order to get a show up, I coordinate and make sure everything that’s supposed to happen, happens. It’s hard to describe because there are so many different tasks that come under one umbrella – sending lots of emails, networking with people, emotionally supporting a whole cast and crew. I like to think of myself as the parent of the production, but that’s not a great analogy because it implies a difference in status and it’s not. I consider everyone – actors, directors, designers – to be on the same level doing different jobs.
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What is it like being involved both in the office and on a production?
 It’s actually really rewarding because I can experience the full breadth of what theatre has to offer. I really like stage managing but there’s an isolating quality about sitting by myself in a dark booth all the time. I like being in the box office – in the LIGHT – interacting with people. One of my favorite things is when patrons give me honest feedback about the show, but they don’t know I’m also the Stage Manager. Most people wouldn’t get to hear that they messed up a lighting cue or that something went wrong in the show. It’s interesting to have these kinds of interactions being on both side of the business. Both satisfy very different professional interests.

What’s the most challenging part about working for a theatre?
   Artistic personalities! Both of my jobs are about management and being organized. I love arts people, but they’re so focused on their work that often its difficult to figure out the most effective way to communicate to them. I’m not criticizing them; I’ve been in their shoes! I would also consider myself an artist from costume designing shows.

What is the most rewarding?
The best part is when I’m able to figure out how to talk to them! It’s like a piece of the puzzle coming together when everyone gets on the same page to reach a common goal.
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Do you have any other hobbies?
 Honestly, no. Another challenge about working for a theatre is that I have very little spare time. I love what I do at work, but when I’m home, I like to sleep, eat, and not move as much as possible. Kathleen (Company Manager and Education Associate at Playhouse on Park) and I love watching Free Form (formerly ABC) on Tuesday nights.

I know that you’re heading into your last few weeks before leaving the Playhouse after 7 years! What do you think you’ll take with you the most from this experience? What do you see yourself doing in the future?
 I’ve definitely acquired a very intense work ethic.  I’ll be able to be self sufficient in any job because of this theatre. I have no idea what I’ll be doing in the future because I want to be a wedding planner, but I also want to open an old dog sanctuary. I may even be in a scientific study for the aquagenic wrinkling of my palms!  I’ll probably stay in theatre because that’s where my training is. I could see myself stage managing Off-Broadway.

Behind the Scenes with an Understudy

By Katie Gorsky, Hofstra ’18, Playhouse on Park Summer Intern

I recently had the opportunity to interview Anna Russell, who has played a significant role in this season’s production of “A Chorus Line.”  Anna is currently one of Playhouse on Park’s summer interns, as well as a cut dancer in the show and an understudy for four characters.

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Anna, taken on the night she went on as Cassie!

Tell me a little about yourself!
I was born in Sacramento, California and my mom is a costume designer, so I’ve been involved in theater my whole life.  I started doing theater when I was eight and danced for a while, took a break, and started dancing seriously when I was a freshman in high school.  I just finished my sophomore year at the Hartt School where I’m studying musical theater. 

What is your involvement in this summer’s production of “A Chorus Line?”
I’m a cut dancer, an intern, and I understudy Diana, Cassie, Connie, and Sheila.  I also work in the literary and marketing department as well as the box office.

 

What is the process like rehearsing and performing as an understudy and cut dancer?
Well being a cut dancer is simple.  You do the opening, get cut, and that’s that.  Understudying is different because I have so many different parts to learn.  I did a lot of color coding my notes and writing things down quickly during rehearsal, and afterwards I would go back and organize it all.  For the big numbers I would primarily write down where everybody was in formation and if there were any different counts or ripples.

 

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Anna, far left (in the snazzy purple legwarmers), performing as a cut dancer

 

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So did you have a chance to practice filling in for different characters in rehearsals?
No, you don’t really get to practice with anyone else.  You just practice by yourself.  I would go in early to practice all the parts before so I knew it all just in case.

 

Have you gotten to fill in for anyone else yet?
Yes, I went on for Cassie a few weeks ago for two nights.
What was that experience like?
It was terrifying, but also the best feeling in the world.  As an understudy, you never really expect to go on.  You just expect everything to be ok.  And Michelle is the last person I would have expected to get sick, and that’s something you can’t control.  So it was definitely scary because it’s one of those experiences I never thought would happen, but once I got past that, it was amazing and thrilling to actually be in the show for the whole time.

 

What was the most challenging part of performing as an understudy?
Well I knew all the tracks, so that was fine, and even the group numbers went well because the cast members were so good about getting me where I needed to be, even when I was in the wrong place.  But I think the hardest part is that I’m not even twenty yet, and Cassie is so much older and mature.  So I worked for about four or five hours before the show with Sean, just going over the two main scenes that she has.  We worked mostly on trying to find the emotional depth that she has as an adult because that’s really not me as a person.  I think that was the hardest part, just tapping into that older side of myself and learning to be an adult.

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Anna, bottom right, pictured with the Chorus Line cast

 

Do you have any additional hobbies and interests?
I’ve always loved to read, and I’m also really interested in women’s issues and gender roles.  I would really like to someday use the arts in a way that informs society about the issues that surround women nowadays. I think that it’s really important as an artist to use what you do to aid a cause you believe in, so that is one of my top goals for the future.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring actors and singers?
I would say that the biggest thing is to work as hard as you can because your work ethic directly affects how well you do.  It’s also really important to just be a nice person.  There are so many times where I see actors who decide not to be nice people, and it makes me not want to work with them.  And I think that’s true for anybody and everybody you work with.  Also, I believe that you should make sure to take every opportunity that you can, but only if you truly believe in what you’re doing.  If you’re doing something you don’t love, it can be really hard to continue doing that.

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Anna performing with cast-mates at Wampanoag Country Club

 

Coming of Age Rings True at Playhouse on Park

By Renee Cox, Contributor

Every recent grad has that feeling. That feeling that’s eloquently described in the opening number: “God, I hope I get it!” I’m a recent grad still living that. It’s tough, constantly being at war with the fact that you’re “too young to take over and too old to ignore.” We all have a story that we could share if we were sitting in that audition. A life changing personal experience that shaped us both personally and professionally.Richie

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Every year there’s a new generation of fresh faces ready to prove that they’re worth the money. A new crop of people begging to be allowed to do a job. That’s why this show is timeless. It will never matter what year the current actors were born in. As long as we are growing and learning there will always be a moment when we look to the future and wonder what’s in store. This is why Playhouse on Park is the perfect place to do this show.acl mike

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The Playhouse has made a serious commitment to arts education. In fact, its co-artistic directors are educators! The cast of a Chorus Line is mostly made up of students and recent graduates, acting alongside two seasoned equity actors. Playhouse no Park is a place of growth and learning, a place of discovery and confidence-building.
And the learning doesn’t stop at the stage: Playhouse on Park finds new ways to educate and engage audiences of all ages. So, when you come out to see A Chorus Line and are dazzled by the amazing choreography and bold directorial choices, be aware that you are also witnessing the passion and talent of recent graduates who have been given the opportunity to shine as a professional who loves their craft. acl bwbwONE

photos courtesy Joel Abbott

Rehearsing With The Cast of A Chorus Line

By Katie Gorsky, Hofstra ’18, Playhouse on Park Summer Intern

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In the days leading up to opening night of “A Chorus Line,” the cast was still hard at work putting on the final touches during their last few rehearsals.  Over the past few weeks, the group has spent long days and nights preparing for this massive production, and all of that work has paid off as the show’s run is well underway on the Playhouse stage.

A typical rehearsal usually begins with a thorough dance warm up by choreographer, Darlene Zoller, where cast members get their bodies ready to start the day with a series of stretches and strengthening exercises.  Next, dance material is reviewed in depth to ensure that everything from last rehearsal can be perfected, followed by a fresh batch of new choreography and scenes.

Even though rehearsing five days a week and eight hours a day sounds like plenty of time, when there’s only three weeks to get ready for the show, every minute must be used carefully.

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a rehearsal when the cast was working on the show’s iconic finale scene, “One.”  When I walked into the studio space I was pleased to see everyone chatting and joking together like they had known each other for years. (Of course, considering they had been spending nearly every waking minute together, it wasn’t too surprising).   Despite having a good time together, when it was time to start rehearsing, everyone was able to successfully put their conversations aside and focus on the task ahead.

Being able to see a rehearsal in person really put into terms how much of a challenge putting on this show truly is.  I could tell that the biggest trial for the actors is how demanding and precise the choreography is for something that must be learned in a matter of weeks.  Not only must the cast be able to remember every step and formation, but they also must be aware of every leg angle, pointed toe, and hat movement.  In order to achieve those sought-after moments of impeccable synchronization, everything must be picture perfect.

Make sure you secure tickets for A Chorus Line (running ’til July 31) so you can see how this demanding rehearsal process translates into a phenomenal show!

Behind the Scenes: A Chorus Line

By Kaitlyn Gorsky, Hofstra ’18, Playhouse on Park Summer Intern

Get your jazz hands ready and your top hats on because we are less than two weeks away from Playhouse on Park’s summer premiere of “A Chorus Line!” With only two weeks of rehearsal time, twenty-five actors, and the challenge of putting on one of the most iconic musicals of the twentieth century, this performance will surely be one of the largest and most rewarding premieres that the Playhouse has ever seen.

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A portion of the cast during the meet and greet at the Playhouse.

Set in the 1970s, “A Chorus Line” follows the individual stories of Broadway hopefuls as they audition for parts in the chorus of an upcoming production. As cuts are made and only seventeen candidates remain, each begins to tell their stories of what brought them to audition in the first place. Featured in the production are many notable musical performances including, “I Hope I Get It,” “One,” “I Can Do That,” “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three,” “At The Ballet,” “The Music and The Mirror,” and many more.
However, before the actors can take the stage of this highly anticipated production, there is much to be done. And like those auditioning in “A Chorus Line,” we all have to start at the bottom to reach the top. That’s where I come in.

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Set Designer Christopher Hoyt and Darlene Zoller

This summer I will be interning with the Playhouse and documenting my experiences behind the scenes. Over the next few weeks, I will be attending rehearsals, speaking with actors and directors, and working behind the scenes to see just how this musical can go from songs on paper to an enormous live performance.
In the past I have attended a few of Playhouse on Park’s musical performances, and was absolutely blown away by the sheer talent of the actors and the genius that went into each show’s direction. Because of this, I have high expectations for what the Playhouse has in store for us in their rendition of this classic musical and am so excited to see what twist they put on it.

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Co-Director Sean Harris shares his vision for the show as Stage Manager Mollie Cook and Co-Director and Choreographer Darlene Zoller look on.

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L->R: Music Director Mike Morris, Playhouse Executive Director Tracy Flater, Co-Director Sean Harris, Music Director Emmett Drake, Stage Manager Mollie Cook.

Make sure to keep checking in for updates on the progress of the show, and I can’t wait to see you at the Playhouse when “A Chorus Line” premieres on June 17th!

Interested in Subscribing to Season 6? Hear From One of Our Current Subscribers!

By Taryn Balchunas (Assistant Grant Writer/ Contributor) 

“Who would have known that buying a Groupon would allow me to find this amazing place?” states Dorene Sikorski, a Playhouse on Park Main Stage Series subscriber since 2011 and loyal supporter of our local professional theater in West Hartford, CT. Dorene used to attend the Bushnell in Hartford, a different experience compared to our small, intimate three-quarter thrust theater. What makes Playhouse on Park unique, says Dorene, is that attendees are able to “see a spectacular performance only miles from home that I would need to take a train or drive to NYC to see. Many of the shows I have never heard of and are not duplicated at the Bushnell.”

 

As a Main Stage Series subscriber, Dorene has the ability to choose her desired seats for the season. She also is guaranteed tickets for each show on the same day for each run and has the option to exchange her tickets for another night within the run at no extra charge. She also has the opportunity to dine on a discounted rate at local restaurants before or after the performance at Playhouse on Park on a Friday or Saturday night. Dorene has savored many meals through our dining partners, even indulging in dessert at A.C. Petersen Farms next door. “I find the night out very reasonable. Where else can you enjoy the best ice cream sundae and a leisurely walk outside after seeing a breathtaking performance?” Additional Main Stage Series subscriber benefits include occasional treats from A Little Something Bakery and trial weeks at a local gym. Even with the perks, Dorene doesn’t feel like she’s receiving special treatment for being a subscriber. As with every attendee, the Playhouse staff acknowledges her when she arrives. “I am greeted with a hello and a smile every time I come…the people who work there are super friendly and helpful and I feel part of a community of artists that love what they do.”

 

What makes Dorene a devoted subscriber is her choice to attend shows numerous times throughout their run. For example, Dorene saw the production of Cabaret twice. Our choreographer, Darlene Zoller, was voted CT’s best choreographer in 2013 by broadwayworld.com for that production. In Dorene’s opinion, Cabaret was memorable because of the journey the audience experiences and how it evoked different reactions from the audience. “I giggled a bit when the actors were mingling with the audience only to be quiet and almost speechless at the end of the amazing performance.” Dorene has had numerous experiences at Playhouse on Park that she and her husband still discuss to this day. Notable performances include their close proximity to Art Garfunkel when he performed at our theater, as well as the production of An Enemy of the People, which left Dorene and her husband thinking for days. Dorene can’t choose a favorite production or specific season, although Around the World in 80 Days will always hold a special place in her heart, the performance that made her “fall in love with Playhouse on Park.” While she is already a subscriber, she donates when she can.

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Pictured: Dorene and her husband, Paul

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