Archive for November 2015

Follow up NH Theatre Awards   3 comments

This year’s NH Theatre Awards will likely been the last awards show I will be attending. Matt&I discussed it recently and decided that the tickets are too expensive and it is not that worth it to spend so much money on tickets if we have to sit through an awards show where mostly tge same companies win everyone. I have also not been very happy with tge recognition the PTA plays have gotten over the past couple years… I was very happy to find out a few weeks ago that clearly I was not alone in feeling that way.  I was originally planning to write a letter  to the NHTA Board of Directors but I won’t have to worry about that.

Wondering why? Here’s the reaason.

Through a recent  telephone conversation  I discovered PTA plays were not getting the respect they deserved from the theatre awards. I especially felt angry after last year’s awards show that Seussical did not get the recognition it deserved aside from Sophie’s best actress win for playing Gertrude. She told me that the Board of Directors of the PTA felt it is not in the  mission statement of the PTA to participate in the theatre awards as the main purpose of the PTA plays is to raise money for the Amherst Schools.

That being said I am happy and relieved that after CATS the PTA plays are  not going to be adjudicated anymore.

Are you still left  wondering why? Here is my reasoning.

I always felt that the NHTAs were way too political and that there was way too much favoristism.  Sure groups like Peacock Players and the New London Barn Playhouse have amazingly talented people in their companies. I have no disrespect for either company at all. I go to their shows  often and the work they do consistantly impresses me.

However awards shows get very anticlimactic and also quite dull if the same people win time and time again. That is where I feel the system is flawed and there is too much favoritism and politics involved.

To me winning awards should not be what being involved in theatre is  or should be about. It should be about working together toward the goal of putting on  a show that audiences will enjoy and that the actors enjoy putting the show on have a good time doing it.  The awareness that the adjudicators are in the audience for me sucked the fun out of being in the show for the past couple years. We are sometimes already stressed out enough as performers and knowing that we are being judged adds extra stress that we don’t need.

Through this conversation  I recently had and realizing the PTA  Board Of Directors is on the same page made me feel a lot better. Because in th end  they are right what the NHTA stands for and what the PTA stands for as a company do not all whatsoever.
I have many things to be thankful for this Thankgiving and  this piece of mind is certainly one of them. I can also not state enough how thankful I am to be part of this company of actors who have become like a family to me over the past four years…each person who I continue to learn things from as time goes along. Thank you all for everything you do for me. I love all of you immensely you have absolutely no idea.

This the picture from the finale of Mary Poppins. Many of my PTA co-stars were in this show and one of my co-stars Kevin Linkroum directed it. The opportunity to get to work with the people  I love during the off season is truly fantastic. What a truly wonderful new tradition for the Amato Center to have.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgivig. Enjoy all the turkey!


This has been edited as  references to specific people were removed.


Posted November 21, 2015 by theatretechdiva in Amherst PTA, New Hampshire Theatre Awards

A minute to breathe…and of course reflect   Leave a comment


Mary Poppins has been over for  a month. What a show and what a summer. It was such a great experience! I miss everyone already but it won’t be all that long before PTA play auditions come around again and I am so excited for those! This year show is Shrek The Musical and i am thinking of auditioning either  for Pinnochio or one if the 3 Blind Mice. i think the neatest thing about Mary Poppins was definitely the flying! That was the best special effect ever! The best part of this experience  was definitely working with my PTA co- stars in the off season and meeting new friends alomg the way.
Anything Can Happen. My favorite song with such a great message in it about believing in yourself.  Photo Courtesy:Rich Sparks

Mary Poppins was the second show that Matt and did together Below are his thoughts about this production and his experience in it.
The summer of 2015 will be one of my most remembered of my life. It’s not just because of the sun, beach, and the relaxing times, but because I was part of a production that I have become a part of the family. The Boys and Girls Club of Souhegan Valley located on 56 Mont Vernon Road in Milford, New Hampshire steps away from the oval; is home to a local theater company for youth and teens. It’s the Amato Center for the Performing arts; and the Riverbend Youth Company does a lot bunch of shows for youngsters in school who are willing to commit to talent, sportsmanship, and partnership; which is part of the Boys and Girls Club program. Many youngsters do shows normally by themselves, but some have adults in them. This summer adults and kids came together to form the first show for the Friends of Amato Center called Mary Poppins. My girlfriend Janine Leffler suggested I try out for it, and I’m very glad I did. This is my story on how my talents and wisdom, along with other made this play a big hit at the Amato Center.

It all started back in June, just before the first official day of summer. Janine told me the Boys and Girls Club was having a dance workshop, where everybody would be learning how to dance in a demo number for Mary Poppins. I saw Liz Calabria, the choreographer, for the first time since dinnertime before the 2015 New Hampshire theatre awards. I knew she was very energetic and wise, so learning a dance number would feel like a snap. I was in the multi-purpose room along with Janine, Sonya Walcott, Penny Forrest, and Jeff Hayward, along with many other people, from as young as seven, to as old as senior age, learning all together.

The dance number we were learning in the dance workshop was Step in Time. In the Disney movie, Step in Time ran for eight and a half minutes mostly in instrumental mode, and Bert’s calls made the other chimney sweeps call back while stepping in time. When I knew the music was slightly different here, I knew there were other numbers that were a little different in the musical also. We all learned the beginning to where we kicked our knees up. We practiced several times over, and I was getting a good workout. Jeff thought it was a little too much, and after it was over, we tried to convince him to audition, but he simply refused. After the dance workshop, I went home and watched Liz’s dance moves several times in several videos posted on the Mary Poppins website. One week later, I had the pieces memorized and I was ready for auditioning.

The night of auditions was on a Tuesday night on a beautiful early summer evening. Janine and I came from a meeting for the Souhegan Valley Chorus and we were lucky to make it to the Amato Center just in time for the final dance piece. Janine and I wrote on the audition forms about our experiences in theater and what we were willing to try out for. Janine wanted to try for Mary; and I had ambitions for Bert, but Mrs. Leffler, Janine’s mother, thought since we didn’t have a lot of experience on stage that those would be challenging for both of us. She was right; and Janine and I decided to put down on our list that we’d want to be in the ensemble.

The first thing Janine and I had to do was go to the dance room while we’d wait for our turn to go to the Multi-Purpose room. There was a young adult woman in her mid-twenties, teaching other people who were auditioning, with brown reddish hair and a strong voice, and she went over the steps for part of the “Step in Time” dance. Her name is Meg King, and she would be the assistant choreographer along with Liz. Some people did not go to the dance workshop the prior week, so for them the dance number was new to learn. Meg added a few extra steps that Liz did not go over previously, but I found them to be simple, and I knew I would have fun. After going over the dance over and over, Janine and I finally were called to the Multi-Purpose room.

Each person got to perform a little snippet from a particular song of their choice. Janine choose “Spoonful of Sugar”, and I choose “Supercalifragisticexpialidocious”, And after that, we all were in line to do the dance piece. I knew it was lots of fun, since there were two choreographers, I knew if I made the cut I would learn a whole lot more. Since this was a musical, there was a music director, and Kim Whitehead was the one. She is the music director for Souhegan Valley Chorus, so she would be set once we’d begin. Janine and I got roles for ensemble, except Janine was in “Jolly Holiday” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”, along with Sonya Walcott, and I was in “Supercalifragisticexpiadocious” as a letter with Sonya and Janine, but I got to be a bank clerk in “Precision and Order”.

Schedules for practices were for Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays; all at 6:30 pm. The first practice Kim gathered everyone in the cast to warm up the vocal pieces. Ashley Hughes Swanson was chosen to portray Mary Poppins, and she could sing as a soprano. Other kids and females would sound good for sopranos also. There were some altos, tenors, which I attempted to be, and a few basses. The first thing we practiced was the final piece, once we all would sing Supercal. We started by reciting and spelling the letters, followed by singing them, and then going back and forth so we could get a good feel of what it would be like. Everyone got music pieces for the final piece, or the “Bows”, “Anything Can Happen”, and Supercal, and Janine and Sonya were in the park ensemble, so they join other children and adults for “Jolly Hoilday” and “Let’s go Fly a Kite”, and I got my music piece for “Precision and Order”.

People were called into practice from the type of number they were in for the show. Sometimes Janine and Sonya had rehearsals for their park ensembles, either while I had nothing to do, or I was somewhere else rehearsing my bank scene. “Precision and Order” started off as practicing from the music sheet like singing in the choir, and many of us did not have the jaunty British accent Kim expected us to have; but she liked how I stayed on key almost immediately. After one practice with the book I nearly had every line memorized. I was starting to wonder if I should give the other members a little refresher when they would ask. It took another practice or two before Liz wanted to try to run through the choreography of the number. I would enter behind Bryan Whitter and Jo-Ann Zall; but while they would go to the table far left, I would join with a gentleman named Mike Steadman. He soon would wonder how I knew where to go already, so I just told him to listen for the beat; because when we practiced on stage, Kim had the piano, and it was a little easier than hearing the recording from the internet.

I did not learn about the Supercali number for a while, but I was told that I would have to learn how to make my body into different letters while spelling it out. Liz had been posting videos on how to do the dancing parts, and her assistant Meg, posted pictures of her different positions for the different letters. They seemed complicated, and looked like would take some good practice to learn. It was during the Bows where I was going to have to do it for a grand ending. Luckily, I was chosen as a letter, as was Sonya and Janine, and there were other females ranging in age and height. Eventually, Meg choose me to be a middle letter along with Emily Steadman, who liked to call me “Mr. Matt”, which I thought was nice. The first letter and last letter were both the shortest, and once Meg knew the letters were set she was excited. We had to sing the piece at certain times while we held up our letters, and the dancers would all be leaving off on their choreography. It took a few practices during the weeks we were getting closer toward the show, but things started to improve, and I even had to remind my partners Sonya and Emily about when to come in.

Practices went from the Multi-Purpose room to stage just as another show was ending its run; and that’s when the set was looking realistic; with the London rooftop, the Cherry Tree Lane House, and other scenes. The final weeks of practicing before the shows everyone was required to show up every rehearsal, just to go over everything, and it wasn’t easy to keep up at first, due to Kevin stopping, and telling people how to correct their mistakes, and then Tech week came it was time to rehearse and put on our costumes. Janine and Sonya got one outfit for their ensemble scenes; while I had two buttoned down shirts, a pair of bowties, a red professional one, and for my bank scene I had to wear a green visor. It made me feel like a professional clerk; although some thought I could make a good train conductor. Rehearsing got easier during the week, and I was able to point out to Liz what was happening and how I could make myself comfortable. I wasn’t getting as much sleep in between rehearsals and work, but once Friday night came, this would be my chance to shine.

We all started by going to the Multi-purpose room for a vocal warm up, almost like we’d done to begin every practice, and after practicing our song, Kevin had a few pointers, and reminded us to stay clear in the path of the main actors who would get to fly. We would finish by gathering in a circle and recite a sonnet to remind us of ourselves. It would be show time once people in the first act would be told to get to their places, but it would sound a little difficult to find what scene was going on since the walkie-talkie wasn’t working properly. It took over three hours from the start til finish for the whole show. When I was on, I sung my parts beautifully; and I still was reminding others about the lines to say if they didn’t know. After the show, people who came to watch were in the lobby; and we all went to the lobby to get congratulated. Nice people paid money for candygrams, which normally is when the Amato Center does kids shows; but since this was Friends of the Amato Center, other people would get candy. After every show I got candy from people who cared about me.

There were 7pm shows for Friday and Saturday, and a 3pm matinee Sunday. The first matinee disturbed Janine and me in a way we should’ve bought it up with Kevin first thing. Sonya was late due to her running over an animal. Most people would let it go and allow other certified people in charge of sick animals handle it; but Sonya bought the animal to the vet. That’s what made her miss the beginning of the show. She wasn’t in Jolly Holiday with Janine. We both got mad at her for doing this, and she felt unhappy aft our reactions. After the show, Janine and I were out for dinner, but luckily, Sonya and Penny Forrest, our volunteer make up expert, joined us and we knew our mistakes and apologized.

The following Thursday there was a make-up rehearsal because the previous week the Amato Center was closed due to a power failure; so we all got to come as we were for preparation for the weekend. I was still getting asked by my partners about what lines to sing during “Precision and Order”, and when I wasn’t on stage I was doing a kakuro puzzle or chatting with Penny, or Anita O’Connell, a lovely old woman, who could make anyone feel charming inside. Before I knew it, the weekends of shows were all over on Sunday, and Saturday night, the cast went to Sue Abis for a late night party. Sue played the bird woman. Next day the cast had a big party, and there were some awards to be given out. The main staff handed out some awarded on behalf of their success, and Ashley and Colin Malette, who was Bert, was happy to present to Kevin our cast photo with our signatures. Kevin never felt so emotional in his life.

I knew it was my last shot, so I wanted to make it worth it as best as I could. My parents came to see me perform, and they thought my performance was stellar. After the final “Bows”, Kevin came up and presented a birthday gift to Ashley, who turned 31 on our last performance day. I was sad once the set was torn down, but I helped as much as I could, and everyone else did too. Mary Poppins was a special show for the debut of Friends of Amato Center. Anyone would be a good fit for an ensemble, and would be trained very easily by the music director and choreographers, and it was good to make new friends and be with friends I already knew from before.

Since Mary Poppins ended I have been busy with my duties as head of publicity on the Souhegan Valley Chorus board of directors. Advertising for our holiday concert on December 13th is in full swing. This semester’s theme is Ring The Christmas Bells and we are having the Merrimack Valley Ringers, a local professional handbell chorus that Kim Whitehead is in join us as a guest artist and that’s going to be so much fun! We have a lot of great songs in our line up including a song called That’s Christmas To Me by the Acapellla group Pentatonix. I am a big fan of theirs so I am especially excited to sing that!!
In other news Princess K.I.M. The Musical was recently  picked up by a national agent! I am so excited for what is to come for this show and future productions. There are a lot of good shows in the catalogue that I think would be awesome for local theatre groups to do….. Aside from Princess K.I.M. here are some titles in the catalogue that have particularly caught my eye…

  1.  The Wicked Witch Of The West Kansas or Bust  Perhaps I have bias toward this one because Wizard Of Oz is being put on at the Amato Center opening on Thursday and would be fun to see Riverbend Youth Company do a sequel.
  2. Miracle In Bedford Falls Horray! There is a musical version of It’s A Wonderful Life! I hope this will end up being the Holiday Show at the Amato Center next year. I will definitely audition if it is!
  3. Fantasy Football The Musical Perhaps a good way to join the two worlds of sports fanatics and musical theatre.
  4. Up To You 
  5. 8 Tracks Sounds Of The 70s. I saw this show at Seacoast Rep  in Portsmouth last summer and thought it was fantastic.  It would be fun to see it done around this area.  It probably would  not really work well for the PTA because of the small cast size but  who knows?
  6. Christmas Is Here Again
  7. Lend Me A Tenor The Musical I actually have never seen this play before but the musical version of it sounds really fun.
  8. Rapunzel Beginnings and Beyond The idea behind this play sounds really interesting.
  9. Songs For A More Funnier World  In August  I saw Songs For A New World at Court Street Theatre and thought it was fantastic. This seems to be a parody of that and I think it would be really fun. Again this  is a small cast show and probably would not work for PTA perhaps maybe for Stagecoach Productions though.
  10. Night Of The Living Dead The Musical

Posted November 1, 2015 by theatretechdiva in Riverbend Youth Company