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Andy’s new season unveiled

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse winter gala at the Monadnock Country Club unveiled the Wilton children theater program's upcoming 2013 season on Friday. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Andy's Summer Playhouse winter gala at the Monadnock Country Club unveiled the Wilton children theater program's upcoming 2013 season on Friday.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Elyse Brown of Amherst, left, and Alice Hale of Hancock were the first former Andy's Summer Playhouse graduates to receive $1,000 scholarships from the program to continue their artistic endeavors after leaving the program. The scholarships were awarded by DJ Potter, right, a former Andy's participant and current director.<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Elyse Brown of Amherst, left, and Alice Hale of Hancock were the first former Andy's Summer Playhouse graduates to receive $1,000 scholarships from the program to continue their artistic endeavors after leaving the program. The scholarships were awarded by DJ Potter, right, a former Andy's participant and current director.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Temple Dance Band entertained attendees at Andy's Summer Playhouse winter gala at the Monadnock Country Club on Friday, before the summer theater program unveiled its upcoming 2013 season.<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The Temple Dance Band entertained attendees at Andy's Summer Playhouse winter gala at the Monadnock Country Club on Friday, before the summer theater program unveiled its upcoming 2013 season.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse winter gala at the Monadnock Country Club unveiled the Wilton children theater program's upcoming 2013 season on Friday. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Elyse Brown of Amherst, left, and Alice Hale of Hancock were the first former Andy's Summer Playhouse graduates to receive $1,000 scholarships from the program to continue their artistic endeavors after leaving the program. The scholarships were awarded by DJ Potter, right, a former Andy's participant and current director.<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The Temple Dance Band entertained attendees at Andy's Summer Playhouse winter gala at the Monadnock Country Club on Friday, before the summer theater program unveiled its upcoming 2013 season.<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

The annual winter gala for Wilton’s Andy’s Summer Playhouse upcoming season is a time for eating good food, listening to fine music, and putting in bids at the silent auction to raise money to fund the theater’s upcoming season. But what everyone’s really there for is the yearly unveiling of what the money raised will be going to support — the three plays that make up Andy’s 2013 season.

Those Andy’s supporters who come out to the annual gala become the first to get a taste of the upcoming productions, through three movie-style preview trailers presented by some of the young actors who make up the local children’s theater program.

Who knows if the directors and writers who craft the scripts every year just for Andy’s really thought up their ideas while in a bubble bath, or while speaking horrible faux-French in Quebec, but that’s the story the kids tell.

“The Awdrey-Gore Legacy”

The season is going to start on somewhat of a macabre slant, with a murder mystery based off the works of a children’s author known for injecting a little humor into otherwise dark and off-beat pen-and-ink illustrations. “The Awdrey-Gore Legacy,” which will be written and directed by Shannon Sexton Potter of Providence, R.I., is based off the work of Edward Gorey, an illustrator who was known for being a little strange.

Gorey’s images have been in her brain for some time, said Sexton Potter.

“I love that his images are very macabre, but he writes for children,” she said in an interview at the Andy’s gala Friday. “They’re dark, but they have a sense of humor, and that’s important to me because kids have an amazing sense of humor which isn’t always what you would expect in a child. And I think Edward Gorey really respects that.”

Sexton Potter said “The Awdrey-Gore Legacy” will be at its heart a murder mystery, where a mix of characters come together at a party, but will also be an homage to Gorey himself.

“He was a strange character,” she said. “He used to wear floor-length fur coats with white tennis shoes and black glasses, and there’s going to be hints of that.”

“The Little Prince”

The next production is also based off a literary work, but this one’s a little more whimsical and well-known. “The Little Prince,” adapted from the Antoine de Saint-Exupery book tells the tale of a young prince who leaves his planet to explore the universe and meets a young aviator crashed in the Sahara desert.

Andy’s alum Jared Mezzochi, formerly of Hollis, will be writing and directing the play, and said that the inspiration for the adaptation came from his own experience with Andy’s. An adaptation of the same story was the first production Mezzochi was ever involved in, he said, and he wanted to bring that story back to Andy’s stage in a new and fresh way.

“It totally changed my perspective on theater,” said Mezzochi of his childhood performance of the story. “And all the concepts and ideas are still resonating in me years later. Every year, I ask myself what I can give back to Andy’s. For me to give back the production I experienced the first time in a new, re-imagined, readapted style feels really exciting to me.”

It’s also a story that gives a vantage point of human nature from a child’s perspective, while still dealing with some heavy, complex ideas, said Mezzochi.

The story will be a little different, he said. It will show the aviator’s growth from a child into adulthood, alongside the little prince’s journey through space and the characters he meets there. Ultimately, the two will meet.

“Apollo 13”

The final production of the year is always a musical, and this year, Andy’s will be taking on an epic storyline for their final performance. Keeping with the idea that the best drama comes from real life, the musical isn’t adapted from a literary tale, but a real-life one —the Apollo 13 mission, in which three astronauts who had to abort a lunar landing mission when an oxygen tank exploded make it safely back to Earth.

The production, written and directed by former Wilton resident DJ Potter, and co-composed by Patrick Boutwell, isn’t an idea that’s easily translated into a musical.

“It’s a challenge,” said Potter. “But for me, that kind of challenge produces the most exciting theater. When you see a great story like Apollo 13, where so many people are involved in solving a problem, I think it’s just a good match up for theater.”

Especially, said Potter, as Apollo 13 is essentially a story of people fixing a mistake gone horribly wrong.

“The idea of doing a show based on a mistake, and how people came together to solve that mistake, and learn from it, and turn it from a failure into one of the most endearing and powerful events of the whole Apollo program matches what happens throughout the rehearsal process,” he said. “I’m constantly asking the kids to make mistakes, so I wanted to give them a story where one mistake turns into a beautiful event.”

The story, he said, will be split between the three main astronauts and the ground control crew. As for how to simulate the Apollo 13 mission, that will be a difficulty that the children themselves will have to help figure out.

Overcoming challenges

This year will be full of challenges, the directors admitted. Some are specific to this year, such as having to depict space travel in two different stories. Other are one the theater deals with routinely, such as crafting a story that utilizes the large cast of young actors.

But the beautiful thing about working with children is that while those challenges are hurdles to be overcome, they’re not insurmountable, said Mezzochi.

“With all the professional theaters we work at through the year, the one that’s the most open and the one where we get to work with performers really willing to go the distance and ready for new experiences is Andy’s. They’re really the best actors I work with all year, and it just so happens that they’re children,” he said.

Some of the stories the directors want to tell are complex, even adult, but that is often the case, said Potter, and as long as the leaders of the program treat their actors like they can handle it, it’s never been a problem getting the kids to understand the subject matter. And they can usually bring a perspective to the performance than an adult theater can’t.

“There’s a weird perspective where we think because a child is 8 or 10 that they’re not capable of understanding these events,” said Potter of “Apollo 13.” “But in reality, if you just explain the story, they get it. They understand. I’m going to trust that they’re capable of understanding. As long as you treat them like they are a person, a human being and not a child, you can do any story you want to.”

Mezzochi agreed. “Sure there’s all these lessons in the story,” he said of “The Little Prince,” “but if I ask them to portray this or that, it would be a child playing to adult notions. And instead, if I let them do what they need to do to tell the story that resonates in them, it’s an eight-year-old on stage being an eight-year-old. It brings something out that’s special and unpredictable.”

Auditions for Andy’s Summer Playhouse will take place on March 10 at Temple Elementary School, and March 16, at an undermined location. To contact Andy’s Summer Playhouse or register for auditions, email info@andyssummerplayhouse.org or call 654-2613.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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