Setting the stage
Andy’s Summer Playhouse: 2014 season to be announced at annual Winter Gala on Saturday at the Monadnock Country Club
The children and teenagers that make up the Andy's Summer Playhouse theater program act as employees of mission control, during a performance of "Apollo 13," the musical written and directed by Andy's Producing Artistic Director DJ Potter, during their 2013 performing season.
Andy's Summer Playhouse performs "The Audrey Gore Legacy" during its 2013 Summer season.
"The Awdrey-Gore Legacy," Andy's summer premiere, opens June 29. Chauney Krook of New Ipswich and Matthew Guyotte of Wilton play Dr. Belgravius and Lady Flora in this murder-mystery story.
(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
Andy's Summer Playhouse in Wilton has launched a fundraising campaign to raise $30,000 to provide for a touring season, new seats for the Playhouse theater and an expansion of Andy's backstage apprenticeship opportunities.
Every year, Andy’s Summer Playhouse puts on three world premiere plays written for the Andy’s stage. And every year, fans of the regional children’s theater program have to wait with baited breath for Andy’s annual Winter Gala to discover what subjects each play will take on.
This year is no different, said Andy’s Producing Artistic Director DJ Potter in an interview Friday. While the titles and content of each script — all now still in their infant stages — are a closely guarded secret until the gala, set for Saturday at the Monadnock Country Club, when Andy’s supporters get a first peek at the coming season, there are a few things Potter said will be included.
This coming year will be a year for the girls, Potter said. Last year, Potter wrote and directed the season’s last performance — always a musical — based on the Apollo 13 NASA mission. While the show was full of great characters, the nature of writing a show based at a certain time and portraying real-life events, meant there were not a lot of parts for girls to be found. There were a lot of actresses up on stage with their hair up, playing male parts. And while they did admirably, Potter has made a point this year of bringing in more roles for girls.
“It seemed just silly that we had strong female performers but not female roles,” said Potter. “All the productions that we do, will be centered around girl protagonists, and far more female roles than we’ve had in the past.” Potter later added, “It all makes a lot of sense when you think about the fact that about 70 percent of our participants are women. Hopefully by shining a little light on the issue this summer, strong roles for many women can just become a part of what makes an Andy’s show an Andy’s show. I think it’s also worth noting that women writers and directors outnumber the men this season. I don’t know many theater companies that can say the same.”
Potter said he hopes Andy’s can become a place that better balances the larger view of the role women play in the theater world. “The lack of women with major roles or high position jobs in theater these days is a sad state of affairs,” he said. “If Andy’s can do something to shift the scales, and make things more balanced, to have young girls learn that there is a place for them at the top, then I think we should do it.”
The first show of the season is being written by Jessica DiGiacinto and directed by Jenny Emerson Foreman. DiaGiacinto is an Andy’s alum and writer based in New York City. Foreman has been the director of Andy’s playwriting lab for the past four years and is also an Andy’s alum and a dance teacher at the Dublin School. The second show will be written and directed by another Andy’s alum, Jared Mezzocchi of Brooklyn, N.Y., formerly of Hollis. Potter will be writing and directing this year’s musical, with music composed by Potter and Patrick Boutwell, who has been working on Andy’s musicals for the past three years.
If the touring show gets enough support to get off the ground, it will be written and directed by Shannon Sexton Potter, a theater artist living in Providence, R.I., who wrote and directed last summer’s “The Audrey Gore Legacy.” This year’s John C. Russel Playwriting Lab will be directed by Wyckham Avery.
While some of the shows may be looking at real-life historical figures, Potter hinted, all of them will be original scripts, not adaptations of films or books. “That was another goal of mine for the season,” said Potter. “Andy’s totally embraces adaptations of other works, but this year I wanted to go completely original. As far as source material, we’re not dealing with a tried and true book or an early film or something like that.”
Creating an original work is different from adapting one, said Potter, and offers both different challenges and rewards. “You don’t have an outline to work off of, so you have to start from scratch. It’s liberating in a lot of ways, but it’s not quite as easy. If you’re doing an adaptation of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ for example, you have a clear source material to jump off of. When you’re doing an original work, the process takes longer, but is far more gratifying for the writer, director and the performers to be involved in something that they are truly creating.”
In addition to giving a glimpse at the upcoming season, the gala is also one of Andy’s most important fundraising events of the season. This year, Andy’s is campaigning to both expand its program and give its theater, located in Wilton, some updated seating. The campaign, which seeks to raise $30,000, is expected to pay for new seats in the theater, a new outbuilding to be used for set design and building, as well as a fourth touring show.
“We’re reaching the point that we have so many participants that, if we didn’t add another program, we would have had to turn kids away. I didn’t want to do that,” said Potter. The tour is not a full-fledged main stage show, but can support 15 additional children traveling around the region with a stripped down set to perform in multiple venues.
“It allows us to reach out and touch the communities we serve, and inspire other kids in the audience to join Andy’s next summer,” said Potter.
The gala will include a dinner, dancing with music provided by the Temple Dance Band, along with previews of this year’s line up. Children who have participated in Andy’s in the past will help present scenes from the upcoming shows, and will perform a song from the musical. The gala will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Monadnock Country Club in Peterborough. Tickets are $35 for adults, $15 for children under 18, and can be purchased through the Andy’s website at www.andyssummerplayhouse.org.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.