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Andy’s Playhouse to stage ‘To Begin Again’

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse will produce a three-week run of 'To Begin Again' starting Friday, Aug. 6. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse will produce a three-week run of 'To Begin Again' starting Friday, Aug. 6. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse will produce a three-week run of 'To Begin Again' starting Friday, Aug. 6. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse will produce a three-week run of 'To Begin Again' starting Friday, Aug. 6. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse will produce a three-week run of 'To Begin Again' starting Friday, Aug. 6. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse will produce a three-week run of 'To Begin Again' starting Friday, Aug. 6. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse will produce a three-week run of 'To Begin Again' starting Friday, Aug. 6. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse will produce a three-week run of 'To Begin Again' starting Friday, Aug. 6. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse will produce a three-week run of 'To Begin Again' starting Friday, Aug. 6. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Andy's Summer Playhouse will produce a three-week run of 'To Begin Again' starting Friday, Aug. 6. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/5/2021 10:40:32 AM

At a recent rehearsal, Andy’s Summer Playhouse producing artistic director Jared Mezzocchi had a message for his group of young actors and actresses.

“What we are doing is unlike any theater in the country,” Mezzocchi said as the group reconvened after a quick break.

And what Andy’s is doing, besides embarking on a return to live theater after a year away from performing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is putting on a show that will give the audience a peek into what the last year-plus was like for the kids.

For those signing up, the description was both vague and powerful. The 2021 summer season was simply titled “We Are...” and from there the possibilities were endless.

“We really started out with nothing,” Mezzocchi said. And that was the point.

Mezzocchi is a firm believer in bringing his young artists into the creative process. For the first week, Mezzocchi didn’t even tell the kids what the show was about or anything about the characters. Instead he wanted to listen and learn about their experiences living through the first global pandemic in more than 100 years. So he put together a bunch of activities and simply observed what they were doing and saying, jotting down quotes, ideas and themes.

While the kids were admittedly anxious without the typical structure of a performance, Mezzocchi said “I knew exactly where we were going.”

“It was showing them the experience can be shaped into something,” he said. At the beginning of week two, he had 10 pages of a script. Three days later there were 10 more.

“They saw how their words were inside the script,” Mezzocchi said. “We kept running it from the top and could see where it was leading. It felt like we were constantly digging through a mine together.”

Mezzocchi equated it to painting: the first week they mixed the paint and in week two they were finger painting.

“They have great ideas so how do we create a mechanism to put the pencil in their hands,” he said.

What resulted is “To Begin Again,” an exploration of the relationship between two teenagers, Derek and Ella. The characters are portrayed by Derek Lechner and Ella Blanchard, both longtime Andy’s participants in their final years.

“I really enjoyed the process of building the show together,” Blanchard said. “And it makes you feel more connected with your character.”

Each one was tasked with crafting a monologue that is impactful and paints a picture of what it was like for the younger generation to be separated from their friends, learning at home and dealing with the already difficult challenges of growing up.

“He wants it to be very genuine,” Lechner said of Mezzocchi. “He told us to capture how we are feeling right now. So I basically just wrote what I was thinking when I was thinking it.”

Lechner said if he had no contact with friends at all, his character would essentially be him.

The rest of the Andy’s group helps create the scene for Derek and Ella’s reconnection.

“It’s looking through the lens of two teenagers coming back together in person and what is going on in their heads as they reengage with the world,” Mezzocchi said.

It’s been an evolving work as scenes and dialogue have continuously changed.

“Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect,” Lechner said. “I knew we always do really interesting work here at Andy’s and was excited to see what it was going to be.”

“To Begin Again” is the second act in Andy’s only production this summer and will be performed through the entirety of the three-week run, beginning this Friday. Shows will be Friday through Sunday this weekend, Thursday through Sunday the second weekend (Aug. 12-15) and Wednesday through Friday (Aug.18-20) to close out the schedule. But it won’t be the only thing audience members can anticipate. The first act will vary each weekend and grew out of three workshops led by guest contributors around directing, playwriting and dance.

“It’s another reflection of the kids creating work on their own,” Mezzocchi said.

The audience will be seated exclusively outside Andy’s, but the show will feature a mixture of work performed both on the new outdoor stage in front of those in attendance, as well as inside the theater, which will be projected on a large screen hung on the playhouse wall.

There are two options for the audience: sit under a tent in one of the provided chairs or bring your own chair to set up in a designated area of the parking lot. Parking is limited so attendees are encouraged to carpool if they can.

While the Digital Renaissance Project, created to fill the void last summer, allowed 70 young artists to work through creativity in a variety of various mediums online, there is no substitute for what Andy’s has become so well known for – being on the stage. For Blanchard, she’s just glad to have another chance to perform.

“It just feels weird and overwhelming that this is my last show,” Blanchard said. “It just feels crazy I won’t be able to do this again.”

And for Mezzocchi, just returning to live theater is a breath of fresh air. And he wasn’t the only one who missed working on lines, rehearsals and the feeling of being in front of a live audience.

“I think it’s just a new landscape in general,” Lechner said. “And we get to experiment with a lot of things.”

Mezzocchi said his goal for this season was to “provide a space where kids can be flexible and adaptive.” It took some time for everyone involved to see the path forward, but as opening night approaches, the totality of the project has become clearer.

Tickets can be purchased online at https://www.andyssummerplayhouse.org/tickets-2021, over the phone or in-person at the Andy’s box office. For questions about accessibility or the show, call the box office at (603) 654-2613 or email boxoffice@andyssummerplayhouse.org.


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