Posts Tagged Cindy Hartog

Director’s blog #4: “It’s a Theater Miracle!”

That’s one of my niece’s sayings. For many years in her childhood and early teens she spent a week to ten days with me in the summer, helping to get my summer show up. She learned to sew hems and buttons, to paint textures, to sponge paint on, to take rehearsal notes, to be “on book” for the actors, and to hold my hand when the amount of work remaining seemed impossible to fit into the tiny amount of time remaining. On opening night she’d smile and say, “It’s a theater miracle!”

The community theater “model” depends heavily on the work of volunteers, and thus depends heavily on the existence of a supply of volunteers. In the late ‘forties, ‘fifties, and ‘sixties, when community theater was in its heyday in the U.S., whole families participated in productions, with daddy on the building crew, the kids helping to manage the stage or run the lights, mommy in the cast…or daddy in the cast, mommy working on costumes, the kids doing gofer work…or any other of a large number of variations. Of course the company would also include retired professionals, college grads with extracurricular theater experience, and people new in town wanting to get involved in the life of the community.

Nowadays we’re looking at a different picture. If the kids have time left over from the organized activities designed to get them into a good college, they want a paying job. Mommy and daddy might also need to use their “extra” time to make some extra money, or their employers may expect more than 40 hours’ work a week from them. College grads and youngish adults who enjoy acting may be doing paid work as film extras or trying to break into professional theater. On top of that, there are more community theaters, at least in this part of Connecticut, than there used to be, so the people with time and energy to volunteer are hot commodities, with companies competing for their help.

That’s why so many community theaters find themselves scrambling for personnel, especially backstage personnel, when production time rolls around. Good designers and crews are hard to find.

I was lucky with The Seafarer to have a truly great set designer, Al Kulcsar. He’s done a lot of sets for shows of mine, and they are always genuine places of habitation for the characters in the play, inviting art works for the audience, and good working environments for the actors. He himself also acts (he’s in The Seafarer!) and directs, so he knows what the needs of a cast and a show are. I also was fortunate to have an offer from Jeff Klein to design lights. Jeff is both experienced and in demand, but what I prize most are his artistic eye and collaborative grace. He was inspired by one of the moments in the play to design a special lighting effect that deepens the emotion and effectiveness of the scene in a way that we could not have otherwise accomplished. And I had a wonderful costumer, in the person of Al’s sister, Mary Kulcsar. We’ve done more shows together than I can count, and it’s always a good experience. Rob Pawlikowski, also in the cast, collected and created necessary sound effects, something he is good at and enjoys. My young neighbor Gregory was also helping me at rehearsals, following the script for the actors and helping to deal with props.

Late in the process Joan Lasprogato stepped in to serve as producer for the show. I often work in tandem with my producer, because I like some of the tasks myself, but it’s great to have somebody good to oversee the whole endeavor, support the cast and me, supplement my efforts in the Props department, and sometimes just be there with a cheerful resourcefulness.

But ten days out, there we were. No Stage Manager. No one to execute Sound and Light cues. No one to run props during the show. Needless to say, those people are really important!

Cindy Hartog, who’s on the WCT Board, contacted me to say she could run props for some of the performances and her husband Marc could run lights and sound for those same performances. She also gave me the name of someone who might be able to do lights and sound for the rehearsals and other performances, Kristian Correa. Paul Lenhart came in and loaded the Sound cues and merged them with the Light cues Jeff had written so that everything could be run from one board, by one operator. Ray Stephens came in for some extra help with the board. Cindy also sent me Rachel Rothman Cohen to fill in on Props at the dress/technical rehearsals. And I woke up in the middle of the night just a few days before opening and exclaimed, “Ward Whipple!” Ward has acted in a few shows with me, and I’ve known him for many years. He had asked, when auditions were being held for The Seafarer, if there was anything I needed help with. Aha. I flew down to the computer and sent him an e-mail. He had never done backstage work before, but he said he’d give it a try. As it turns out, he seems to be a natural Props master, and he was able to fill almost all the gaps in the schedule. And then…we got Bethany Schalow. She was another “find” of Cindy’s. She has a solid theater education, good experience managing stage, and a calm and efficient demeanor. Best of all, she was available for most of our performances, plus our tech rehearsals.

So scant days before opening, I had nobody backstage, and now I have a competent and cooperative crew doing as wonderful a job backstage as my actors are doing onstage. The program had to be printed before many of these people materialized, so I wanted to be sure to celebrate them here.

Believe me, it’s a Theater Miracle.

P.S. Opening weekend went smoothly, with three fine performances presented to enthusiastic audiences and me thrilled in the shadows. Seven performances remain. I really think this is a production not to be missed.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Meet the Cast, Director and Stage Manager of “Moonlight and Magnolias”

"Moonlight and Magnolias" at Westport Community Theatre, September 16 – October 2

Cast, director and stage manager of "Moonlight and Magnolias"

A little more about our wonderful cast, director and stage manager of “Moonlight and Magnolias”:

John Bachelder – “Victor Fleming”
John is very happy to be back at WCT with this great cast and crew. Other Westport productions include:  Joe Cantwell in “The Best Man,” Col. Jessup in “A Few Good Men” and Sherlock Holmes in “Sherlock’s Last Case.” Other theater roles include: Mr. Lockhart in “The Seafarer,”  Teach in “American Buffalo.” Jake in “Jake’s Women”  and Allen in “Play it again Sam.”  John can also be seen in the movies, in “Greenmail” with Stephen Baldwin and Tom Skerritt, and “Benefit of the Doubt” with Donald Sutherland and Amy Irving. His favorite productions remain his two sons, Philip and Mickey, co-produced with his wife, Marilyn.

Bob Filipowich – “David O. Selznik”
Bob has a very vague memory of watching the burning of Atlanta while dressed in his pajamas, in the back of his parents Country Squire at a drive-in movie theater on Cape Cod many summers ago. Who knew he’d be reenacting scenes from this epic movie years later on the WCT stage? He is happy to be working on this production with such a wonderfully talented ensemble cast and awesome crew. Bob has appeared most recently on the WCT stage as John Stapleton in “The Hound of the Baskerville’s” Other recent credits include, Floyd Spinner in “Love, Sex and the IRS”, Bobby Carlye in “Postmortem” and Buddy in “Follies” all at The Powerhouse Theater in New Canaan. Other favorite roles he has performed in locally are, The Leading Player in “Pippin” and Vittorio Vidal in “Sweet Charity” at The Wilton Playshop and Harold Hill in “The Music Man” at Stamford’s Curtain Call Theater.

Cindy Hartog – “Miss Poppenghul”
Cindy Hartog is thrilled to be back on the stage at WCT, where she is a long-standing board member. She was last seen in WCT’s “Rumors,”  “Lend Me A Tenor,” and “Spider’s Web,” Eastbound’s “Brooklyn Boy,” and The Wilton Playshop’s “The Nerd.”  To WCT audiences, Cindy might be most famous for catering all the goodies for the opening night parties! Cindy is a graduate of The Institute of Culinary Education in NYC and classically trained in acting at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, The Williamstown Theatre Festival, and NYC’s Neighborhood Playhouse. In addition, she has a Masters in Educational Theatre from New York University. Merging her roles as real life chef, actor, and teacher,  Cindy is the owner of Cindy’s Sous Chefs, a company which teaches both children and adults the art of cooking, always sprinkled with a bit of the dramatic!  Cindy truly feels lucky to finally work with such a gifted and artistic director as Jessica Denes, a trio of such polished, professional, and talented actors, and a capable and caring pair of Producer and Stage Manager!

Rick Waln – “Ben Hecht”
Rick Waln finds himself once again lured into the pursuit of thespian glory. It was nine years ago that he appeared after an eighteen-year hiatus right here at WCT in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Be forewarned: at this rate he may be coming your way again in 2015. Global stardom has thus far eluded him, but the older of those among you may recognize his face from any of the two hundred commercials he has made both in Los Angeles and New York. Truly dedicated fans can find him in reruns of “M*A*S*H,” “Barney Miller ” and “Married: With Children.” Whoever said, “You can’t go home again” didn’t check with Rick. He’s back and having a grand time thanks to all involved with “Moonlight and Magnolias.” One can only hope that it’s as much fun to watch the show as it was to prepare it.

Jessica Denes – Director
Jessica is thrilled to be once again working on the Westport stage!  For WCT she directed last season’s production of “Mixed Couples,” one of WCT’s most acclaimed productions,“Master Class,” and “Veronica’s Room.” Last spring she brought the gripping and provocative “Orange Flower Water” to the ETC stage. She has also directed for Eastbound Theatre, Crystal Theatre Company, and several other area stages. She is a member of the WCT Administrative Board. Jessica Denes has appeared for WCT in “Orson’s Shadow” and “A Murder Is Announced” (among others); she has also performed with Town Players of New Canaan, Eastbound Theatre, Wilton Playshop, and Crystal Theatre Company.

Robyn Mortiboys – Production Stage Manager
This is Robyn’s first production at WCT. She has recently been PSM for “Blithe Spirit,” directed by Scott Brill, and the staged reading of “A Woman Called God,” written by David Canary and directed by Maureen Maloney, both at the Wilton Playshop. After “Moonlight and Magnolias,” Robyn will be production stage manager for “Mrs. Warren’s Profession,” directed by Larry Schneider at the Ridgefield Theatre Barn this November.

 

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments