Wednesday, March 14, 2007

?The calla lilies are in bloom again?

?Stage Door? plays at The Community School

Express Staff Writer

?Stage Door? boarding house girls. Front row from left to right Mattie Griswold, Hayle Zanes, Ashley Bradley and Amaya Ingram. Back row from left to right Maggie Shafran, Tate Reid-McDorman, Austin Nalen, Gabby Sisson and Ricki Eshman. Photo by Willy Cook

"Stage Door" is set in the mid-1930s in New York City at the height of the Great Depression in a boardinghouse for aspiring actresses. At the time, the amount of Broadway shows had been reduced to nearly half of what existed in 1929.

The lure of Hollywood to the hundreds of out-of-work Broadway actors, writers and directors was very attractive especially because it offered an escape from the dire straits of New York City as well as the dream of easy money.

Funny and heartbreaking, "Stage Door" reveals the elation of landing acting jobs only to have a show close in one week and the loss of hope altogether. The play's main focus is about how one is resourceful with their talent and how that talent is marketed, which, in a sense, is a metaphor for how to handle life.

In 1937 the play was adapted for screen starring Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and Adolphe Menjou as well as an appearance by Lucille Ball. It went on to receive four Oscar nominations including best picture in 1938. The film's director, Gregory La Cava, received the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director in 1937.

"Stage Door" is a particularly good choice for a high school production because it reflects upon the aspirations and dreams of teenagers. Such dreams can be promising but also very intimidating.

"It is a difficult play because it has such a big cast, but it is ideal for a high school," said Fritz Brun, director for the Community School Players. "The students are open minded to it, and willing to experiment. It's well written, and they like it."

Through the quiet advisement of Laurence Maslon, his ideas and suggestions for productions have inspired the Players. Maslon is a stage director, cartoonist, playwright and translator who is a musical theatre professor at New York University and co-producer of the recent PBS television series, "Broadway: The American Musical" as well as co-author of the companion coffee table book based on the series.

In addition, Maslon is the literary executor of George S. Kaufman's estate. The close connection of the Players to Maslon allowed for the permission of the play not only to be modified in respect to Kaufman's original version, but Maslon was able to offer notes on the production as well.

"It is a period piece. It spills out into theater and gives a very good sense of the 30s,"Brun said.

The Players' production of "Stage Door" is dedicated to Maslon in honor of his consideration and support of this production. In addition, the first performance of "Stage Door" on Thursday, March 15, is Theatre Senior Night in honor of departing seniors Rachael Becker, Ryon Campbell, Alexandra Dallago, Alexis du Pont, Brendon Nelson, Katie Peterson, Pepa Roth, Gabbi Sisson, Caleb Sonneland, Will Van Eaton and Louisa Waycott.

"It's a new thing I started. I stole the idea from basketball because I thought we had to honor them," Brun said. "There is a great deal of participation from the school. Usually a quarter of The Community School is involved in a production."

'Stage Door'

- By Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, 1936.

- Directed by Fritz Brun, costumes by Michele Minailo and Winkie McCray, sets by Rick and Stacie Brew and Rebecca Waycott, lighting by Michael Beesley and music selected by Dick Brown.

- Presented by The Community School Players.

- Thursday, March 15, through Saturday, March 17, 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 17 and March 18, 3 p.m. matinees.

- Tickets: $8 adults, $4 students. Tickets available Chapter One, Iconoclast in Hailey, and the Theatre Door. Theatre Hotline: 622-3960, ext. 131.

- Cast: Amaya Ingram (Olga Brandt), Ricki Eshman (Bernice Niemeyer), Tate Reed-McDorman (Susan Paige), Emily O'Reilly (Mattie), Sarah Adicoff (Mary Harper and Big Mary), Hailey Zanes (Mary McClune and Little Mary), Alexandra Dallago (Madeleine Vauclain), Maggie Shafran (Ann Braddock), Rachael Becker (Judith Canfield), Louisa Waycott (Mrs. Orcutt), Gabby Sisson (Kaye Hamilton), Jessica Bradley (Pat Devine), Elizabeth Beesley (Linda Shaw), Shawnee Brew (Jean Maitland), Ashley Bradley (Bobby Melrose), Mattie Griswold (Louise Mitchell), Austin Nalen (Kendall Adams), Caroline Fairchild (Terry Randall), Geoffrey Ruppert (Sam Hastings), Noah Koski (Jimmy Deveraux and Larry Westcott), Mac Whittington (Fred Powell), Max Harris (Lou Milhauser), Harry Dreyfuss (David Kingsley), Casper Brun (Keith Burgess), Melissa Becker (Mrs. Shaw), Christian Dallago (Dr. Randall), Anita Vorsteveld (Billy) and Adolph Gretzl(Will Van Eaton).

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