Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Working With the Guys and Dolls of Montgomery Theater, Too

by Nora Algeo

When one thinks of gambles, sinners, and hotbox dancers it’s doubtful that the image of a 12 year-old comes to mind. However, with sincerity, determination, and a light-hearted spin the cast of Guys and Dolls Jr. has proven to me that young actors could actually run New York City! When Tom Quinn offered me the role of General Cartwright I was so excited to get back to work at Montgomery Theater. Little did I know that at my ripe old age of 22 I would become over-powered by a slew of extremely talented youngsters. These kids can do it all, and then some! The most rewarding part of this experience was watching the kids grow and evolve as they developed their own individual characters. We all learned so much throughout the rehearsal process and in the end we truly came together as an ensemble. Aside from the back-stage shenanigans (we are kids after all), what you see on stage is wonderful and unique product that is never to be seen again. There’s an old saying in theater that one never wants to work with kids and animals. Yet, I couldn’t image better working conditions.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Montgomery Theater, Too

If you read our brochure this year you might have noticed that Montgomery Theater, Jr. is now Montgomery Theater, Too. Yes, that means we're growing up, but it doesn't mean the essence of what we do has changed. Just like MTJ before it, MTT offers opportunities for young people to perform in professionally-produced musicals and plays.

No matter what the name is, you always know when one of our Project Stage musicals is about to open because our office staff becomes prone to breaking out in song and the green room is filled every afternoon with rambunctious adolescent performers. The energy of these student actors pervades the whole building and reminds everyone why it's so much fun to watch young actors work. The enthusiasm and excitement these kids exhibit can't be matched by the most trained actor in the world. And following a young person through the years as she develops her skills and turns into a polished performer is hugely satisfying.

As Guys & Dolls is set to open, I've been hearing snippets of "Fugue for Tinhorns" (I had to look up the title, but I'm sure you know the song), "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" and of course "Adelaide's Lament" as people walk by my office. I can't wait to hear the real thing this weekend. I hope you'll join me!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

You Don't Have to Go to Philadelphia for Quality Theater

by Bonnie Rankin, Montgomery Theater Board Member

When my employer transferred me back to the Delaware Valley a few years ago after a sojourn in New York, I was ecstatic to be returning to my family and friends, and thrilled to be back at our corporate headquarters. I was grumpy, however, that that the only way to see professional theater would now mean a night-time, hassle-laden trek into Philadelphia.
Or so I thought…

You see, theater and the arts (and travel, actually, except for post-work jaunts on the Schuylkill) are my great passions. Growing up in Doylestown, shows at the Bucks County Playhouse were a huge part of my life, and in college I acted in a dozen plays, travelling with friends to see dozens more. In New York, of course, there were countless opportunities, including road trips to the Stratford Festival and the Shaw Festival in Ontario, Canada. As this potential theatrical void loomed, evidently I became a bit whiney.

That’s when a dear friend (thanks, Pat!) mentioned that we should go see a play at Montgomery Theater. And so we did. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I did not realize back then that Montgomery Theater is a professional playhouse which hires Equity Actors, as opposed to being a “community theater.” Anyway, after thirty minutes in this jewel box of a theater, my heart was full again. What talent! What a venue! What positive energy! I was hooked.

The next day I phoned Tom Quinn and asked what I could do to help the theater. I remember my heart sinking when he asked if I could sew costumes. No. Or paint scenery. Umm, no… No talents in either of those areas. But I do know business and marketing and organizational development, and I know how to formulate strategies and make things happen. Might any of those things be useful? And so I was invited to join Montgomery Theater’s Board of Directors.

Now, four years later, it turns out that being involved with Montgomery Theater has become one of the great joys of my life. I’ve made wonderful, creative friends who share that sense of building something that matters. I’ve had the opportunities to help select a new Managing Director (the wonderful Allegra Ketchum) and to lead the Board and staff in the creation of a new three-year strategic plan. It’s incredibly rewarding to see our strategic initiatives in education and marketing forging ahead nicely. Currently I’m assisting in the revamping of our website so that Montgomery Theater’s image to the outside world is more like the first-class operation that we already are. And, I am working with another Board member to build an Ambassador program that will better leverage the energies of our loyal fan base in the coming years.

I describe Montgomery Theater to friends and neighbors as a little jewel in our midst, and tell everyone what a privilege to be part of this high quality organization. And I mean it. Encore!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Typical Montgomery Theater Assistant Stage Manager

by Paul McEntegart

What a lot of people don’t consider when they come to see a show at the Montgomery Theater is what goes on behind the scenes or back stage during the show. So let me take you through a typical night at the Montgomery Theater. First of all, let’s assume nothing goes wrong. I won’t forget to set any props, and there won’t be any wardrobe malfunctions. It’s a Friday evening. I arrive at the theater at 7:00--an hour before curtain. Now it’s time to make the coffee. When it’s done brewing, I pour it into a large percolator that is placed stage right on top of what appears to be a heater. Next to that, I place eight cups. A stack of four, a stack of two and a single cup by itself for Joe. Typically, I would have already set the trash on the desks, taped Charlie’s paper to the blackboard, and wrote “Welcome Parents” on it, reset Mary’s desk, and reset the crayons and field trip activity papers after the last show. It is during this time that I make sure that I haven’t forgotten anything. I check to make sure that two catechisms are placed upstage in the first stage left desk, as well as the first center stage desk, a bag of pistachios is placed backstage left, Mary’s note for her students is placed in the right pocket of her jacket located back stage center, and Mother Regina’s green folder is placed backstage right. The flowers and violin are always located backstage right, because after each show, one of the first things I do is retrieve them from the desks that they end up on. Before I am done, I set a coconut glazed donut into a donut box located on a stage right desk. Something a lot of people don’t realize is that everything is set exactly the same every night, even the trash on the desks. On one of our dress rehearsals, I took pictures of the trash on my phone, in order to make sure that every cup and napkin is placed in the exact same position it was the night before. Now I make my way up to the dressing rooms. I wipe off the chalk marks on Joe’s jacket, blazer and pants, so as to create the illusion that Joe has never had any contact with the blackboard located in Mary’s classroom. During the show it is my job to strike the donut box, cups, napkins, plates and coffee percolator after the first scene. I signal Father Stanley to enter during scene two, just before Mary and Joe kiss (they don’t kiss). I strike Father Stanley’s janitor jacket, mop, and erase the blackboard during intermission. I signal Mother Regina to enter in scene one of act two, and place (spoiler alert!) Mary’s suit cases center stage just after the first scene in act two. That’s it. Honestly, anyone could do this. It’s probably one of the easiest jobs I ever had, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I feel like I have a family at the Montgomery Theater, and although the stage has transformed from a kitchen, to a trailer park and now to a classroom in the time that I’ve worked there, it will always be my home.