Bigfork Summer Playhouse

Everybody Cut Loose!

FOOTLOOSE

“On Any Sunday”

This weekend we closed the final show of our summer season, Footloose. And wow, what a night it was, full of extreme highs and unexpected lows at the sudden realization that our time together as a company had come to an end. It was a fantastic release of so many emotions both onstage and off, and it will not be an evening I will soon forget.

As with the other shows of the summer, Footloose further solidified the bonds between our company of friends. One of the most special memories I will cherish will be the recent Sunday when four of us sang in the local church choir just as we sang together onstage with the congregation of Beaumont. It was a surreal morning with art reflected in life and love shared among all as we raised our voices together in harmony.

[Actually] On Any Sunday

[Actually] On Any Sunday

Footloose is among movie musicals such as Dirty Dancing and Flashdance that have been adapted for the stage to not quite the same effect as the original cinema versions. While the plot can be difficult to sustain without the movie’s trademark fast cuts and music video qualities, there are quite a few hit songs and honest lines that ground the production among a plethora of dance sequences.

There is a time to every purpose under heaven — a time to laugh and a time to weep. There is a time to mourn and there is a time to dance…And this is our time. Our time to celebrate life. That’s the way it was in the beginning, the way it’s always been, and that’s the way it should be now. (Ren McCormack, Footloose)

I immensely enjoyed my time portraying Vi Moore in Footloose. Through the course of the show, Vi supports the fresh ideas of newcomer Ren McCormack while trying to facilitate a seemingly impossible reconciliation of her broken family. Still recovering from the loss of her son, she struggles to reclaim relationships with her distant husband and headstrong daughter. Vi presented my most dramatic musical role to date, offering rich opportunities for character study and the discovery of vulnerable and raw moments. Our preliminary character development discussions with director Michael Smith proved invigorating and generated much material for consideration in making strong choices, and I found myself utilizing previously undiscovered capacities in intellectual and emotionally stimulating ways. Although my role required no dancing in the “dance musical” of the season, I left the stage each evening fulfilled with the same simultaneous sense of exhaustion and excitement as I do performing more movement-heavy roles.

Closing night of Footloose was replete with quite a few tears, but it was also an unabashed celebration of life just as Ren states in Act II. The summer nights at this “theatre by the bay” have flown by rapidly, but we have seized every chance to live life and share our passions with the amazing people that form our audiences, friends, and families. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Stay Open to the Maybes

ANNIE

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“N.Y.C.”

The story of little orphan Annie is one that is familiar to most, whether it be from the original Chicago Tribune comic strips, the mid-century radio shows, the Broadway musical, or the subsequent hit movies. I was exposed to Annie at a young age and vividly remember my first time watching the 1982 movie; it was a rapturous experience to observe Broadway talent gracing the silver screen, a phenomenon not typically seen in blockbuster movies. That cast acquitted the story so well without distracting from its core themes, themes which continue to resonate with today’s audiences to make Annie a timeless classic.

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“N.Y.C.”

This season I had the pleasure of participating in this heartwarming story under the guidance of director-choreographer Janie Slavens, whose past experiences with the show provided special insights into our production. Our music direction was capably handled by Max Luton, who kept our cutoffs on point and our harmonies on track, especially for our brief stint on the airwaves at the top of Act II. One of my favorite parts of the show, the radio scene, provided excellent fodder for real-life friendships throughout the summer. I cannot express how much I loved being a Boylan Sister, and how dearly I cherish the bonds of sibling love that formed between Connie, Ronnie, Bonnie, and our watchful brother, Jonnie. Our nightly intermission warmups, gum-chewing, giggle fits, and stealthy shared looks resulted in quite a few spontaneous and memorable moments as we sang words that reflect my personal outlook on life:

Your clothes may be Beau Brummelly,
They stand out a mile,
But brother you’re never fully dressed
Without a smile!

No matter how tough things may seem in the present, they will get better, and we must always look for the positive in every situation. It is this sense of optimism that prevails through the entirety of Annie as one little girl brings smiles and joy to everyone she meets, making the troubles of the Great Depression fade away. We were so fortunate in our cast of little girls, who handled themselves so professionally and gave each show their all, even singing the refrains of “Tomorrow” together backstage after the curtain had closed. Their families kindly welcomed us company members into their homes, becoming our surrogate BSP parents much in the manner of Daddy Warbucks and Grace Farrell.

The Boylans!

The Boylans!

The love among this cast has been incredible, and the enthusiasm for life absolutely infectious. On opening night, our director gently reminded us to “stay open to the maybes” and keep a curious mind for whatever opportunities the world has to offer. This whole summer has reaffirmed the validity of her suggestion for myself and I think for many other company members. We all took a chance on life by venturing far beyond our homes to perform and grow in a magical mountain town few of us had heard of prior to this year. As we took the plunge and dove headlong into this incredibly wild season, we forged friendships and lifelong bonds that will stay with us no matter what comes our way. And as we prepare to part ways, we part with open hearts and warm smiles, knowing that tomorrow is only a day away.

It’s Family First and Family Last

THE ADDAMS FAMILY

When You're An Addams

“When You’re An Addams” 

Strangely enough, the act of emerging from a dusty old crypt has been one of the absolute highlights of my summer. It has been an unexpected joy to be a member of the Addams family, a troupe replete with wildly funny and highly colorful individuals (don’t let the ghostly white makeup fool you). This bunch of crazy, happy people is most certainly alive and kicking up a powder storm of unabashed joy every night.

Let's Not Talk About Anything Else But Love

“…But Love”

Rehearsals for The Addams Family occurred simultaneously with Man of LaMancha, offering the company a great chance to embrace contrasting styles of contemporary and classic fare. While Addams specializes in a lighter tone of slapstick and crisp comedic moments, it provides a surprisingly emotional punch through its heartfelt themes of embracing differences and cherishing family bonds. Our fantastic director, Scott Seidl, emphasized the core message of the show throughout the amazingly efficient rehearsal process, which focused on bold choices and tight pacing. Our insightful choreographer, Marisa Kirby, created a highly specific movement vocabulary that accentuated the quirky style of the family and beautifully complemented the score. We were also led by the fearless Lizzie Hatfield, whose strong musical direction aided and abetted in the sharp delivery of darkly humorous and often poignant lyrics. On opening night, we were reminded to keep words from the closing number in mind for the duration of the run:

Move toward the darkness. Welcome in your pain.
Let each foreign forest offer you its rain.
Only at our lowest can we rise above.
Move toward the darkness and Love.

I have truly loved performing this show; it is such a wonderful send-up of old-school vaudeville combined with contemporary sensibilities and has something for every audience member of every generation. As the Bride Ancestor (I have named her Elizabeth Addams, a wistful gal doomed to a failed engagement and quite a few overdramatic crying spells) it has been a riot to unveil myself at the top of each performance in the throes of a dusty cloud. It has been a great time trying not to choke on the powder as I toss my bouquet and join in the annual family line dance, haha. Everyone on that stage is sincerely having a grand time, and the audience gets swept along with us for a wild ride of a night. Several community members have commented that our close friendships offstage translate well onto the stage, and that is particularly true with this show; we are indeed a family united, our bonds made stronger by embracing our differences and cultivating the best in each other.

"Just Around the Corner"

“Just Around the Corner”

When my family visited Bigfork in July, they were able to see the production, and it was so wonderful having loved ones in the audience collectively sharing in the joy of the show. Funnily enough, a visiting couple from Ohio (alumni of YSU and KSU) also attended the show that night and conversed with me pre-show about our shared Youngstown experiences and mutual Penguin pride. Although we had just met that evening, it felt like we were old friends. That evening really highlighted the importance of family for me, being surrounded by caring family members, compassionate visiting alumni, and amazing fellow artists. There really is nothing like family, and though life may seem crazy at times, we must never lose sight of their deep-rooted love.

Give. Love. Play.

The Boylans!

The Boylans!

Hello from Bigfork, everyone!

I can’t believe it’s already August — it seems that summer has just started here! We have kept up such a busy pace of rehearsals, performances, and workshops that we are just now starting to have some free days on our hands, and we are relishing every moment in this beautiful place.

After feverishly rehearsing for seven straight weeks, we successfully opened four fantastic productions that are currently playing to full houses and frequent standing-room only audiences. The reception within the community has been incredibly warm and enthusiastic, and the company has been wonderfully cohesive and supportive of one another. This tight family bond has made all four shows true ensemble pieces that are joys to perform every night.

It’s hard to recap everything that has happened thus far, so I will dedicate these first few blog posts to brief summaries of each production process and devote the next few to some highlights of Montana fun:

MAN OF LAMANCHA

Man of LaMancha

Man of LaMancha

The season kicked off strongly with the classic Man of LaMancha helmed by dynamic collaborators Matthew Wolfe and Jessica Low and meticulously music directed by the amazing Ian LeRoy. The preliminary scenework and character analysis of Mancha provided a strong foundation for our unification as an ensemble that has carried through the entire season. The same goes for the vocal groundwork established early on, which focused on finding a balance and a blend of our very different voices. My appreciation for the guidance of the Mancha creative team has continued to grow as I realize how much their initial work has served the company throughout the season and the other shows.

The staging of this particular production requires us all to be onstage for virtually the entire show, watching and engaging with the action as it unfolds in front of the audience. It is a physical and emotional marathon of a show, usually ending with a lot of tears that will be especially poignant come closing night. I begin the show as a prisoner and emerge as Don Quixote’s niece, Antonia, for a scene in each act. Antonia has been a challenging character to play, as she is often perceived as a fairly one-dimensional, self-serving individual primarily concerned for her own interests instead of her uncle’s well-being. While that is true to an extent, I have based her actions in an initial place of sincerity and genuine love for her family, but those feelings are ultimately overshadowed by her concerns about public perception and its effects upon her future. It has been a highly focused process of discerning those beats and shifts in intent throughout the story, and I continue to enjoy exploring new moments onstage with my fellow company members.

Man of LaMancha

Man of LaMancha, a sometimes forgotten classic, retains its powerful message through a hauntingly beautiful score and several gems of inspiration peppered throughout its script. In an increasingly chaotic world where events seem increasingly out of our control, and we must forge our own unique paths to achieve our definitions of personal happiness, dreaming the impossible dream has never seemed more appropriate:

When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Too much sanity may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Perhaps to be practical is madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it ought to be. (Don Quixote, Man of LaMancha)

This show has reawakened my capacity to dream. And, as a certain wise person relayed to us on opening night, to give, to love, and to play. My gratitude for these heartfelt reminders is eternal, and I cherish the journey that this show has provided every night. It is a journey I feel we have only just begun, and I can’t wait to see where the future leads.

Summer Adventures 2015

Bigfork, MT

Bigfork, MT

Hello everyone!

I’m writing this post from the beautiful mountain town of Bigfork, Montana, where I will be spending the summer performing and choreographing for Bigfork Summer Playhouse. This season looks to be an exciting one, with fantastic talent throughout the company and a wonderfully supportive community. I am grateful for the opportunity to explore some new roles and learn new shows–this summer’s lineup includes Man of LaMancha (Antonia), Footloose (Vi Moore), The Addams Family (Ancestor), and Annie (Ronnie Boylan), as well as two musical revues. We are already off and running with rehearsals– I can’t wait to have all four shows running in rep within the next few weeks.

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

Although rehearsals leave little time for sightseeing in this picturesque locale, we arrived a few days early to explore the area. Our scenic road trip from Chicago included an amazing stop at Mount Rushmore, where I had the chance to meet one of the original workers on the sculpture and listen to his stories of summers spent carving the figures of our most beloved presidents. I still find the whole endeavor simply amazing — it is a must-see national treasure.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Over the weekend, we also ventured into Glacier National Park, another one of America’s treasures. Even though the tourist season hasn’t quite begun, we did have an amazing time observing wildlife and hiking a short distance. I am eager to return later this summer and dive into more of the park’s activities, including whitewater rafting and horseback riding. I am also very much looking forward to having family visit for a few days later this summer and showing them around town.

Until then, I’ll be quite preoccupied with rehearsals and such, so I will post updates as time allows! Stay tuned…