Yes! It's June! Theaters are still dark, but the creative spirit shines. Here's a taste of what's happening.
Spotlight: Mealtime Musicals
Coming to you almost live from their kitchen in London: Actors Allie Munro and Aaron Dart share palate-pleasing parodies
If you haven't had a chance to check out Mealtime Musicalson the Audio Books and Theatrical Presentations pages of The Actors Studio website, we urge you to make the time. You'll be treated to snackable parodies that are good – and good for you!
British actors Allie Munro and Aaron Dart were working on upcoming productions when the pandemic shut theaters down and shut the general population in. The pair were doing virtual auditions, walking their dog Brana, planning their wedding (they got engaged one day before the shutdown), and playing board games and virtual pub quizzes; but they wanted to do something that was fun for them and uplifting for others.
“It started with a silly song,” says Aaron. “Allie and I are living with her brother Tom, and he loves jokes, puns, and word-plays.” Allie continues, "One evening we were having chicken pitas for dinner and my brother started singing ‘You’ve got to PITA pocket or two’– a send-up of a song from Oliver! We jokingly said 'let’s film it!' And then we thought – we could do that! We can make parodies of musicals with a dinner theme!”
Graduates of East 15 Acting School, a part of the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, they were well equipped to take on the task. The school provides a rigorous curriculum for those seeking careers in stage, television, film, and radio, with course work in acting, performance skills, and behind-the-scenes stage and production. As working actors, Aaron and Allie are also part of Fat Rascal Theatre a troupe that creates original works – most often, parodies of the classics.
Each Mealtime Musical is a mini production, complete with dance numbers, props, costumes and – when called for – special make-up. In addition to being great fun, the productions are remarkable in that they are written, scored, rehearsed, costumed, choreographed, and taped in a single day.
“It takes about an hour to write them,” says Aaron.“Cutting a track in Garage Band takes a couple of hours,” adds Allie, “then we find the props and put together the costumes.”
“We’ve collected wigs and hats and other costume paraphernalia over the years and store it in a suitcase under the bed,” explains Aaron. “Everything we need comes from there – or our closet.”
At 6:00 p.m. Allie’s brother Tom emerges from his home office and takes on the role of cameraman. Most are produced in one take and, before the evening is over, a new Mealtime Musical is in the can.
When asked what was their favorite, Allie was quick to answer. Lion King (The Fryin’ King). I love the look on Aaron’s face at the end.” Aaron had to think a bit but then answered, The Grease British Bake Off. "Grease was the first production I was in at East 15.” They both agreed that The Spoon Where it Happens(a Hamilton parody) was the hardest to produce. “We had to get the lyrics, rhythm, and pacing just right,” says Aaron. And right, they did! You can see all the Mealtime Musicals here!
What’s next? “We’re going to produce Mealtime Movies, with scenes from famous movies and TV shows,” says Allie.
A special note: Because of the pandemic, Aaron and Allie are currently out of work and are trying to save for their wedding. A click on this link bit.ly/MealtimeMusicalsDonate will take you to a page where you can donate to the happy event.
Maria "Sammy" Boyd Hind, The Actors Studio's London Bureau
One might say that Sammy HInd's love of theater goes a little over the top. Last year alone, she and husband Stephen saw more than 350 productions, from kids' magic shows to fully staged plays at London's many theaters.
When she moved to Eltham, a suburb of London, six years ago, Sammy got involved with the Bob Hope Theatre – renamed for the actor who was born in Eltham and who helped save it in 1980. and whose foundation continues to help, including the theater's recent revitalization. "It's a community theater similar in size to the Firehouse Center for the Arts," she says, "and I have been an actor, stage manager, props coordinator, set painter, and any other thing they have needed! Someone there put me in touch with The Audience Club, a service that helps theaters fill their seats while offering great deals to patrons. We get on their website and scroll through the offerings at least once a week. Last year, of the 350+ shows we saw, 90 were ones we found on the site. It has also introduced us to many of the small theaters and theater companies we follow."
Like the rest of us during the pandemic, Sammy has enjoyed theater offerings online; and she has shared links to them with The Actors Studio community. She curated some of the performances available through the Studio's Audio Books & Theatrical Presentations pages, which she helped to create. She introduced us to Mealtime Musicals (story above), and for that we are grateful! A long-time friend of the Studio, Sammy serves as web administrator for the Studio's website, no small feat from across the Atlantic!
A woman of many interests and talents, Sammy has worked with computer systems in systems analysis, testing, and programming; she was the administrator of a medical office; and. since moving to England, she has worked with special needs students, primarily with young people on the autism spectrum.
Sammy's connection with The Actors Studio began in 1994, when she enrolled in Marc's Cold Reading class. "I was drawn to theater in school," she says; but, as often happens, work and life head in other directions. "A friend suggested Marc's class, and it became a kind of therapy. There is something about getting to that place where you walk in someone else's shoes and let the scene take you, instead of you trying to take the scene. Over the years, I watched the Studio grow and grow, and I was happy to be involved in more classes and productions. I'm thrilled to learn all the latest as I update the website. It's a way to feel connected and to thank Marc for his many gifts."
And we want to thank you, Sammy!
The Velveteen Rabbit
Margery William’s The Velveteen Rabbit, as read by Deborah Baker is up on The Actors Studio site. Yes, it was written for children, but it has a great message for us non-children, too. It’s only 35 minutes long – and so good to hear. Truths are timeless.
One listener has already commented about the audio recording. “WELL DONE!!!! I just finished listening, and I have tears in my eyes. Thank you for bringing joy to my heart and profound truths to my soul. Deborah was amazing!!”
Click here for 35 minutes of good listening. https://www.newburyportacting.org/tasn-actors-the-velveteen-rabbit-by-margery-williams-as-read-by-deborah-baker/.
We have also added Separate Ways written by Ichiyō Higuchi and read by Bruce Parks, to the Studio's site. The story is about Kichizo, an orphan boy of 16 whose dwarfism means he is often mocked by others. His only friend, Okyo, is a seamstress working at the same umbrella factory as Kichizo. The pair develop a deep friendship; but one day, Okyo tells Kichizo that she has decided to move away. What happens next? Click here to find out.
Ichiyō Higuchi was the pen name of Japanese author Natsu Higuchi. Specializing in short stories, she was Japan's first prominent woman writer of modern times. Higuchi's likeness adorns the Japanese 5000 yen banknote as of fall 2004, making her only the third woman to appear on Japanese currency.
A Second Introduction to Storytelling Class
Building on the success of his first class, Kurt Mullen’s Introduction to Storytelling class will be offered again in June. He believes that anyone can learn to be a better storyteller. From story structure to content, to delivery, this class will cover all the basics. As students develop stories of their own, the class will look at other stories to discuss what makes them so memorable. This Zoom class is open to everyone, from novice to seasoned yarn spinner – but participation is limited, and students have already expressed interest in the class. Click here to learn more – and sign up. The class will meet on four consecutive Mondays, 7 to 8:30 p.m., beginning on Monday, June 15. Tuition: $150
Introduction to Storytelling
Mondays, June 15, 22, 29, and July 6
7:00 – 8:30 p.m. via Zoom
For more information, email Kurt Mullen at email@example.com
The arts community has lost a great friend. J.C. Lockwood had a distinguished career in newspaper publishing, and we knew him best as the arts reviewer for The Merrimack Valley Current. Sadly, he recently succumbed to cancer at the age of 64.
For me, J.C.’s interviews were instructive, because he was so knowledgeable about arts and world culture. His questions would invariably cause me to think more deeply about my purpose. He loved sharing ideas and relished the discoveries theater, dance, and music reveal. I can happily admit that J.C.’s interviews, more often than not, sent me back into rehearsals with renewed energy and a clearer vision for the production.
As director of The Firehouse Center, Kathleen Miller found J.C. to be "a superb listener and a down-to-earth, authentic, funny, warm-hearted friend and colleague." She enjoyed meeting up with the family as he, his wife Gage, and their son Miles rambled about town.
Fontaine Dubus recounts, "Whenever Exit Dance Theatre needed an extra push for publicity, (pre-social media days for sure!); he was always willing to write a piece about upcoming shows. He asked sincere and deep questions about the work. It was always enjoyable to meet with him and discuss projects."
Josh Faigen said it well in his letter to the editor in The Daily News when he wrote that J.C. "distilled, crystallized, and made fresh and amazingly interesting the stories of each artist’s creative endeavors.... J.C. got it. Always."
J.C.’s reviews consistently left space to invite the community to come and see for themselves what we had created. He was a generous man in every way.
Thank you, Gage and Miles, for sharing this wonderful man with us.
Here we are, 11 weeks since we suspended production at our theater. Nearly the same amount of time has been spent in isolation. For me, this is a unique experience, since people are my medium, my source, my fuel for life. Each of us is figuring out how to be with ourselves without the usual and happy distractions that make life rich and wonderful. I can say, having spent ten weeks mostly alone, that I am clearly a piece of work. I can see from my newfound state of awareness how much I have thrived on over-commitments. I ponder the thought of living differently when we are sprung from our cages, but I’m making no promises.
Why do I take this tongue in cheek attitude to the process I am in? Because humor helps. So much is unknown. We need to grieve the profound human tragedy that we are experiencing, but we have no reference point for grief on such a scale. Our lives are disrupted; our nation is in turmoil both politically and culturally. The unknown that looms largest in my awareness is, ‘"How am I being changed by this experience?" This is the forge that renders the new form.
I encourage all of us to use this time to look deep into our souls and decipher what is at play within us. Traditionally, we have relied on the arts to help us do this. I have every confidence that we, as artists, will find our footing and speak with a clear voice as we re-introduce ourselves in the new world to come.
We are grateful for your continuing interest in and support of The Actors Studio of Newburyport. In these times, when we are finding new ways to communicate with each other, we would like to hear from you.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments.
And, if you have the means and inclination, we would welcome your gift in any amount.
KINDLY DONATE HERE